Growing peonies is a rewarding experience, but it can be confusing when trying to determine the best time to cut them back.
There are 2 main types of peonies, tree peonies that have a deciduous woody shrub and herbaceous peonies that will die back in the winter. For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on the herbaceous variety of this plant.
Do you know when to cut peonies back? If not, read on for the answer to that and more about this beautiful long-lived perennial.
What are Peonies?
Peonies, formally known as perennial plants belonging to the ‘Paeonia’ genus of the family Paeoniaceae, are some of the best-selling spring flowers in the world.
First introduced to Europe in 1699 and grown in England from around 1720 onwards, peonies have been a staple crop for English gardeners since the 1800s. The earliest European cultivars traced back their origins to China over 1,000 years ago during Tang Dynasty.
Today these perennials are commercially grown around the world including parts of Asia and North America where they can also be found growing wild along roadsides and fields outside of gardens.
When to Cut Peonies Back?
Peonies are perennials that will grow back each year from the bulb that stays in the ground. The bulb is actually a root tuber and not technically a bulb at all. This root tuber acts in much the same way as a bulb and is where energy is stored for new growth, enabling them to come back each year.
In order for the bulb to stay healthy and store enough energy for the following season, Peonies should not be cut back at all until the foliage has withered, turned brown, and begun to die back.
Will Cutting Back my Peony Prevent Growth?
The answer to this question depends on what part of the peony you intend to cut back. With Peonies, you are able to remove the flower when in bloom and also deadhead once the bloom has faded but be sure to leave the foliage in place.
The Peony foliage is effectively the plants’ solar panel and their way of absorbing energy from the sun. If the foliage is removed, it will not be able to store energy for next year’s growth which can weaken the plant as well as reduce its chances of flowering again in future years.
Secondly, many people leave their peonies in the ground all winter in order for meaning they can experience extremely cold weather and cutting them back may mean that they do not survive these conditions due to insufficient stored energy.
In short, without this foliage being allowed to grow and subsequently die back naturally, the bulb itself will suffer and it is unlikely that the Peony will flower the following season.
Should I Deadhead my Peonies?
The spent flower can be removed from your peony without affecting future growth as long as the foliage stays in place.
There is a good reason for deadheading your peony which some people may find odd – and that is to prevent the plant from beginning seed production.
Unless you really want peony seeds, it is best to deadhead the plant once the bloom has faded. The reason for this is that seed production consumes a lot of energy and can be extremely taxing on the peony which can lead to a reduction in flowering the following year.
How to Deadhead Peonies
Deadheading peonies is a simple way of keeping your plants healthy and looking their best. As long as you stay on top of it, this is a task that you can complete with ease and all you need is a clean, sharp pair of secateurs.
Once you have located the spent bloom that you want to remove, in one snip, make a clean cut below the flowerhead but above any new leaves to encourage future growth.
Do Peonies Rebloom after Deadheading?
The straight answer to this is no. Removing spent peony flowers will not promote the regrowth of fresh flowers. The energy will instead be absorbed and stored in the tuberous root system ready for the next season.
How do Peonies Reproduce?
Peonies reproduce sexually by going to seed although they are also able to reproduce asexually. The peonies’ tuberous root system will spread below ground enabling you to divide them, therefore splitting the plant and growing clones.
Peony seeds do not grow true to type, this means that the seeds from your peony are not guaranteed to grow a replica of its parent plant.
If you want to produce peony seeds for planting, ensure that you do not remove the spent flower as this is where the seed production will take place.
Dividing peonies takes a little work but can be extremely rewarding when done correctly. This is best done in the autumn once the peony has died back for the winter.
We recommend lifting the peonies’ tuberous root system and giving it a good hosing down so that you can see where all of the ‘eyes’ are (the eyes are where the fresh shoots will come from next season).
When dividing the tuber, it is good practice to ensure that there are roots attached and there is a minimum of 3 eyes although the more the better – aim for 5-8 where possible.
Note: When dividing peonies, use a clean sharp blade or pair of secateurs to prevent contamination or disease.
The best and only time herbaceous peonies should be cut back is when they wither and start turning yellow at the end of the summer. This will ensure that your bulbs have enough stored energy for next year’s blooms as well as maximising their potential during any other season this year.
Garden Doctor Tips
“When cutting peonies or any other plant for that matter, ensure that your tools are clean and sharp to prevent the spread of disease and cross contamination!”
“When deadheading, make your cut at an angle to prevent water from pooling on top of the stem which can end up causing harm to your plant!”
“Deadheading is a great way to ensure that your peonies live longer and grow stronger every year!”
“Remember to leave all of the greenery and foliage in place after the flower has faded. Do not cut back the foliage until it has begun to die back naturally!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Do peonies multiply every year?
Yes, peonies multiply every year and do so in different ways. The first way is that peonies will produce seeds, this is the most common way of reproduction in the plant world.
The other way happens below ground where you cannot see, and that is by the spreading of the tuberous root system which will continue to grow and produce new shoots each year.
Should Peonies be Staked?
Generally speaking, staking is only needed if there are prevailing winds and/or heavy rains. If the peonies are planted in reasonably well-drained soil without a high water table or other drainage issues, they should be just fine – even without stakes. Be sure to continue watering them even if they are not propped up against anything.
Saying that, if your peonies are starting to droop, staking them will help keep them stable for longer.
Will peonies bloom after being cut?
The answer is no. Herbaceous peonies will not bloom again until the following season once they have been cut.
All of the energy from the point of cutting onwards will go into storing energy in the root system ready for next year.