"Oh my goodness, what is that plant???" This, or something very close to it, is what people usually exclaim when they happen to see this incredible plant in bloom for the first time. The Japanese tree peony normally starts to bloom in mid to late spring (mid-May in central Ohio); however, this year it's blooming right now. It puts on an incredible show with white, pink, red, or yellow flowers, depending upon the cultivar. The flowers are papery thin and appear delicate but are quite tough. They can get as big as 1' in diameter and last for several days. Flowers can also be cut and put in a vase indoors; however, they won't last more than a couple of days.
The plant itself is very nice as well. It is a slow-growing deciduous shrub with glossy leaves that are slightly larger than hybrid peony leaves. The stems are woody and do not die back to the ground in winter; they can grow to around 2-4' tall. For best flowering, plant in full sun to part shade and in fertile, well-drained soil. Remove spent flowers after bloom and if the plant gets a little leggy, give it a light pruning in the fall. Place it in the garden where it can be left for many years as like most peonies, it doesn't like to be disturbed.