Chlorosis on tree peony

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Help, please! I planted this tree peony 'Koukamon' in my daughter's garden in Salt Lake City three years ago. It was showing signs of chlorosis last year, but recovered with treatment and amendments. This year, here it is, bigger, blooming and completely sickly yellow.We amended heavily with compost when we planted, have top-dressed each spring, and it gets wood chip mulch each spring. I figure it's got its roots down into the terrible alkaline clay soil that the contractor threw all over the yard when he built the house.

What can I do? It's in a good position as far as shade/sun goes, but obviously I need to lift it, replace the soil around it, or something. I can treat it with iron chelate for this summer, then move or renovate it when I visit again at Christmas (maybe).

The problem, I am the Head Gardener at her house - they both work and are not really gardeners. I live in Florida and visit a couple of times per year. Going for a visit next week, and hope to do something to help this poor plant survive and recover. Suggestions please?

Thumbnail by dyzzypyxxy
Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

I'm not an expert, but I'd guess you might be right about the alkaline soil needing to be amended, especially if the roots have reached the construction soil. When I'm unsure about what's up with roots, I tend to dig down to the root zone from a spot on the side of the plant so I'm not disturbing the entire plant. The blossoms are lovely, so I hope you can save the plant. I have the opposite problem--if there's ever such as thing as too much acid, we have that.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Sure wish we could trade some soil, Rosemary!

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

You wouldn't like all the yellow orche colored sand and the many rocks and boulders in our soil, though. The water drains right through unless I amend it a lot, so we're probably actually in the same boat.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I spray my acid loving plants with Ironite. I have an azalea in alkaline soil, and I was given 14 bayberries, and I would spray them a couple of times a season. The signal was that they were turning yellow..See the ones to the left? I would spray twice a season, and they would color up properly again.

You can apply it as granules or attach it to a spray hose (I do the latter). Easy peasy. Any garden center will have it, as do hardware stores like Ace and Lowe's.

Here is a blurb - and it's true:

Low nitrogen - just enough to promote healthy growth. Will not burn. Natural organic iron deep greens without pushing extra growth. Micronutrients develop good and healthy root systems so plants get the same great results - guaranteed. Homogenous pellets for even release of minerals. Available in 10 lb., 20 lb., 40 lb. bags and 32 oz. hose end sprayer size."

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks, Donna. I looked at the Ironite, but it only had 1.5% chelated iron in it, and I'd have had to spend $26 for the smallest amount they had. I only have 2 plants that need to be treated.

Went to the nursery nearby, and got another chelated iron product that has 10% chelated iron and a smaller package, so I got that and just diluted it in a watering can. Already treated by dousing the foliage, and already looking a bit better. I'll treat the plant again before I leave here, with great hopes that it will fix it up nicely.

Now I have another problem on the same plant - this is a Japanese hybrid tree peony (in the pic at the start of the thread) with gorgeous big dark red flowers. It has put up what looks like a sucker from the root now that has an ugly pink flower about half the size of the others. Sorry I can't post a picture until I get home, but . .. I'm thinking I should cut the stem off at the root. Is this right, or could the color change on the flower be caused by the chlorosis situation? Are tree peonies grafted?

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Yes they are. I am not an expert here, but they are often grafted on the rootstock of a herbacious peony. The red that you are seeing is the growth of the understock. Do cut it off, or it will overwhelm the plant that was grafted on it. This happens with roses all the time.

Have a look at this article. A grafted peony has to be planted quite deeply. Perhaps hers was not.

http://www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk/blogarticle.php?id=1

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks, Donna. The article was very good. I'm going to cut off that sucker and mound some more good soil around the plant. Might help it to pevent chlorosis next year, too!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I hope so!

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

I would also leave off the mulch. It looks nice, but really does not do the plant any favors.

As Donna said, it needs to be planted deep. If too shallow, it encourages the herbaceous root stock growth. I hope you are able to make it happier. It has a gorgeous bloom.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

I am home now, but that peony did look a lot better by the time I left. Thanks for all your advice!

I did mound up some good compost-y soil around it and cut off the sucker. The 10% chelated iron drench started showing results within about 4 days, and my daughter commented after a week that the plant looked "almost normal". I waited until the day I was leaving and gave it one more drench along with a rose bush and a few daylilies that looked a bit anaemic, too. Hoping for the best now. I won't see it in person until November at the earliest, or possibly not until the holidays.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

You're a good mom.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

LoL, thanks! Hey, it's nice to have a project to putter at when I'm visiting them. Otherwise I'd spend all day lunching and shopping and doing things that cost money. (not that I don't spend money on their gardens)

Now my son and wife, also in Salt Lake, have just bought a new (to them) house. I planted two Earth Boxes for them with herbs, tomatoes and peppers. Then my son says "Mom, what do you know about water features?" I says, "Well you've been to my house, you know I have a pond in the front entry". (sigh) They have a sweet little water feature, but I didn't have time to show them how to get it set up, as we were still moving them in, and working on putting stuff away until I left to come home. Gardening is never-ending, and always a challenge.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Great! Great! Great! I'm so happy that this worked for you.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Donna, I got two tree peonies this summer from MamaJacks. They are obviously grafted and don't look too good. It has been a few months and I put them in the ground as soon as I could. I don't generally plant my peonies too terribly deep and they do just fine. I am wondering if these grafted ones need to go deeper. the grafted part is only maybe 1 or 2 inches below the soil top. Would you suggest deeper?

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Mary, tree peonies need to be deeper. If you don't plant them deep enough, the parent herbaceous part of the plant will take off and the graft will not be strong enough. Even if you plant them at a deep enough spot, if you see the herbaceous peony growing from the ground, it needs to be clipped. Plant them deep enough and don't think about them much till next year (you can feel them). You probably won't see growth until later than the other tree peonies. If you see growth coming from the ground, it might be the graft or the parent. Check the leaves to be certain. The herbaceous (lactiflora) peonies have sort of shiny leaves. The tree peonies have a matte finish, but I guess you know that already. Sorry. I hope they grow strong for you.

Marcia

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Mary,

Absolutely I would.

My understanding is that tree peonies that are grafted must be planted at least four inches below the grafting point. If they are non-grafted, two inches will do,

Since yours are grafted, they really do need a depth of at least four inches.

Donna

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

I think an issue when the graft is too high is the possibility that the TP will bend over at the graft. In some cases, I've had to stake mine anyway, though I haven't read about doing that anywhere.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

A new plant might do that, I could see. Mine, that has been in the ground for 3 years, has a very sturdy, woody trunk over an inch in diameter now. It was very obvious that the sucker was different growth than what was coming from the trunk.
(sorry, I thought this picture showed the trunk - but see how much greener the leaves are?)

This message was edited May 27, 2012 10:12 AM

Thumbnail by dyzzypyxxy
(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

My other tree peonies (the ones the mice ate) were apparently not grafted. They didn't have the huge cut off trunk. Very odd looking. I will dug up and rebury. Haven't anything to loose as they plants have not changed a bit in the months I have had them. Thanks all. Just needed some reinforcement. I really like them and hope they survive.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Mary, just an idea that popped into my head - Your plant may be slow to break dormancy because of cold soil, do you think? Coming up on your warmest sun time of the year here, maybe if you watered it with warm water for a few days that would help to warm up the soil and make it break out some leaves. I'd think you have no time to waste if you want that plant to get established before winter sets in again.

Gardening in Alaska, whoo, you're an intrepid soul!

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

My tree peonies start showing in late february/early march even during the coldest winters.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

All my other peonies are up and growing. Stems as big as your thumb or larger on some. Huge buds. Peonies are pretty hardy. I think they do better here than in warmer places. Oh, that includes new herbaceous and one tree that I planted late last fall (October). Some slower than others but all up. And the tree I planted is not grafted. I think I will dig up and replant today. You are right. They better develop some good roots before fall. With our long days it is very possible and likely.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, Dyzzypyzzi (what a great handle) Mary rocks. I thought that I was an adventurous gardener, but she truly is.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Donna, can you tell that handle was invented by my daughter when she was 14? Same one who has the garden with the chlorotic peony. She's 28 now, and abandoned dyzzypyxxy many years ago, but I picked it up.

I moved to Florida so I could garden (and sail) all year 'round. I can't imagine trying to grow a garden in Alaska with their short summers, and weak sun at the best of times! I've chatted with Mary on the Water Gardens forum, too. She's ambitious.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Mary is amazing. She has figured out how to make the best use of her micro climates with warm pockets.

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