How to Prune Peonies


One of the most popular and spectacular garden perennials are herbaceous peonies. Grown first in Japan many years ago, they come in many colors and flower shapes. Peonies grow best in cool climates with chilly winters, rich soil and good drainage. They like a lot of sun, and because they can grow quite large they will need space. A healthy plant will last many years and give you much enjoyment. The best thing about peonies is that they are easy to care for and usually only need light pruning and fall cleanup.



Things You’ll Need
  • Sharp pruning shears
    1. Prune or trim them only in the fall, after the foliage has started to die back.
    2. Look at the plant. Step back and study it before pruning. You want it to be bushy, shapely and spiracle next spring, so carefully plan where to begin your cuts.
    3. Start by cutting weak stems that are smaller than a pencil.
    4. Cut out any stems that are dead or appear to be woody and dry.
    5. Leave strong stems that are about the size of a cigar, if they fit your overall plan for the shape you want and the space it is growing in.
    6. Prune the remaining stems back about half. If the plant is diseased or hasn’t done well, you can even cut the whole bush back to almost ground level. Do not compost any of these cuttings or the dry yellowed foliage.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plant peonies early in the fall, away from large trees or shrubs, so they do not have to compete for nutrients and root space.

  • Peonies grow thick and lush, so you can also lightly prune, trim and deadhead during the spring and summer to improve air circulation.

  • When deadheading, cut off the flowers to the next lower leaf because this will conserve their energy and keep them from making seeds.

  • Ants love peony blossoms. But they are neither beneficial nor harmful, so there is no need to spray them.

  • Peonies should only be transplanted or divided when they become extremely crowded, as they do not respond well to transplanting.

  • Choose your initial planting location carefully with space in mind.

  • New peony plants may not bloom for a year or two until they become established, so be patient and later you will be rewarded with many gorgeous blooms.

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