Shop Now Peony Care Plan a Garden Bloom Sequence About Us About Our Plants In the Press View Cart
Peony's Envy
Peony Care Information

Peony Care Topics:
Here we share our extensive peony care knowledge so that you find just as much joy from these plantings at your own home.
Click on the links below for details on the most sought after aspects of peony selection and care.

Types of Peonies Choosing Peony Cultivars, Flower Shapes/Colors Peony Planting Locations How to Plant Peonies
Types of Peonies Choosing Cultivars Planting Locations How to Plant
Peony Growth Expectations Peony Routine Maintenance Peony Disease/Insects Peonies are Not Blooming
Growth Expectations Routine Maintenance Disease/Insects Not Blooming?
Transplanting/Dividing Peonies Propigating Peonies Peonies as Cut Flowers FAQ Peonies
Transplanting Propagating/Dividing Cut Flowers FAQ

Types of Peonies - Overview
Types of Peonies Woodland Tree Herbaceous Intersectional
Click the image to shop from our peony catalog.

Peonies are native throughout the northern hemisphere and have been cultivated for centuries both in Europe and Asia. The genus paeonia is generally divided into 3 sections. However, for the purpose of garden design Peony's Envy has broken down the genus into 4 groups based on their use: Woodland Herbaceous Peonies (Herbaceous peonies that grow in the shade, hereafter referred to as Woodland Peonies), Tree Peonies, Herbaceous Peonies, and Intersectional Peonies.

Herbaceous Peonies

Herbaceous Peonies are the most well known type of peony. They are disease resistant perennial plants that enhance the structure and beauty of any garden and produce some of the best cut flowers available. They bloom during the transition from spring into summer, with each individual cultivar blooming for an average of 7-10 days. The foliage of shining green leaves remains throughout the summer, dies back to the ground in winter and reemerges early each spring. Herbaceous peonies require very little care and live for generations. They have been cultivated for centuries and can thus be found in an astounding array of flower form, color and fragrance.

Herbaceous peonies can be planted in both spring and fall. They need at least 5 hours of full sun with rich well-draining soil. Like most long-lived perennials it can take three years for them to bloom prolifically - they are well worth the wait. They grow in zones 3-8. Typically the bloom occurs in mid-May in the southern zones, late-May in the mid zones and early-June in the colder zones. Basically all peonies will come at the same time but there are slight variations in the timing dependent on the early, mid, late designation of the cultivar itself. Mainstay in every perennial garden, best cut flower available, low maintenance, live forever, deer proof.

Tree Peonies
Tree Peonies are woody perennial shrubs. They bloom April into May, before the herbaceous peony bloom. Their woody structure allows them to stand upright without staking. They produce gigantic dinner-plate-sized flowers on plants that grow from 3 to 7 feet tall. After the bloom, tree peonies provide structure to the garden with deep green leaves in summer and bronze and purple foliage in fall. Native to Asia and cultivated for millennia, these deer-resistant plants thrive in horticultural zones 4-9. Tree peonies grow slowly, producing 1 to 6 inches of new growth each year. Given well-drained soil and dappled sunlight, they will live for centuries. Stately, rare, huge flowers, nice leaf coverage, simply fabulous.

Intersectional Peonies
Intersectional Peonies, also know as Itoh Hybrids, are a hybrid produced by crossing a tree peony with an herbaceous peony. These peonies produce tree peony flowers and leaves on plants that behave like herbaceous peonies, dying down to the ground in winter and reemerging each spring. A mature plant may produce 50 or more dinner-plate sized flowers on strong short stems that do not require staking. They reach peak bloom near the end of the herbaceous peony bloom. Each plant can remain in bloom for 3-4 weeks with new buds continually opening over this period. They can be used as cut flowers and offer an astounding array of yellows and golds -- colors not widely available in herbaceous peonies. They are disease resistant, less susceptible to powdery mildew than their herbaceous parent and less susceptible to botrytis blight than their tree peony parent. Intersectional peonies grow to approximately 2.5 feet tall by about 3 feet wide. Their compact form is well suited to the front of the perennial boarder as they produce leaves and flowers that cover the entire plant. Dinner plate size flowers, easy to grow, nicely shaped plant, deer proof.

Woodland herbaceous Peonies
Woodland Herbaceous Peonies are a separate species of herbaceous peonies worth noting individually due to their preference for shade. Woodland peonies grow and naturalize in a deciduous woodland where they get the early spring sun, before the leaves come on the trees, and summer shade. They grow 1'-1.5' tall and self seed creating sprays of low growing forest ground cover. Woodland peonies provide three season appeal with delicate white flowers in early spring, lush green foliage throughout the growing seasons, and dramatic indigo and scarlet seed pods in the fall. Good naturalizers, easy to grow, deer proof plants.

Peony Bloom Sequence

The overall peony bloom cycle lasts up to 8 weeks, typically beginning the end of April and ending in early June (in NJ). This cycle begins with the ground-cover-like Woodland Herbaceous Peonies, moves on to the woody shrub Tree Peonies, peaks with the well known Herbaceous Peonies, and finishes with the relatively new Intersectional Peonies. The graphic above highlights bloom time for each group of peonies within the 8 weeks of bloom. Cooler weather will delay and prolong the bloom, warmer will accelerate and shorten the bloom.

Now that we have looked at the groups of peonies as a whole, each individual peony cultivar within these four groups typically blooms from 7-10 days and is classified with a bloom time relative to others of its kind. For example, within the Herbaceous Peony Group cultivars are classified with bloom times that range from Very Early to Very Late indicating when the cultivar tends to bloom within the 4 weeks of the herbaceous bloom. Our catalog page highlights the relative bloom times of each cultivar and will help in selecting cultivars for your next garden project.

Click here for a pictorial overview of the bloom sequence.

Back to Top

Choosing Cultivars - Flower & Plant Specifications
Peony Flower Shapes

Single - 1 row of guard petals. Light flower that tends to stand upright on it's own, best planted with late afternoon shade

Lotus - 2 to 3 rows of guard petals. Light flower that tends to stand upright on it's own

Chrysanthemum - 4 to 8 rows of guard petals yellow stamens in the center of the flower. Good cut flower & garden plant

Rose - full flower, up to 20 rows of guard petals, look like a huge rose. Excellent cut flowers

Hundred Proliferate - huge flowers, flower is thicker and more full than the rose form. Excellent cut flowers

Japanese- 1 row of guard petals, inner petaloids are yellow. Excellent garden plants, tend to stand upright and have sturdy stems

Anemone - 1 row of guard petals, feathery inner petals. Excellent garden plants, tend to stand upright and have sturdy stems

Golden Circle - circle of golden stamens ring the middle of the flower. Good cut flower, striking & rare

Triple Decker - Similar to golden circle but petaloids are larger, looks like three layers. Relatively new

Crown - 1 to 2 rows of guard petals and a large inner ball of short petals. Good cut flower

Bomb - 1 to 2 rows of guard petals and a very tight inner ball of short curly petals. Good cut flower

Peony Flower Shape Images
Herbacous Peony Flower Shape and Plant Growth

Flower form and peony height influence the behavior of herbaceous peony plants. Traditional peonies, such as those that could be found in your grandmother's garden, were often bred to have long stems and huge full flowers. These enormous blossoms produce some of the best cut flowers available. As garden plants these peonies tend to bend under the weight of the flowers and require staking to remain upright. Plants with these characteristics include those of chrysanthemum, rose, golden circle, crown and hundred proliferate flower forms and have innumerable dense petals. Lighter flower forms such as anemone, single, and lotus tend to float above the plant, requiring far less support. However, due to their fewer number of petals these flowers do not last as long in the hot sun nor are they the best cut flower varieties.

The necessary support for the herbaceous peony is determined by flower form and plant height. The shorter the plant the sturdier the stems. The taller the plant the more support it will need. The most low maintenance garden plants tend to be 2.0-2.5' anemone, single and lotus varieties. The best cut flowers tend to come from 3' tall chrysanthemum, rose, golden circle, crown and hundred proliferate shaped flowers.


short varieties - 2' to 2.5' tall
mid-height varieties - 2.5' tall
tall varieties - 3' or taller

The shorter the plant, the fuller the leaf coverage at the bottom of the plant. The shorter the plant the less staking the plant will need to support the flowers. The converse is also true: the taller the plant, the less leaf coverage at the bottom of the plant. The taller the plant, the more staking the plant will need to support the flowers.

Herbacous Peony Colors

White - typically very fragrant
Blush - ranges from very light pink that opens white, to soft pink. Typically very fragrant
Pink -
baby girl pink. Typically very fragrant
Magenta - often referred to as red in peony culture but actually ranges from very dark pink to purple-red
- merlot red, the darkest peonies
Multi - two or more distinct colors, endless combinations
Green - light green often with some white, less common
Yellow - very few true herbaceous yellows and they tend to be weak strains. Stronger yellows exist in intersectional and tree peonies. Cream colored peonies are often classified as yellow but are not actually yellow in color
Red - these true red peonies are peony hybrids, created by crossing a different parent species than the colors listed above. Cultivars without this lineage are often classified as red but are magenta.
Coral - a slightly orange salmon, often fade to cream as they open, different parent species, tend to have strong stems


When selecting tree peonies it is important to think of the presentation of the plant when not in flower. That will relate to the height (dwarf, medium, tall), the growth habit (conical, partially spreading, spreading), and the leaf type.

Tree Peony Heights
Tree peonies can grow to be seven feet high, but most specimens even after decades remain between three and five feet. They are classified as tall, mid, and dwarf with the potential to grow 7, 5 or 3 feet respectively. The milder the climate, the less winter die back and the taller the potential of the plant. Tall varieties add five to six inches of new wood every year while dwarf varieties add less than one. Taller varieties will make a bigger statement earlier in your garden; dwarf varieties can be planted as borders and under windows.
Tree Peony Plant Form/Shape
Tree Peony Plant Shape
Conical, Partially Spreading & Spreading Tree Peonies

Tree peony bushes can grow upright or more laterally. Typically, plant height and shape are associated. Most dwarf varieties will be spreading, have leaf coverage that spreads to the ground, and become wider than they are tall. Medium height tree peonies are typically partially spreading, forming plants that are as wide as they are tall (5' in diameter and 5' tall). Tall tree peonies are typically conical and form bushes that are taller than they are wide, growing more vertically than they do horizontally.

Dwarf plants are ideal in the front of the garden as they will become densely leafed button bushes. Mid height tree peonies make excellent stand alone plants. They are often seen in a corner that is partially protected from wind, with ample space around them. The coverage at the base is typically sufficient to make the bush beautiful on its own. However they make excellent accent plants at the back of the garden. Tall plants should be planted behind other plants as they have minimal leaf coverage toward the base and will grow rather tall, up to 7'. Plan for ample space in the garden for them to grow into. Keep in mind that tree peonies are slow growing plants and will take 10-15 years to reach maturity.

Tree Peony Leaf Shape
Tree Peony Leaf Shape Images
Tree peony leaves provide beauty in the garden for three seasons. They leaf-out in early in April and provide spring, summer and fall color. The size of the leaf varies from long and thin to big and round and can make a difference in the plant's use in the garden. Plants from the Gansu region of China, referred to as gansu mudan or rockii tree peonies, typically have a long thin leaf structure.
Tree Peony Flower Posture
Tree Peony Flower Posture Images
Tree Peony Flowers can be upright, lateral, or pendulous. Upright flowers are carried at the ends of stiff stems, well above the leaves and grow at the top and sides of the bushes. Lateral flowers grow at the edge of the leaves. They are easy to see, but concentrate themselves on the sides of the bushes. Pendulous flowers have short, flexible stems and hang down under the leaves.
Tree Peony Color

White - classic color. Some peonies when stressed may revert to their parental lineage, a white single.
Pink -
ranges from very light to deep pink
Coral -
a slightly orange salmon, color is slightly more pink than herbaceous color and does not fade
Red - more magenta than red, bright and vibrant. If looking for true red consider black cultivars
Black - merlot red, the darkest peonies, some of these cultivars tend to grow slower than other colors
Lavender - color only exists in tree peonies, very light purple
Multi - two or more distinct colors, plants tend to have some flowers of mixed colors, and some of each individual color. If stressed may revert to one of the colors over the other.
Green - light green often with some white, typically flower does not open fully but stays as a tight bud
Yellow - color bred for the emperor of China, strong yellow color in tree peonies
Copper - different parent species than other colors. Color tends to be a blend of tan and red that from afar blends to copper. Cultivars typically have pendulous flowers that hang under the plant

Due to the relatively new hybridization of intersectional peonies the characteristics of plant height, shape, leaf coverage and flower form tend to be fairly uniform. The choice of cultivar is then determined by color. It should be noted that intersectional peonies have great leaf coverage from the base to the top of the plant and make excellent accent plants as well as function well at the front of a garden border.
Intersectional Peony Color
The shade loving woodland peony is commercially available as Paeonia obovata, the species, or Paeonia japonica, the subspecies. Obovata is the pink form of the plant. It is taller and thus leggier than the subspecies P. japonica, which is a beautiful low growing shade ground cover. They both naturalize well, have small single petaled flowers, and offer three season appeal. They have interesting and colorful early spring foliage and fascinating vibrant indigo and scarlet seed pods in the fall. They are deer proof.
Woodland Herbaceous Peony Color
Back to Top

Planting Locations/Site Selection
Choose the Peony Best Suited for Your Location

All peonies are best suited to locations that are well draining, never become waterlogged, and are not watered by a daily sprinkler system. They are tolerant of a wide range of pH but prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soils. Please see the information below for specifics on the light and growth requirements for each type of peony.

Types of Peonies Woodland Tree Herbaceous Intersectional
Respective Peony Sizes
USDA Hardiness Zone Map

Click the Map Above to Visit the USDA's Website for Details on Your Hardiness Zone.

Herbaceous Peonies: Zones 3-8
Planting depth determined by zone. Special considerations should be taken for zones 7-8. See note on The South below.

Intersectional Peonies: Zones 3-7
Planting depth determined by zone. See Intersectional Site Selection below

Tree Peonies: Zones 2-9
Care determined by zone. Special considerations should be taken for zones 2-3. See the last paragraph of Tree Site Selection below.

Woodland Peonies: Zones 3-8
Planting depth determined by zone. See Woodland Site Selection below.


Herbaceous peonies grow well in zones 3-8, intersectional peonies Zones 3-7. For more information on your horticultural zone visit the USDA's Agricultural Research Services website. Take special note of your horticultural zone as this will affect the planting depth of your peony. See our section on planting herbaceous peonies below for more information on planting depth. Special considerations should be taken in zones 7-8 see the section below on herbaceous peonies in the south.

When choosing a site first, consider the amount of sun. The more sun an herbaceous or intersectional peony has, the better it will grow and the more flowers it will have. Planted in less than full sun, it will take longer to mature and flower. Full flower forms like rose and crown hold up well in hot afternoon sun, while lighter flowers forms like single and anemone need protection from hot afternoon sun. See the following care section on Plant Shapes/Flower Color for more details on this topic.

Second, consider soil conditions. Peonies tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. Ideally, you want a neutral to slightly alkaline soil that has good drainage and high organic content. Peonies planted in clay soil, amended to ensure good drainage, take longer to become established but produce beautiful flowers for generations as clay soil retains nutrition. Peonies planted in sandy soil take less time to become established but can produce less striking plants as nutrients easily leech out of the soil. If planting in sandy soil, amend with clay and compost and top dress several times a year with compost to renew the soil. Be cautious when top dressing as this can increase the depth of your plants and plants that are too deep will not flower, see the planting section for details.

Regardless of soil conditions, herbaceous and intersectional peonies need soil that drains, they cannot tolerate wet feet and do not do well on sprinkler systems.


Special care should be taken when choosing herbaceous peonies for the south, zones 7-8. Begin by selecting cultivars with early bloom times and avoid all late blooming cultivars. Know that there is more experience and noted success with historic varieties - look at the date the plant was hybridized - but our feeling on this is that all early varieties will do just as well, we simply have more data on older cultivars. If we experience an especially warm winter you should ice your peonies during the winter months to give them the proper winter chill and ensure a good bloom the following spring - most years the winter chill should take care of itself. When looking at our herbaceous catalog we note the bloom time in pink on the second line so you can choose cultivars easily. Click to view our catalog.


Tree Peony Site Selection: First, consider placement. Tree peonies should be planted where there is little competition from other large trees or shrubs. Give your plant a good 3 to 5 feet of space. Dwarf varieties will require less space; mid and tall varieties more. Remember that your plant is slow growing and will take time to fill in this space but plan accordingly as tree peonies do not like to be moved.

Second, consider soil conditions. Peonies tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. Ideally, you want neutral to slightly alkaline soil that has good drainage and high organic content. Peonies planted in clay soil, amended to ensure good drainage, take longer to become established but produce beautiful plants as clay soil retains nutrition. Peonies planted in sandy soil take less time to become established but can produce less striking plants as nutrients easily leech out of the soil. If planting in sandy soil, amend with clay and compost and top dress several times a year with compost to renew the soil. Regardless of soil conditions, tree peonies need soil that drains, as peonies cannot tolerate wet feet.

Third, amount of sun. Tree peonies are tolerant of a wide range of sun conditions from full sun to dappled shade but prefer dappled shade. Ideally, your tree peony wants morning sun and afternoon shade, or dappled sun throughout the day. This will give your tree peony ample sunlight while prolonging the life of the flowers. If you grow your tree peonies in full sun, consider using wax paper umbrellas to prevent the flowers from fading and carefully monitor the moisture in the soil so that your tree peony does not dry out. Varieties with numerous petals will hold up in stronger sun than those with fewer petals.

Forth, extraneous factors. If you live in a location prone to heavy winds, consider planting your tree peony near a windbreak. If your area is prone to heavy snows consider planting your tree peony away from roof lines or plow zones to protect the tree peony from heavy downfalls of snow that can break the branches. If you want to try growing tree peonies horticultural zones 2 or 3, a tree peonies will have substantial die back and will grow more like an herbaceous peony, sprouting from the base every year. In these zones mulch heavily in winter. In zones 4-9 tree peonies need no winter protection as they are cold hardy and resilient.

Woodland Peonies, Shade Peony Growth

Woodland herbaceous peonies grow well in zones 3-8. Like all herbaceous peonies, take special note of your horticultural zone as this will affect the planting depth of your peony. See our section on planting herbaceous peonies below.

Woodland Herbaceous Peonies should be planted in a deciduous woodland where they get early spring sun, before the leaves come on the trees, and summer shade. Like all peonies they can not tolerate wet feet and should be planted in a location that does not sit wet or get overly irrigated. Note that woodland peonies have viable seeds and if let go naturally will self seed in an area creating clumps of peonies. The image above shows seedlings surrounding the parent plant.

Back to Top

How to Plant

First,WHEN TO PLANT... Bare-root planting time is from late fall through early spring, with a break in the middle when the ground is frozen solid. This period coincides with the peony dormancy cycle. We tend to plant bare-root peonies in New Jersey from October-January and again from March-May. Potted peonies are typically planted at the begining of the growing season in May-June. That being said, peonies are very hardy and can be planted almost any season as long as the ground can be dug.

Tools Needed Remove Rocks
Tools Needed Remove Rocks

As your peony prefers to be planted and left in one location for generations, it is worth taking the time to dig a proper hole and amend the soil.

Once you have dug a hole the appropriate size for your type of peony, see below for details, you will look to create a friable loam - a soft, dark, rich, loose, soil that is composed of clay, compost and sand. These soil conditions will allow for free water flow while retaining proper moisture and nutrition.

If you have clay soils you will need to amend for drainage. A good solution is to mix compost and rock dust, crushed stone often used as a base when laying out new paving stones, into your soil. Rock dust can be obtained from a neighborhood quarry. Gypsum, a type of rock dust, can be obtained commercially from garden or hardware centers. In addition to drainage, rock dust has the benefit of adding micro-nutrients to the soil.

If you have sandy soil amend with clay and compost to increase the retention of nutrients.

Peonies tolerate a wide pH but prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil, a pH to 6.5 - 7.5. If you are unsure of your soil condition or pH, you may want to get a soil test from your county's agricultural extension service.

Amending the soil is particularly important for tree peonies. Below are pictures of how we mix the soil for planting tree peonies in New Jersey. We have heavy soil made up of clay and rock. We create a nutrient rich, highly draining, soil mixture for the bottom of the hole. This consists of three parts compost, two parts stone dust, and one part dirt from the hole. For the top of the hole, surrounding the peony root itself, we create a mixture of equal parts compost, stone dust, and dirt from the hole. This produces a friable loam that is excellent for growing tree peonies.

Peony Planting Soil Ammendments Ammend the Soil 2
Proportions for Bottom of Tree Peony Hole Proportions for Top of Tree Peony Hole
Start by digging a hole 1 foot wide by 1 foot deep and amend your soil, as mentioned above, to create a friable loam.
Herbaceous Peony Planting Depth Intersectional Peony Planting Depth
Herbaceous Peony Planting Depth Intersectional Peony Planting Depth

Plant so that 0.5 to 1.5 inches of soil cover the top of the root - peonies should be planted deeper in lower numbered zones and more shallow in higher numbered zones. For example, most of Virginia will plant peonies at .5 inch, northern New Jersey will plant at 1 inch, and Maine will plant at 1.5 inches below the surface of the soil. Planted too deeply flowers will not develop, too shallowly and the tops of the eyes will freeze and die back in the winter.

Press down on the soil to remove air pockets in the soil around the root and lift the root as necessary so it does not settle more than 1.5 inches beneath the ground. Water in well. Avoid mulching your herbaceous & intersectional peonies as this will make the top of the root too deep and they will not flower.

During the first two growing seasons after planting a new herbaceous or intersectional peony, ensure that it gets a good soaking every two to three weeks. This will allow the plant to get enough water while the fibrous root system becomes established. Remember that peonies do not like wet feet and be careful to not over water, the soil needs to dry out fully between watering.

New herbaceous peony plants should be planted 2.5 to 3 feet apart on center. See our Plan A Garden Page for descriptions, illustrations and photos on how to lay out peony gardens.

Tree Peony Planting Hole Depth of Tree Peony Planting

Start by digging a hole 24 inches deep and at least 12 inches wide. This will seem like a huge hole for such a small root but remember it will grow! Your tree peony prefers to be planted and left in one location for generations so it is worth taking the time to do it right. Amend and plant as mentioned above.

Tree peonies should be planted deeply. Grafted tree peonies should be planted so that the graft is four to six inches below the surface of the soil. This deep planting forces die back of the nurse herbaceous root and successful growth of a tree peony root. Any herbaceous shoots noticed growing from any grafted tree peony should be cut back and the plant should be mulched to more deeply bury the root. Tree peonies growing from their own root should be planted so that the point at which the stems emerge from the root is two inches below the surface of the soil, see image below. This will promote additional branches to emerge from the root

If you are worried about the planting depth of your tree peony it is always best to err on the side of planting it deep.

Planting Grafted
Planting Depth Tree Peonies Planted Tree Peony
Plant to the depth of the pink line Planted Tree Peony
The spacing between tree peonies will depend on the future growth height and growth form of the tree peonies you purchased. See our Plan A Garden Page for descriptions, illustrations and photos on how to lay out peony gardens.

Woodland peonies are deer proof. They naturalize well in a deciduous woodland where they get early spring sun, before the leaves come on the trees, and summer shade. They look beautiful planted on their own, or can be planted as part of a mixed shade garden with hellebores, hosta, ferns, lily of the valley, and bleeding heart to name a few.


For a naturalized planting we begin by throwing the number of tennis balls that correspond with the number of plants we want to plant up into the air loosely and allowing them to settle naturally. Then digging a hole at each location where a tennis ball falls.

PLANTING - Woodland peonies are a type of herbaceous peony and should be planted in a similar manner to other herbaceous peonies. However, keep in mind that woodland peonies tend to spread more horizontally than they do vertically. They like the rich hummus top soil that tends to be found in the woodland and use this looser soil to grow horizontally. Like all peonies they need good drainage and a relatively high level of organic matter in the soil. We recommend digging holes that are 1 foot wide by 8 inches deep. Click here for details on planting herbaceous peonies.

How to Plant Woodland Peonies
Woodland peonies have viable seeds and if let go naturally will self seed in an area creating swaths of peonies.
Woodland Peony Planting
Planting Peonies in Winter

If you have received new peonies in the very late fall, winter or early spring you likely have questions as to what to do with them.

They should be planted the first chance you can get a shovel in the ground, regardless of frost or freeze potential.
Do not wait for the frost date to plant your peony roots.

utilize the day or so between cold periods when the ground is thawed enough to dig. Once you plant them keep an eye on them and make sure the frost does not heave them out of the ground. New peonies are susceptible to frost heaving as they do not have their feeder roots to hold them in place. Any peonies heaved out of the ground should be put back to their original location. If it is too frozen to do so they can be covered in place with soil until the ground thaws or taken in and placed in peat moss in the refrigerator until the ground thaws enough to dig. Remember it is generally not a good idea to mulch peonies. Peonies need the cold to flower - much will insulate them causing them to miss their needed cold period in the winter.

IF THE GROUND IS FROZEN SOLID at the time of purchase or delivery,
it is best to store them in a cold location until you are ready to plant. It is important to protect them from
heat and sun, not from cold. Store your peonies in a cold and dry location such as an unheated garage or shed
- it is ok if they freeze - and plant them the next day that the ground has thawed enough to get a shovel in the ground.
Do not worry if the ground has the potential to freeze again.

If you are received your plants in early spring then a good indicators for planting are the onset
of Mud Season, or the beginning of the crocus and forsythia bloom.

while protecting the new shoots from frost with a light mulch. Mulch should be removed after the frost date
as mulch insulates the peony roots and will impede the bloom.

IF YOU HAVE TO WAIT a very long time to plant your peonies,
plant them with the eyes up in a 3 gallon or larger nursery pot filled with loose dry peat moss,
not potting soil. Put the pot outside in the rain & snow until the first opportunity to plant in the ground.

Back to Top

Growth Expectations
Peonies, like most perennials, take three years to become fully established in your garden. They follow the well known truisms - first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap - or first year roots, second year shoots, third year flowers. You will see some flowers before the third year, but it takes three springs before the plant has a mature and stately presence and is consistently true to flower form. Peonies can live for decades in one place without needing to be moved or thinned.
Herbaceous Peony Growth
The images above show growth expectations for herbaceous peonies in their first, second, and third year. Note that if the plant is not planted properly it is possible that the plant will not show any growth the first year. Peonies are very resilient and hardy but do take time to establish and become a mature flowering plant.
Tree Peony Growth Expectations

Tree Peonies are very slow growing plants. The images above show the typical growth expectations for the first, second and third spring of a tree peony on it's own root. If you do get flowers in the first year after planting know that they will be small, about the size of a quarter, and will not be true to flower form. Note also that the leaves will enlarge and fill in over time. Be assured that the flowers will get larger as the plant matures.

PLEASE NOTE that the smaller/less expensive grafted tree peony scions we sell seasonally may take longer to mature than the pictures shown above as they are smaller plants to begin with.

Tree peonies often appear dead their first year or two in the ground. The stress of moving them to a new location, along with possible drought over the summer can cause die back of the woody stems. This is not unusual. DO NOT DIG IT UP. Give peonies time. The first few years we grew tree peonies we would pull out the ones we thought were dead, they weren't. The ones we didn't have time to dig out of the ground became some of the most beautiful tree peonies in our garden. Make sure you properly planted your tree peony, in a suitable location, and are properly caring for it and it should be fine. Newly planted tree peonies do need to be watered every week or two during the dry summer months their first year or two as they do not have feeder roots on them yet. Be sure that the peony dries out fully between waterings as peonies do not like wet feet and can not tolerate over watering.

Tree Peony Root Growth
Root growth the 4th & 5th year after planting a tree peony on it's own root.
Back to Top

Routine Maintenance
Peonies are hardy perennials that can thrive with neglect but it is good practice to do some maintenance to help them establish themselves in their new home.

Peonies typically need little fertilization but in some instances it is good to give them a little boost. First consider the environment and the soil conditions. Sandy soils will require more fertilization as the nutrients easily leach out of the soil.

We spread 120 to 180 cubic yards of mushroom compost on the gardens every year. Hy-Tech Mushroom is a company in Pennsylvania that has the very best compost if you are doing large scale projects in the area.

We also use Neptune's Harvest fish and seaweed emulsion by the gallon both as a foliar spray when leaves are emerging and as a root drench both when planting and during fall cleanup. Other options for fertilizer are well-decomposed compost, bone meal (be wary if you have digging dogs or raccoons), bulb tone, or rock dust. When applying compost BE CAREFUL not to a thick layer as this could increase the planting depth and reduce blooming. The best way to apply compost is by mixing it in a ring around the peony

If you feel a chemical fertilizer is necessary choose a balanced slow-release one like 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. Rarely, do we use any of these chemical fertilizers at Peony's Envy - we compost and use fish/seaweed emulsion all the time instead. Heavy chemical fertilizers like Miracle Grow often harm peonies more than they help them and because of this we do not recommend them.

During the first two growing seasons after planting a new peony, ensure that it gets a good soaking once a week. Water more in times of drought than in times of heavy rains, and more if your peony is planted in full sun than in dappled shade. Monitor water intake carefully especially in tree peonies the first year after planting. Weekly soakings keep the plant from being stressed by drought as it develops its fibrous root system. However, remember that peonies do not like wet feet and be careful to not over water, watering daily or use of foliar sprinkler systems can cause rot. It is essential that your peony be planted in well draining soil so that the water does not pool around the plant.

Most herbaceous peonies will need to be staked up to support the heavy blossoms in the spring. The necessity of support for your herbaceous peony will be determined by the flower form and height of your plant. See the section above on plant shapes/flower color for details.

Intersectional and tree peonies typically do not require staking of any kind. Occasionally very mature tree peonies will need some support for some of their longer branches. The need for this will likely depend on the plant height and shape. Tall varieties will need some support over time while dwarf varieties will not.

Staking options for herbaceous peonies
Staking options for rows of herbaceous peonies

Individual herbaceous peonies can be staked using peony grow through rings or tomato cages. If using one of these methods it is important to place the cages on the plants before they begin to leaf out and let the plant grow into the rings.

Our preferred method of staking peonies uses tall pieces of rebar or bamboo placed around the plant. On an individual plant we use three of these stakes and tie them together with large cloth ribbon. This can be done after the plants leaf out, just before they bloom. Interweave the ribbon around and through the plant for maximum support. If you use tall stakes you can tie multiple layers of ribbon around the plant to support the blossoms as they grow. For ribbon we use 1 inch 115 weight, heavyweight black cotton twill.

When staking peonies be sure not to overly reduce air flow through the plant as this will promote disease in the garden. If you support your peonies using stakes and ribbon cut the ribbon off and let the plant breathe after it has finished flowering.

Deadheading Peonies
Peonies in Flower/ Peonies with Spent Flowers / After Deadheading

After the bloom, unless you are interested in seeing if your peony will produce seeds, deadhead your peonies to promote root growth over seed formation.

Herbaceous & Intersectional Peonies: Cut the stem to the first set of true leaves.

Tree Peonies: Cut the stem just below the spent flower. Removing excess stem will reduce the amount of growth in the following year and should be avoided. This years green shoots will become next years woody branch.

For those interested in collecting and propagating seeds please see the section below on Propagating Peonies.



If you have peonies and you are anticipating a large frost after your peonies have begun to sprout you can place an overturned pot or light sheet over the plants during the frost. This will protect the forming buds from any added stress that the frost can cause, which may hamper the bloom. Just don't forget to remove the covering as soon as possible.

That being said, we have thousands of peonies and rarely cover any of our plants during frost and our peonies still bloom well and remain beautiful. This frost hardiness is especially true for tree peonies that emerge very early in the season. We have had plants with blossoms ready to open get frosted and they have opened beautifully not too long after. Just be careful not to touch your peonies when they are frozen as it will cause them to break.

Fall Peony Care
Herbaceous Fall Color Cut Back Herbaceous Peonies in the Fall
Herbaceous Fall Color Cut Back Herbaceous Peonies in the Fall

Herbaceous Fall Care: In the fall herbaceous peony leaves loose their luster, turn colors, and begin to die back for the winter. As they fade they are not longer photosynthesizing and providing sugar to the root, which means that it is time for fall cleanup and care. It is common at this time for the leaves to be less than aesthetically pleasing. They may be dotted with brown spots or covered in a white mold. These diseases are common and largely cosmetic but should be removed from the garden. Cut back your herbaceous peony stems so they are three to four inches above the ground, see the picture above, and throw away the leaves. Leaves should not be composted in your home garden compost as it does not get hot enough to kill the spores and bacteria that may be on the plant.

Additional fall care consists of cleaning up the area around the peony and adding compost six inches from the base of the stem. Compost should not be piled directly on the peony as any layered soil will make the peony too deep and may keep it from flowering in coming years. Carefully check the surface around the stem to ensure the pink or white eyes remain 0.5 to 1.5 inches below the surface of the soil depending on your horticultural zone. If desired, add fish and seaweed emulsion, bone meal or a slow release fall fertilizer according to package directions to give your plants a little boost for fall.

  Cutting Back Herbaceous Peonies

Because Intersectional Peonies are a cross between Tree and Herbaceous peonies their fall care consists of aspects of both parents. The leaves should be plucked off once they begin to fall, similar to a tree peony. Intersectional peonies should then be trimmed back so that the herbaceous portion of the stem is removed and the hard wood portion remains. Determining this location takes some experience so we recommend that you leave the plant the first year and let it die back naturally so that you can see for yourself where this location is. Typically mature intersectional peonies will leave four to five inches of hard wood above ground.

The leaves and stems should be thrown away, they should not be composted in your home garden compost as it does not get hot enough to kill the spores and bacteria that may be on the plant.

After you clean up the area around the peony add compost six inches from the base of the stem. Like herbaceous peonies, compost should not be piled directly on the peony as any layered soil will make the peony too deep and may keep it from flowering in coming years.

Tree Peonies in the Fall Fall Tree Peony Color
Tree Peonies in the Fall Fall Tree Peony Color

Tree peonies are very cold tolerant. Notice in the image above where the leaves in the forest have all but dropped and yet the tree peonies are still holding their leaves. Once the leaves begin to color and naturally fall, winter preparation consists of carefully removing any remaining old leaves and cleaning all leaves from the base of the stem. Tree peonies should not be cut back! Pruning can be done for shape but this is best done in the spring right after the plants have flowered, see pruning section directly below for details. When removing the leaves in the fall snap them off with your hand, as indicated in the picture below, leaving the new buds on the branches intact. Those new buds will form next years woody growth and flowers. If the leaves do not snap of easily, cut them off close to the stem. All of the leaves should be thrown away - your backyard compost pile does not hot enough to kill the spores and bacteria that may be on the plant.

Compost can be added seasonally to tree peonies at and beyond the drip line, not close the the stem. We apply a ring of mushroom compost around the plant in the fall. If desired, add fish and seaweed emulsion, bone meal or a slow release fall fertilizer according to package directions to give your plants an extra boost.

Tree peonies generally do not need to be protected from the winter elements. They, like herbaceous peonies, need the cold to flower. However, when growing tree peonies in horticultural zones 2 or 3, tree peonies will have substantial die back and will grow more like an herbaceous peony, sprouting from the base every year. In these zones mulch heavily in winter, avoid any mulch with wood chips or bark as this promotes artillery fungus growth. In zones 4-9 tree peonies need no winter protection as they are cold hardy and resilient.

Additional care should be taken so that the branches do not break over the winter. Be wary of snow falling from roof lines and areas in plow zones. If your tree peony is planted in such areas precautions should be taken to prevent the branches from breaking.

  Remove Leaves From Tree Peonies

Tree peonies do not need to be cut back. Know that trimming your tree peony can cause you to loose the part of the stem that will create next years flowers. Flowers can be deadheaded in the spring to help promote root growth over seed production. When doing this be sure to cut the stem just below the spent flower. Removing excess stem will reduce the amount of growth in the following year and should be avoided.

If you wish to prune your mature tree peony for shape this is best done in the spring right after this years flowers fade. Tree peonies will set their flower buds for the coming year right after they flower. If you are wanting to prune a large portion off your tree peony know that you should never remove more than a third of the plant. This is common practice with perennials as taking more than a third of the plant puts too much stress on the plant and can cause it to die. It is best to be patient and take only a portion of what you are wanting to take the first year and prune it to the shape you desire in the coming years.

If you are experiencing heavy die back on your tree peony, and you are not in zone 2 or 3, this could be a sign of a fungus or insect problem. We recommend sending branches to a agricultural extension to determine the exact cause, we use Rutgers. Pruning of dead growth can be done in the spring or fall.

Back to Top

To prevent disease make sure your garden is kept clean, that air circulates, and that plants are kept healthy. Messenger and Neptune's Harvest are two organic products to keep your plants healthy and disease resistant.
Powdery Mildew on Peonies Powdery Mildew Peony 2

If you are experiencing a white powder like covering on the leaves of your peony you have powdery mildew in your garden.

Symptoms: Leaves turn white. Onset is in late June through September. It is not fatal and tree peonies are less prone than herbaceous peonies to this fungus. In some years powdery mildew is worse than others. It can infect plants when there are hot days, high humidity, and cool nights. Once the plant is infected there are virtually no sprays or oils that will completely rid the plant of powdery mildew this year. However there are some preventative remedies to keep your plants from getting powdery mildew in coming years. These include the following: Bacillus subtilis to boost plant's natural defenses; neem oil or other horticultural oils after the leaves have formed; backing soda spray (1t backing soda, 1qt. water and a few drops of liquid soap) on the soil in early spring and on the plant itself in the summer; products containing sulfur, or a biofungicide recommended to treat powdery mildew on peonies; rhubarb leaf tea; cornmeal as a soil amendment or mixed as a spray. All pesticides should be used according to package directions and remedies should be tried on portions of the plant prior to making large scale applications. The cooperative extension service in New Jersey recommends potassium bicarbonate at 7-10 day intervals.

Another good natural preventative remedy is to regularly spray a solution of 30% milk to 70% water on your plants on a sunny day. This helps not only peonies, but all plants susceptible to powdery mildew. Click here to read more.

Botrytis on Peonies Botrytis on Peonies 2

Stalks wilt and die, buds turn black. Onset is typically in early spring but can be at any time when temperatures remain below 70 degrees. Botrytis is especially prevalent when the weather is wet and humid.

Botrytis will kill tree and herbaceous peonies if not treated. Botrytis thrives in cool humid conditions and can be minimized by planting peonies where they have good air circulation. When noticed, cut off diseased portions of the plant, dipping the pruners in a 10% solution of bleach between each cutting to ensure the disease does not spread. Throw out the diseased portions; do not compost. A more aggressive option would be to use systemic fungicide labeled for use on peonies. The cooperative extension service of New Jersey recommends Ferban and Manebrom. Griffin Greenhouse Supply recommends products including Cease, Daconil, Medallion, and Veranda-O. Follow all instructions on the label carefully and trial pesticides on small portions of the plant before making large scale applications. We emphasize using a systemic product and continuing to treat according to the label instructions as the disease persists.

Remember that prevention is key. Make sure your garden is kept clean and that air circulates around your plants.

There are several diseases that can cause blotches on the leaves or cause the plant to turn black, wilt and portions to die. When in doubt, send a sample to your county's agricultural extension office for laboratory diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Here is a link to the Rutgers extension office diagnostic submission form that we use.

In general peonies are disease resistant and require very little care. The main way to prevent disease is to plant peonies in well draining soil, avoid areas that are heavily irrigated, avoid over fertilizing with heavy chemical fertilizers, and space peonies so there is adequate air flow between plants.
Ants on Peonies Do peonies need ants to flower?

We have heard for generations that ants are necessary for peonies to flower. This is not true. The ants are simply attracted to the nectar on the buds of herbaceous peonies. Ants keep the garden clean of other pests and will not hurt the flowers or the leaves. Having peonies in your garden is not going to create an ant problem in your house, we have a peony farm and do not have a problem with ants in the house.

To prevent bringing in ants when you cut your peony flowers cut them when they are a tight bud, when they just begin to show color, and the ants can be easily shaken off. This also increases the longevity of your cut flowers as they open more slowly in the cool of your house than the heat of the outdoors. For detailed information on ants and cut flowers watch Kathleen's Martha Stewart Clip and see our section below on cut flowers.

Peony flowers being eaten. Chafers are beetles look similar to Japanese beetles. They can be removed by hand or killed with almost any insecticide. Neem oil is an organic option, read the product label for more detailed instructions
Back to Top

Peonies Not Blooming

Peonies take time to become established, it is normal for a newly planted peony to not bloom the first year or two after planting. Peonies follow the well known perennial truisms - first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap - or first year roots, second year shoots, third year flowers. They are well worth the wait.

If you have old established peonies that have beautiful green leaves and no flowers it is often a problem with planting depth. This can be due to a number of reasons such as mulching or shift in soil in the garden. Peonies are very sensitive to planting depth. If the plant becomes too deep, as it does when mulched, the shoots (called eyes) that form at the top of the root (the crown) do not get their proper "winter chill" and can not form flower buds. This lack of winter chill is why peonies do not grow in places such as Florida or Southern California. If you have peonies that are not blooming check the depth of your peony by delicately moving a bit of the soil from the top portion of the plant being careful not to break off the delicate pink eyes. The top of the root should be from 0.5 to 1.5 inches below the surface of the soil. For details on the exact planting depth for your area see the Planting section above. If you find your peony to be too deep it will need to be lifted. Transplanting is best done in the fall, moving it in the fall will also ensure that it gets the proper winter chill in the following season. See the planting section above for how to replant your peony. Note that the first year after it is transplanted it may not bloom as peonies take a year to recover from being transplanted. Don't worry, they are well worth the wait and will live for hundreds of years.

Another possibility that should not be ruled out is amount of sunlight. Over time surrounding trees and shrubs can shade out your peonies resulting in fewer and fewer flowers. The more sun you have the more flowers you will get.

If the overall health of your plant is declining check planting depth, the amount of water, competition of roots, depletion of nutrients in the soil, or note if the area has flooded recently. It may be time to transplant your peony to a new location. Wet soil is a common factor in unhealthy peonies. It is possible to divide your peony when you transplant it by following instructions below. Plant divided roots in a new section of the garden so the soil in the former location can recover.

The main reason for intersectional peonies not blooming is the age of the plant. Intersectional peonies, like all peonies, take at least three years to become established in your garden. If you have a new intersectional peony that is not blooming this is normal, do not move it. Moving your peony will cause it to take an extra year to become established in its new location. You should however check to make sure that it is planted in a location that is suited for it. Check the planting instructions above for details on placement of your intersectional peony.

In most cases if your tree peony is not blooming it is simply not mature enough to produce flowers. This will self correct as the plant becomes larger. See our section above on growth expectations for images of what to expect of your tree peony. Know that when you do begin to get flowers on a newly planted tree peony they will be small, about the size of a quarter, and that the flowers will enlarge as the plant matures.

It is less common to have mature tree peonies that do not bloom but if you do you should first check the depth of the plant and make sure that it is buried sufficiently and the roots are not exposed, causing stress on the plant. If you have a very mature tree peony that has begun to bloom less this could be to surrounding root and sun competition.


If you are getting two sets of blooms on your tree peony, one early and one a few weeks later, you have a grafted tree peony. What is happening is that the herbaceous root stock is flowering after the tree peony branches have flowered. This is something that should be prevented as it could cause the herbaceous rootstock to flourish at the expense of the tree peony. In this case you should cut back the herbaceous stems emerging from the base and mulch the plant in deeper to promote the tree peony to form it's own roots.

Below is an image of a tree peony with new tree peony shoots emerging from the ground. These should NOT be cut off. Notice how the new shoots are multi branched indicating that they are from the tree peony. Herbaceous shoots emerging from the graft will be single stalks with no branches.

Herbaceous Peony Root
Tree Peony With Tree Peony branches emerging from ground.
Back to Top


If you are lucky enough to have mature peonies in your garden and they are blooming beautifully first consider leaving them where they are as peonies will sulk for a year or two after they are transplanted. If transplanting is inevitable the time to do this is in the fall when the plants are dormant. If you are in a crunch peonies can be transplanted successfully at other times of the year but it is not recommended.

Before you start digging up your peony it is important to prepare the new location as mentioned above in the Planting section.

Cut Back Herbaceous Peonies in the Fall Herbaceous Peonies after being cut back in the fall
In fall begin by cutting back your peonies

When digging your herbaceous peony in the fall begin by cutting back the stems as you would do in fall cleanup. If you want to divide the peony before replanting count the stems before digging. Plan ahead and pre-dig your holes, know that for every three to five stems you can have approximately one new peony. See details on dividing below. Once this is done, lift your established herbaceous peony using a large garden fork and begin at least eight inches from the base of the stem. Work your way around the plant and gently pry it from the ground. The roots are brittle and can easily be broken. Any time peonies are transplanted or divided, they take a few years to return to their previous grandeur. See details above on planting and details below on dividing.

Digging Herbaceous Peonies Plant out of the Ground
Digging Herbaceous Peonies Plant out of the Ground
Digging a tree peony to transplant Transplanting a Tree Peony
The time to transplant tree peonies is in the fall when the plants have become dormant. To lift your established tree peony, begin at least eighteen inches from the base of the stem, loosen the plant from the soil with a large garden fork, work your way around the plant, and gently pry it from the ground. The roots will be deep and tough. Have burlap ready to help secure the root ball. Cut off any remaining leaves being careful not to remove what will become next years woody stem. Plant immediately and water in well. Note that when moving a tree peony it will take several years for it to return to its previous health.
Back to Top

Propagating: Dividing, Grafting & Growing From Seed

The easiest and most successful way of creating more peonies is to divide them. Root division, and/or grafting in the case of tree peonies, is the only way to create another plant that is identical to its parent plant. Planting peony seeds will result in new cultivars. The one exception is paeonia japonica, the woodland peony, that will create seeds that are identical to the parent plant and can easily be propagated by seed. See section above on planting woodland peony seeds or section below on peony seed planting.

Herbaceous Peony Root Clean Herbaceous Peony Root
Herbaceous Peony Root Root once it is rinsed off
When dividing an herbaceous peony, wash the dirt off of the roots. The root has four parts: large tuberous roots, small fibrous roots, a connective crown and eyes at the top of the crown. Rinse off the peony so you can see the plant clearly. Divide the plant into pieces by carefully cutting through the crown, as shown in the picture below. Each piece should have at least one strong tuberous root and 3-5 eyes in the top of the crown. Plant each herbaceous peony 3 feet apart, according to the Planting Instructions above.
Cut Crown of Herbaceous Peony to Divide Herbaceous Peony after Division
Cut through the crown at a natural divide
How to plant a grafted tree peony How to divide a tree peony
Grafted Tree Peony Putting Down Tree Peony Roots
(grafted herbaceous portion shown in red withering and eventually dying )
Pink shows where to divide a tree peony that is on its own root


Dividing tree peonies is not for the faint of heart. These are magnificent plants that are intended to be planted and left alone for generations. For a less drastic means of propagating see our section on grafting below.

If you have decided to divide your tree peony you must first have a mature plant that has completely grown off its graft and set its own roots, or a tree peony that was not grafted. Begin by digging up the plant and washing off the roots so you can see how the branches and root structure connects. Look for natural divides in the plant and cut the roots and stems with a sharp knife, as in the illustration above to create new plants with one, two or three stems on a substantial root structure. Plant as above in the tree peony planting section and give the new plants time to mature. It may take a few years for them to flower properly.

Tree Peony Root Growth
Tree peonies on their own root, dug up and washed off, ready to be divided
Grafting Tree Peonies, Equipment  
Kathleen Gagan & Bill Seidl
Grafting Tree Peonies
Equipment Needed: Pen, Sharpie, Tags, Sterile Work Area, + Grafting Bands, Grafting Wax, Sharp Knife, Bleach
  Grafting Wax
Selecting Herbaceous Nurse Root Bleaching Herbaceous Nurse Root   Selecting Tree Peony Scion
Tree Peony Scions Cut Acute Angle   Fitting Scion into Herbaceous Nurse Root
How to graft a tree peony  
Band for Stability Seal   Pray to the Garden Gods for Success
Grafted tree peonies     Tree peony grafting workshops
Place in Wet Sand on a Hot Mat     Or Book a Propagation Workshop
for your Group
growing peonies from seed
Fertile Flower / Infertile Flower / Peony Seeds

If you are interested in propagating peonies from seeds, wait to see if a seedpod begins to form as in the first picture above. Seeds will ripen and be ready to plant in early fall. Note that not all peonies can produce seeds as the stamens have been diminished or lost in the hybridization process. If a peony is not able to produce seeds, the stem will not produce a seedpod and will look like picture two. In this case cut the stem back to the first set of true leaves to promote root growth. Note that to get a peony the same as another you currently grow, you must divide the root. If you are lucky enough however to have a variety of peony that produces seeds, the seeds will produce peonies distinct from the parent. Plant the seeds one inch below the surface of the soil immediately after they ripen-like picture three. Plant them outside in similar conditions favored by the mother plants. Mark them well and wait. It may take two years for a seeding to emerge and as many as ten years for the plants to produce flowers.

Back to Top

Cut Flowers
Peony Buds at the Perfect Stage to Cut Peonies Make the Best Cut Flowers
Peony Buds at the Perfect Stage to Cut Peonies Make the Best Cut Flowers

Click here to watch Peony's Envy on The Martha Stewart Show for a VIDEO on how to cut and store your herbaceous peonies.

When to Cut: If you are wanting to use your peonies as cut flowers, cut the buds when they are hard like marbles but have begun to show color, like the picture above to the left. Bringing the flowers inside at this point allows them to open at a slower rate as they are opening in the cool of your house instead of the heat of the garden.

Where to Cut: When cutting plants of any type it is important to never cut off more than a third of the greenery as any more than this will have detrimental effects on the plant. Following the logic of the rule of thirds you can take a higher number of flowers with short stems than you can flowers with long stems. When cutting, we try to leave as may of the leaves on the plant as possible to ensure that the plant is able to store enough energy through photosynthesis that it can produce healthy flowers the following year. Different cultivars will have slightly different stem length as some produce flowers right above the greenery while others have flowers that tower a few feet above the plant.

Ants: If you are worried about ants when bringing cut flowers into the house simply cut the flowers when the buds are still closed making the ants are easy to shake off. Also, if you cut your flowers in the evening, there are often fewer ants on the buds.

How to Save: To preserve your herbaceous flowers for weeks after their bloom time simply cut them in the stage stated above and store them in the refrigerator. They can be stored in a vase with water, protected by a flower sleeve, for up to six months if you continually change out the water. They can also be stored in the refrigerator without water, placed on their side, wrapped in newspaper for a few weeks. They will rehydrate when placed in water. Note that the flowers will dehydrate in a frost free refrigerator, flowers should be stored in an old fashioned refrigerator or a floral refrigerator.

On both of these methods, watch for any mold or fungus and remove these portions as soon as they are spotted. Note that peonies stored for a long period of time will open faster and not last as long. It takes practice to store peonies successfully so try it this year and see how long you can keep your peonies. Click here to watch Peony's Envy on The Martha Stewart Show for a VIDEO on how to cut and store your herbaceous peonies.

Peony Buds

When cutting peonies for cut flowers it is best to cut them when they first begin to show the color of the flower, the bud in the center of the picture is ready to be cut.

Herbaceous peonies make some of the best cut flowers available. With some practice, they can be cut and stored for up to six months. Click the link to watch our Martha Stewart Segment with information on how to store cut flowers.

Lactiflora peony growth, many branches per stem

Pictured above - Great Prosperity - characteristic lactiflora growth - important in cutting

Lactiflora Peonies
There are many different species of herbaceous peonies, one such type that is widely cultivated is the Lactiflora Peony. Varieties that have strong Lactiflora parentage will typically have five flowers per stem, instead of a single stem like those with strong Officianalis parentage. Simply put, Lactiflora species peonies are native to Central China while Officianalis peonies are native to Western Europe and thus have different growth characteristics.

When using peonies with strong lactiflora parentage many commercial cut flower growers will sell the center flower with a long stem for a higher price and sell the side buds with a slightly shorter stem for a reduced price. They don't pinch the buds of the side flowers as this does not increase the size of the center bud and only serves to reduce their harvest.

Examples of Lactiflora peonies:
Great Prosperity - red
Red Camellia - red
Morning Dew - pink
Zhao's Garden Pink - pink
Pink From Seed - pink
Purple Phoenix Flying to the Sun - purple
Magenta Sunshine - red

Intersectional peonies have flowers that look like their tree peony parent but have longer stems, like their herbaceous parent. Be careful when cutting the stem as it is important not to cut the woody portion of the plant that will remain above ground. It is also important not to take more than a third of the leaves at any given time so be careful when cutting multiple stems. Intersectional peonies make outstanding cut flowers in colors that are not often found in peonies.
Tree peony cut flowers Size of tree peony flowers
Tree peonies can have flowers as large as dinner plates. Stems should be cut short, less than two inches, to avoid cutting off what will become next year's woody stem and flowers. They can be floated in large glass vases and bowls making an incredible statement on any table.
Back to Top

Frequently Asked Questions

Click the links below for detailed information.

How do I keep ANTS off my peonies?
Ants role in the garden & when to bring peonies in..

Typically as soon as possible. See guidelines for early spring & late fall...

When can I DIVIDE my established peonies?
Fall is best...

Why isn't my peony BLOOMING?
Not mature, too deep, not enough sun...

My flower buds have turned black and have died, what happened?
Wet year or possible fungus...

My new tree peony looks dead.
Learn what to expect...

Which peonies would you recommend for the SOUTH?
Selecting peonies for the South...



Reference Books on Peonies

Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jane. 1999. Peonies, New York, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Beautifully designed, sections on history, garden planning, cultivar selection, and planting.

Halda, Josef J. with Waddick, James W. 2004. The Genus Paeonia, Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc.
Illustrated by Jarmila Haldova, this book discusses 25 native species of the genus Paeonia.

Harding, Alice. 1993. The Peony, Portland Oregon: Sagapress, Inc. & Timber Press, Inc.
A compilation of Harding's original works on peonies first published in 1917 &1923, which remain compulsory reading. Introduction and updates by Roy Klehm.

Lianying, Wang, 1998. Chinese Tree Peony, Beijing China: China Forestry Publishing House.
The best book I have yet to find on tree peonies.

McGeorge, Pamela. 2006. Peonies, Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books.
Good overview, an enjoyable read, packed full of information.

McLewin, Will & Chen, Dezhong. 2006. Peony Rockii and Ganzu Mudan, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Wellesley-Cambridge Press.
Best book I have found on Rockii Peonies/Gansu Mudan

Osti, Gian Lupo. 2004. The Book of Mediterranean Peonies, Umberto Allemandi & C. New York, New York.
Wonderfully illustrated introduction to these lesser known peony species

Page, Martin. 1997 & 2002. The Gardener's Guide to Growing Peonies, Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc.
Another primer, good pictures and descriptions of well-known herbaceous cultivars.

Rogers, Allan 1995. Peonies, Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc.
Written by a grower, this book is well written and most helpful.

Back to Top
Peony's Envy PO Box 114 - 34 Autumn Hill Drive Bernardsville, NJ 07924