Peony Pruning: Is Pruning Of Peony Necessary?

Peony Pruning: Is Pruning Of Peony Necessary?

By: Jackie Carroll

Peonies, with their big, flashy, often fragrant blossoms become the focal point of the garden in spring. The flowers only last a week or two, but by planting different varieties together you can extend the season to up to six weeks. Once the flowers fade, you are left with an attractive shrub with deep-cut leaves. Pruning peonies is easy, and they often require no pruning at all. So how do you know when to trim peonies? Continue reading to find out more about when and how to prune a peony.

Is Pruning of Peony Necessary?

Is pruning of peony necessary, and if so, how do you go about peony pruning? In fact, peonies need very little pruning, but as with any shrub, pruning helps to promote good overall health and the control of insects and diseases. Peony pruning can help maintain the shape of the plant.

When to Trim Peonies

Herbaceous peonies are tender-stemmed plants that die back naturally in fall and regrow again in spring. Cutting back the dead stems to the ground in fall helps prevent insects and diseases and makes the garden look tidy. When you remove the stems, take care not to damage the crown, which is the fleshy part of the plant between the roots and the stems.

Remove stems that are infested with diseases or insects as soon as you discover the problem. Trim tree peony branches to remove damage caused by winter weather and to correct structural problems in spring.

How to Prune a Peony

The first thing you should know about pruning peonies is where to make the cut. The best place to cut a peony stem is just above a healthy bud. If the stem is diseased, make sure you cut back to healthy wood. Do not compost pruned cuttings that are diseased or infested with insects. Burn the stems or bag and discard them instead.

In cases of severe injury or when the plant is overgrown, remove the entire stem by cutting it close to the ground.

When two branches cross and rub against each other, remove the least desirable branch. The friction from constant rubbing creates a wound that serves as an entry point for insects and diseases.

Disbudding is the removal of selected buds to control the size and quantity of the flowers. If you remove the side buds and leave the bud at the tip of a stem, you will get one very large blossom. Removing the terminal bud and leaving those along the sides of the stem results in more but smaller flowers.

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When To Cut Back Peonies

Peonies are at their best in bloom in May and June. But should gardeners cut back peony plants soon after they’ve bloomed or wait until autumn?

Cut back peonies in the fall around the time of the first autumn frost. Spent flowers are generally trimmed off in June after they’ve blossomed, but the leaves of the plant should remain standing until mid-Autumn so the plant can produce next year’s flower buds. Cut back peony plants when the first frost is forecast or soon after the stalks have been killed by freezing weather, often in October or November.

More questions about how, when, and why to cut back peonies? Read on to learn exactly how and when to do it.


I've never tried growing the seeds but I see no reason why you shouldn't. The only thing to be aware of is if you have hybrids they will not come true.

Cutting back - no, don't. Let them take in energy from the leaves, and cut them back when the leaves are brown and dead.

The trouble with peonies is that they take up a lot of room and don't flower for long. I always cut back my peonies after flowering to make room for other flowering perennials around them. I leave plenty of leaf so that they can regenerate, but give them a fairly drastic haircut around the sides. That way, I don't leave a horrible hole in the border, but in a small garden, all plants have to earn their place and fit in with other plants.

Paeonia, my favourite flower having grown up with a huge bush of the plant which was very old then and now have a cutting from that plant from my Sister. It was paeonia officnalis Rubra-plena a deep red. I also have a more modern Rubra-plena and Alba-plena.
They do not need pruning until late Autumn then you cut them back to ground level, I dead head then tidy them up a little but that is it.
They can be moved as long as you leave the surface of the root ball uncovered when you replant it. Put plenty of good compost in the hole first then mulch the area around the root ball without actually touching it. Rake in bone meal in early spring making sure you do not damage the roots that are near the surface. They like almost full sun although shade from early morning sun after frost.
You can grow from seed sown as normal then left in a cold frame in early Autumn, prick them out into a nursery bed in Spring and leave for three or four years before planting in position in the Autumn.
They can be divided but make sure you have roots and dormant buds on each piece, they can take a year or so to settle and flower. My cutting had a flower the first year then nothing for three years until it flowered again this year, patience is required with Paeonia.
A lot of gardeners say they are not worth the bother, that is a matter of taste, a lot of plants come and go in a flash, this years Paeonia have lasted three weeks and are going over now, the bees swarm round them and I underpin them with Cranes-bill, the blue of that sets the paeonia off beautifully and it will go on for a while then cut right back will come again hiding the Paeonia.
Hope this helps

Classic good advice from someone who is obviously a very good gardener. However, it does require that you have room for a nursery bed where plants can grow on undisturbed for several years and that your peonies do not have to live cheek-by-jowl with other plants in order to get a succession of blooms on a small space. I'm just saying that the usual rules can quite successfully be bent a bit to meet the needs of the garden as a whole, I propagate in pots. When the leaves get tired and messy later in the summer, I cut them back further, still remembering to leave younger ones to do their job of feeding the plant.

Gardening Grandma, as a child we had a smallholding as many did back then, my Father a very keen gardener fed us and the extended family from a walled garden and the animals hens geese ducks we kept. Two Uncles also had farms so really we were well provided for unlike so many at the time.
That land now has a large four bed roomed house on it and the garden divided into four separate garden, apart from some help from me when old enough Dad did it all himself. His motto was if you cannot eat it or sell it there is no room for it, but then he grew Paeonia, Pinks, Carnations and show stopping Chrysanthemums plus a very long row of Madonna Lily's, I grow them all apart from the lily's.
Your can quite easily put in a nursery bed along a wall or fence as long as they get some sunlight, as they grow plant in front of them with annual plants low growing to take the eye, many seeds do need to be put in a nursery bed so space can be made.
I sometimes do not prune down the paeonia until spring leaving the dry foliage as a frost guard, some gardeners prune in Autumn then lay the cuttings over the root ball as frost guard, we all have our ways although as soon as the leaves are dead and dry they stop doing their job and can be cut down if you wish.
Garden are our individual choice, I do not go with the fashion model makeover etc although my garden has changed as I get older and stiffer.
I try to answer question where I have knowledge, which is not everything asked, because the people asking have not had the pleasure of being brought up with good gardens. The last forty or more years of a lawn a swing and a bit of a flower bed restricted peoples knowledge, now there is a rush back to vegetable growing, what a treat they are in for when they eat their own produce.

How to grow peonies

All peonies require a moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Provide support for varieties with large flowers. Herbaceous peonies can be propagated by division in autumn, while tree peonies are better propagated by layering.

Follow our detailed Grow Guide to growing peonies, below.

Where to grow peonies

Plant peonies in a rich but well-drained soil in a position of full sun. Avoid planting these often expensive plants in a waterlogged soil. The majority of herbaceous peonies prefer a neutral or slightly alkaline soil.

Tree peonies need a sheltered position and are more tolerant of acid soils.

How to plant peonies

Bare-root peony plants should be planted as soon as they arrive. Peonies are best planted in autumn or spring. Ensure you don’t plant them too deeply, as this will yield poor results. Mix in plenty of well-rotted organic matter before planting. Apply a balanced fertiliser in spring.

Avoid overwatering newly planted peonies as this is a common cause of plant failure.

As peony flowers are so heavy, you will need to use a plant support.

In this video guide, Monty Don show’s how to plant a herbaceous peony, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ and taller tree peonies. He explains how planting depth is crucial with peonies – and how to get it right.

Where to buy peonies online

How to care for peonies

Herbaceous peonies should be cut back hard in autumn to ground level. Tree peonies do not need pruning. All you need to do is remove the faded seed heads in autumn. Don’t be tempted to pick off the faded foliage in autumn – let it fall off naturally. Avoid pruning tree peonies hard back as they are often grafted onto herbaceous peonies.

When weeding borders try to avoid stepping on the newly forming buds of the herbaceous types.

Sometimes peonies form suckers around the base of the plant. Here, David Hurrion explains what to do with them:

How to propagate peonies

Herbaceous peonies can be propagated by division in autumn. Cut the faded foliage back and lift the plant with a garden fork. Remove as much of the garden soil as possible and with a knife cut off sections of the crown. Each section should have at least three buds and plenty of root. Replant straight away in the garden.

Don’t try to divide tree peonies. Instead, you may be able to try layering a pliable stem, or sowing seed.

Growing peonies: problem solving

Peony buds are very appealing to ants. It’s not unusual to see the buds crawling with ants. Don’t worry, they won’t damage the plant.

The most common problem is peony wilt. This is a botrytis that causes the stems to rot. It’s best to avoid planting peonies too closely together. Remove any leaves with dark spots on them as this will help to reduce the spread of the fungus. When cutting back herbaceous types in autumn, clear up all the foliage to avoid reinfection in spring.

In this video clip from Gardeners’ World, Carol Klein offers a practical guide to spotting and treating peony wilt, with tips on cleaning secateurs to avoid reinfection:

How to Cut Back Peonies in Minnesota

Minnesota has a long history of peony culture. Oliver F. Brand established Brand Peony Farms near Richland, Minnesota, in 1867 and hybridized many varieties. Other nurseries followed, and growers founded the Minnesota Peony Society more than 100 years ago. Minnesota's climate suits peonies, which originally grew in temperate areas of Europe and Asia. In fact, some landscapes in the state are home to peony plants that have grown there for 30 years or more. Although these long-lived plants are tough and hardy, they require proper fall pruning to stay healthy. Wait until the first hard frost of autumn to cut down peonies. Even if there are no blooms, the foliage is still feeding the roots.

  • Minnesota has a long history of peony culture.
  • Minnesota's climate suits peonies, which originally grew in temperate areas of Europe and Asia.

Prepare a 10-percent bleach solution to kill botrytis blight and other fungal diseases that often hide on healthy plants. If a peony is obviously diseased, do not wait until the first frost to prune the diseased plant.

Cut the peony stems within 2 inches of the ground. Spray or dip the pruning shears into the solution between cuts to kill any pathogens and avoid transferring them to other plants.

Dispose of the cut stems and leaves in the trash. Tossing most yard debris into the compost bin is an earth-friendly habit, but peony trimmings may harbor pathogens that will harm the plants the next season. Do not compost the trimmings or else you risk tainting the compost with disease.

  • Prepare a 10-percent bleach solution to kill botrytis blight and other fungal diseases that often hide on healthy plants.
  • Spray or dip the pruning shears into the solution between cuts to kill any pathogens and avoid transferring them to other plants.

Adding a light layer of compost in the fall improves the soil over the winter and makes nutrients readily available in spring.

When cut peonies begin to sprout in the spring, place a tomato cage over the plant to provide support.

Water peonies at the base of the plant. Overhead watering, which wets the leaves, creates disease-encouraging pockets of moisture.

If you prune peonies too early in the season, the plants will starve and the peonies will not have enough stored energy to grow well in the cool Minnesota spring. Although they are tough plants, starved peonies fail within two or three seasons.

Pruning and Cutting Peonies

Cutting flowers in the garden.

Cutting a beautiful magenta peony in the garden with red secateurs.

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Keep your pruners sharp if you grow peonies. These perennial favorites require only moderate pruning, but it’s important. Knowing when to cut back peonies is vital to keep diseases at bay, as is deadheading peonies. Not sure when to cut down peonies? Do you deadhead peonies? If you have questions about peony pruning, we have answers.

Both times you prune these perennials—when you’re cutting back peonies and deadheading peonies—you’re tackling simple tasks that don’t require too much expertise. When you’re cutting peonies, like any plant, it’s a good idea to wear gloves to protect your hands. Make sure pruners are sharp and clean before starting any cutting job.

Deadheading peonies is the process of removing spent blooms. When you remove faded flowers, you stop plants from producing seed pods, which allows plants to direct all energy toward food storage in tubers. That stored food supplies the energy needed for next year’s growth and flowering. Faded peony flowers also tend to develop fungal diseases, like botrytis, as petals rot. By removing the blossoms, you can help keep fungal diseases at bay.

When deadheading peonies, some gardeners just snip off the flower head itself, but this leaves a long stem in place that stands taller than the rest. It’s better to follow the flower stem into the plant and place your cut about half an inch above the leaves.

Cutting back peonies is a once-a-year task. When to cut back peonies? The right time for peony pruning is in fall, after frost has killed leaves. How to prune peonies? Clip stems as close to the ground as possible. Gather all leaves, stems and any other plant debris. Don’t compost this leafy material bag it and put it out with the trash. Destroying it is better because peonies often have fungal diseases that can survive winter on a piece of leaf or stem.

Peony pruning really only comes into play with tree peonies, which have woody stems. With these plants, pruning isn’t usually necessary. The most common pruning you’ll tackle with tree peonies is removing winter-damaged wood in late spring. This occurs most often in colder regions where harsh winters can kill some of the stems. Wait to prune until late spring, when growth has clearly resumed from some of the buds. Place pruning cuts just above an outward-facing bud. Cut stems at an angle.

Some gardeners argue that there’s never an occasion for pruning peonies. They don’t believe in deadheading, saying it makes no difference on plant health. Other gardeners never worry about cutting back peonies in fall and just let leaves deteriorate in the peony patch. Deciding to tackle peony pruning is really a personal choice, but it will always help improve the health of your plants. Removing hiding places for diseases is one of the best ways to keep any plant problem-free.

Watch the video: How to Prune Peony Bushes