tree peony ‘Renkaku’

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Renkaku’ (tree peony ‘Renkaku’) in shrub form is an excellent landscape backdrop to showcase color, flower, or textural features of other plants. Of course, when flowering no one notices any other plant or flower in the garden!

A member of the Paeoniaceae native to China, the tree peony is a unique deciduous woody shrub peony featuring large, showy flowers on plants that can reach 5 ft. tall and a 4-5 ft. spread. The cultivar ‘Renkaku’, as planted at Lurie Garden, produces crystalline-white flowers with a buttery-yellow center where individual flowers are up to 12 in. across. In Chicago, P. suffruticosa ‘Renkaku’ blooms in April-May.

The unpredictable early spring weather in Chicago often plays havoc with the delicate flowers of tree peony, which are easily injured by rain, frost, and wind. Flowers of P. suffruticosa attract honeybees, bumblebees, and other solitary bee species. Plants of P. suffruticosa grow best in full-sun or part-shade, planted in rich and well-drained soils. The species and all cultivars are slow growing.

Tree peony was first described in 1804 to European botanical circles, although the plant has a long and ancient history in China. Designated as the national flower of China as early as 1644, P. suffruticosa symbolizes honor, wealth, and aristocracy for many Chinese. [The plum tree replaced tree peony as China’s national flower in 1929.] A number of traditional Chinese medicines are derived from various parts of P. suffruticosa. Many botanists still debate the validity of P. suffroticosa as a wild species, believing the ‘species’ known today must have originated as an ancient, and likely human-made, hybrid of two, possibly, now extinct peony species.

Botanical Name Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Renkaku’
Common Name tree peony ‘Renkaku’
Family Paeoniaceae
USDA Zone 4 thru 8
Light Requirement Full Sun to Part Shade
Season(s) of interest all seasons
Height and Spread 3-5ft x 3-5ft (90-150cm x 90-150cm)
Flower Color White with Yellow Centers
Attracts Wildlife Attracts Pollinators, Rarely Browsed by Mammalian Herbivores
Additional Information Not Native to the US Midwest. P. suffruticosa native to W. China.
Location in Lurie Garden East Dark Plate

Average Flowering Time