What happens when you cross a tree peony with a perennial peony? You get an “intersectional hybrid” peony! This is exactly what Toichi Itoh did in 1948. Now this beautiful plant bears his name.
Unfortunately, for many years, Itoh peonies were very expensive and many gardeners didn’t want to spend over a hundred dollars for a single plant. Rejoice! In recent years prices have fallen, making this incredible plant affordable to all gardeners.
What’s so great about them?
Well, both tree and herbaceous peonies are wonderful landscape plants. However, this plant combines (and exceeds) the best qualities of each of its parents.
A tree peony is somewhat tender. It grows to 5′ high as a domed-shaped shrub. It loses its leaves in the winter, but the main trunk is above ground and is susceptible to winter damage. The flat blooms are huge, up to 8″ across, and come in colors including white, yellow, green, red, pink and peach.
On the other hand, the herbaceous peony is perennial. It dies back each winter to reemerge in the spring and grows to 3′ tall by 4′ wide. It blooms before the tree peony with white, red, pink, peach or burgundy flowers in single, double, semi-double and anemone flowers.
The exciting aspects of the Itoh peony are many. It is perennial thus reducing winter damage. It grows to 2′ – 3′ tall in a domed shape like the tree peony, this makes it easy to use in the landscape. The dark green lacy dissected leaves are attractive like the tree peony.
However, the Itoh flowers make this plant incredibly exciting! The flowers may be up to 10″ across and may be frilly or doubled. Many more colors are available and include yellow, orange, copper, red and pink. They’re as prolific as the tree peony, however more flower buds are on each stem and they bloom continually for over a month. A mature plant can produce 30-50 flowers each season. Many are fragrant like the herbaceous peony. Unlike the herbaceous peony, flower staking is not required.
Growing an Itoh is very easy. The most important factor is placement, as peonies do not transplant well. Chose a location where it will receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. It prefers slightly acidic soil. Remember its future size and plant at least 4′ away from buildings and other plants. Dig the hole at least 12″ deep and 8″ across, loosen the surrounding soil and add some compost. Place the peony root no deeper than 2″ beneath the surface with the buds (eyes) facing upward. Tamp the soil and water well. The flowers will be sparse during first and second years. In the third year, you will receive the magnificent rewards of beautiful huge colorful blooms.