Trimming peonies after bloom

Time Your Pruning to Help Next Year's Blooms

After the first spring bulbs appear, the blooms I look forward to with the most anticipation in the spring are peonies. I love when I finally spot those big flower buds getting ready to burst open and reveal all the frilly petals they’ve been holding in. Knowing when to cut back peonies will ensure those beautiful blooms reappear next spring. Luckily once the flowers die back, you’re left with nice, strong foliage that will provide a backdrop for subsequent blooms.

Peony season, which can be anywhere from April to June, depending on where you live, can be fleeting. Those blooms that bring such colour and personality to the spring garden sure don’t like to hang around for long. But when shopping for peonies at the garden center, you can find early-, mid-, and late-season bloom times. Check the plant tag for details. I have a few peonies and luckily they don’t all open at once. They are staggered about a week or so apart, so I get to enjoy peony flowers for longer.

Peonies are a beautiful addition to a spring garden. Knowing when to cut back peonies—both the flowers and the foliage—will help to maintain a healthy plant (and encourage those blooms!) for the following season.

When to deadhead peonies

Hopefully you get to enjoy the flowers before a spring storm makes a mess of them. I’m often picking up sad-looking, bruised petals after a storm, lamenting the fact that the flowers seem to have just opened. Rain can make quick work of them, turning the petals into a bit of a mushy mess. If you find your peonies flop from their weight (or from a heavy rainfall), try placing a peony hoop over the plant, early in the spring, while it’s still easy to do so.

If your peony blooms don’t make it inside for cut flower arrangements, you can deadhead the faded flowers once they’re past their prime. This step, unfortunately, doesn’t encourage more flowers, like on other annuals and perennials.

It’s also worth noting that allowing the seed heads to form on spent blooms will affect next year’s growth. Deadheading right after the plant blooms allows it to redirect all of its energy into next year’s growth and blooms.

If you don’t snip all your peony flowers for vases, deadheading will help to redirect the energy into the plant for next year’s foliage and flowers, instead of forming seed pods.

To deadhead a peony, use a sharp, clean pair of pruners to snip the flower stems where they meet the leaves. As for the foliage, you’ll want to leave it standing in the garden well into autumn. The rest of this article will explain why you should leave your herbaceous peony foliage until fall.

When to cut back peonies

Throughout the season, your peony leaves may start to look less than stellar. And though it could be tempting to cut them back, the plant relies on the energy from the leaves for the following year’s new growth. That’s why you need to wait until fall to prune them back. Cutting them back sooner could affect next year’s flowers.

Peony foliage is susceptible to fungal diseases, like powdery mildew (shown here). It won’t kill your peony, but it doesn’t look great. This plant was placed in an area that gets part shade. Full sun and lots of air circulation around the plant will help it to thrive—and look better throughout the growing season.

For example, peony foliage can be prone to powdery mildew, which won’t kill the plant, it just looks unsightly. Full sun and lots of space to promote air circulation can help to prevent powdery mildew. Other afflictions can include botrytis blight, verticillium wilt, and Japanese beetles.

Knowing when to cut back peonies in fall is key. Timing-wise, wait until a hard frost has finished off the foliage. (Where I live, that’s usually around October, but some years it’s November.) Until that point, peony leaves are quite lovely in early fall, changing color—usually to a golden hue—like other trees and shrubs.

Using a sharp pair of pruning shears, prune back all the stems right to ground level. Be gentle with the soil around the base of the plant. You want to be careful not to damage the crown at the soil level.

Even when peonies have flopped over, the foliage is still attractive in the garden. Consider plant supports to prevent peonies from falling under their weight or in a heavy rain storm.

Why it’s important to cut back peony plants

On this site, we talk about the reasons why gardeners should save the fall garden cleanup until spring. Peonies, however, are exempt from this rule. They’re one of those plants you should cut back, especially if you have had disease issues throughout the growing season. Cutting back a peony will help to prevent pests and diseases from harming the plant. Be sure that once you’ve pruned everything back, you remove all the plant debris from the area, including any leaves that may have fallen. Discard the trimmings—diseased leaves or insect-ravaged stems—right into the garbage, not the compost pile.

If you live in an especially cold climate, add a light layer of mulch (such as shredded bark or pine needles) at the base of the plant where you cut everything back. Be sure to remove your winter mulch in the spring. If you’re amending the soil around your peony with compost—plants prefer well-draining soil—don’t pile it on the crown, add it around the perimeter.

Pests and diseases, like botrytis (shown here), may be unsightly, but it’s important to leave the peony foliage intact until fall so that the plant can develop its leaves and flowers for the following season.

When to cut back Itoh and tree peonies

Itoh (or intersectional) peonies, which are a cross between the herbaceous peonies mentioned in this article and tree peonies, should follow the same pruning schedule. However in this case, prune the herbaceous part down to the woody party, which you should leave intact.

The best time to prune a tree peony is right after it blooms. Do not cut it back in the fall as you would an herbaceous or Itoh peony. You can do a light pruning in the spring before the shrub blooms. Use clean pruners to remove suckers around the base, as well as any dead wood.

To see how peonies should be cut back and hear about different timing options, check out this video:

More pruning advice

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Knowing when to cut back peonies is essential if you want to keep your plants in good health and ensure maximum blooms next year.

Learning how to grow peonies is one of the most rewarding gardening pursuits. Few other plants offer such a vast range of forms and colors, from purest white, through lemon yellow, softest pink and deepest red.

‘Renowned for their oversized blooms, peonies are a prized landscape plant often used for cut flowers,’ says Lindsay Pangborn, gardening expert at Bloomscape .  

‘Cutting back peonies is a critical to-do item, but it’s important to think about timing. It’s a careful balance of aesthetic and plant health considerations.’

As well as knowing when to cut back peonies, it's also important to know when to plant peonies if you're adding new varieties to the garden. Plus, if your peonies are not blooming, this guide will help.

When to cut back peonies – expert guide

Your local climate can affect when to cut back peonies as those in warmer zones will flower earlier than those in cooler zones – check your USDA plant hardiness zone . Peonies can be grown in zones 3-9, depending on the variety.

‘Depending on where you live, the growing season for peonies can be anywhere between April to June,’ says Gabriel J. Croteau, master gardener and consultant at Juliei Salone .

‘It may be tempting to prune peonies as soon as the leaves start looking bad, but you ideally need to wait until fall to prune them. That's because the plants are still relying on getting their energy for the following year's growth – and so cutting them sooner could affect next year's flowers.

When fall sets in, and the peonies' leaves change color to yellow or brown, then it’s time to make the cut. 

‘Take them right back to about 1 inch (2.5cm),’ says Jennifer Green, botanist and expert at Positive Bloom . ‘If the plant is severely damaged or overgrown, you should cut it as close to the base as possible. 

'You can also remove healthy branches that touch each other, taking away the less developed branch with fewer buds.’

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Can I cut my peonies back in August?

August is not the best time to cut back peonies, as it doesn’t allow the foliage to absorb as much energy as it needs for the following year.

‘The foliage of peonies tends to decline, beginning in August, since this is when the plant naturally starts diverting energy away from growing leaves and instead to underground tubers. These tubers allow the plant to store energy for the next season,’ explains Pangborn.

‘Though the leaves may not look great, it’s best to allow them to remain so that they can continue to photosynthesize and gather energy for the plant.

Cutting back peonies in spring

Unless you are trimming old growth left over from the previous year, you must not cut back your peonies in the spring, as this could harm the plant and prevent it from flowering.

However, there is one exception to the rule. ‘The only peony you should trim in the spring is a tree peony,’ says Croteau. ‘You wouldn't cut it back in the fall like you do a herbaceous or Itoh peony. 

Early spring is the best time to prune tree peonies.

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Do peonies need to be cut back for winter?

It’s best to cut back your peonies before winter in the fall, and discard all dead plant matter. 

‘Peonies are susceptible to foliar fungal issues, and allowing infected foliage to remain on the plant through winter can expose new growth to damaging pathogens that have overwintered on the old leaves,’ says Pangborn.

Pruning peonies before winter also keeps your garden tidy. ‘If you don’t cut them, the leaves and stems deteriorate, become mushy, and fall to the ground,’ says Green.

Can you cut down peonies after they bloom? 

‘You should not cut back peonies after they bloom, since the leaves do a lot of work over the growing season gathering energy for the plant. However, you should deadhead peonies after they bloom,’ says Pangborn.

Always use clean, sharp pruners to remove spent flower blooms, to avoid the risk of disease transference. 

‘Allowing the old blooms to remain can contribute to fungal growth on the plant, along with being unsightly,’ adds Pangborn. ‘It’s also best to remove any stems that are declining throughout the season in an effort to keep disease from spreading.’

What happens if you don't cut back peonies? 

If you don’t cut back peonies, the old foliage will become unsightly over the winter and into the spring – but they should still flower the following year.

‘Bear in mind this increases the chance that any old fungal issues are transferred to the tender new growth in the spring,’ adds Pangborn.

As editor of Period Living, Britain's best-selling period homes magazine, Melanie loves the charm of older properties. I live in a rural village just outside the Cotswolds in England, so am lucky to be surrounded by beautiful homes and countryside, where I enjoy exploring. Having worked in the industry for almost two decades, Melanie is interested in all aspects of homes and gardens. Her previous roles include working on Real Homes and Homebuilding & Renovating, and she has also contributed to Gardening Etc. She has an English degree and has also studied interior design. Melanie frequently writes for Homes & Gardens about property restoration and gardening.

What to do with peonies after flowering - pruning and maintenance

Peonies - plants are quite unpretentious. They grow on almost any soil, easily tolerate transplantation, and bloom beautifully. However, in order for the flowering to be plentiful, the plants need a little help. Moreover, care for peonies should begin immediately after flowering.

Many consider the rose to be the queen of flowers. But, for example, the Chinese call the peony the king of flowers. Peony is not inferior to rose in beauty, and is more fragrant, and less demanding to care for. Although it cannot be left unattended.

Peony has faded: what to do next

The lush flowering of this beauty does not last long - only a few weeks. And what to do with the plant after flowering?

This period is very important for the peony. What and how you do in these few months after flowering will determine the quality of your plant's flowering next year. After all, it is at this time that the bush restores strength and prepares for wintering. Moreover, just during this period, renewal buds are laid in it at the base of the stems, from which new shoots will appear in the spring.

Work after peonies bloom can be divided into several stages. Let's start in order.

Stage 1 - cleaning

After flowering, the whole ground around the peonies is covered with their numerous petals. These remnants of beauty must be removed immediately, because they can become breeding grounds for fungal diseases. It is also necessary to remove all dry inflorescences from the plant.

Step 2 - Watering

Peonies need moist soil to develop flower buds. However, many gardeners immediately stop watering after flowering plants. You should not do this, because. the flower in this case will experience stress, which will lead to the formation of weakened buds. Because of this, next year the peony will not be able to please you with lush flowering. Watering is especially important if there is a dry summer. The amount of water should be reduced gradually. If you poured, for example, 25 liters under a flowering bush, then after flowering, begin to reduce this volume. First, reduce the dose to 15 liters, then to 10 liters, etc. until complete cessation.

Stage 3 - loosening the soil

This simple plant care routine should not be neglected. Heavy rain or watering leads to the formation of a crust on the surface of the soil, and this prevents the access of air deep into the soil. In this case, loosening will help. This will also save the peony from unwanted neighbors - weeds.

To make life easier, the soil around the peony can be mulched. Grass cuts, sawdust, and humus are suitable as mulch.

Stage 4 - feeding

Despite its relative unpretentiousness, peony loves top dressing. The plant needs them both in spring, during the period of active growth, and during flowering. But, perhaps, in the period that follows after flowering, he needs them most of all. How to feed peonies after flowering?

We recommend the first top dressing after flowering with organic fertilizers, such as mullein. Make a circular furrow around the bush. Pour the mullein solution (1:10) into it. Fertilizer will promote the active growth of the root system, the formation of stems and renewal buds.

Another root dressing should be carried out in August. This time we recommend using not organic, but complex mineral fertilizers. Since peonies do not need nitrogen in autumn, use phosphorus-potassium top dressing (30-40 g per plant) and apply it in the same way as mullein - into the groove around the bush. After applying dry fertilizer, the groove must be moistened and covered with earth.

In addition to root, after flowering, it will not be superfluous to carry out one foliar top dressing with microelements. To do this, in dry weather, spray the bush with a solution of trace elements. You can use, for example, liquid mineral fertilizer Agricola (dissolve 5 ml of the drug in 1 liter of water).

Stage 5 - cutting

Inexperienced flower growers rush to prune a peony as soon as its buds have fallen off. Do not do this! Everything has its time.

The process of photosynthesis takes place in the leaves, thanks to which the plant receives the nutrients it needs. Consequently, it is the stems with the leaves located on them that are the source of nutrition in peonies, as in other flowers. If you remove them, you will deprive the bush of these substances. The plant, of course, will not die from this, but you should not expect lush flowering from it.

If you want to cut a bouquet of peonies when the bush is in bloom, take no more than 1/3 of all shoots. Otherwise, along with the flowers, you will take away the leaves from the plant - and with them the components necessary for photosynthesis.

Prune immediately after flowering the peony has only bare inflorescences. They are removed to the first healthy leaf.

If the autumn is warm, a peony cut too early will start to sprout. The first frosts will cause irreparable harm to your bush.

When can peonies be cut after flowering? It is impossible to name the exact time, because. it depends on weather conditions. We recommend focusing on the ambient temperature. After the first frosts, when the stems of peonies "fall down", they need to be cut off. In herbaceous peonies, the entire aerial part is removed. Remove the stems as close to the ground as possible, leaving no more than 2-3 cm.

Some gardeners cover the plants with cut foliage for the winter. We do not recommend doing this, because. stems can become a favorable breeding ground for pests. Cut plants are best collected and taken to a compost pit or burned.

Caring for tree varieties of peonies is somewhat different from caring for herbaceous varieties. Do tree peonies need to be pruned after flowering? Shrub peony species have strong tree-like stems (hence the name of the species). In no case can you cut them, because the flowering of these plants mainly occurs precisely on last year's shoots.

Such bushes need only sanitary pruning, which is best done in the spring. Dry, broken or weak branches should be removed from the peony bush. If necessary, formative pruning can be carried out every few years.

What else to do with peonies in autumn

In addition to the above-mentioned types of work that a peony needs in autumn, one can also name a transplant. If you have a large bush (at least 4-5 years old) or if it grows in an inconvenient place, it is better to transplant it. The best time for this is autumn.

Well, of course, you can't forget about protecting your pets before winter. We recommend mulching the ground around the bushes, for example, with a layer of peat or humus. The thickness of the layer varies depending on the weather conditions in your area - from 8-10 cm in temperate areas to 20-25 cm in places with more severe winters.

If you give your pet at least a minimum of attention, your unpretentious handsome peony will thank you next year with gorgeous blooms.

pruning, maintenance, fertilization . Photo — Botanichka

Peonies are the most beautiful perennials that bloom in late spring and early summer. Their large, brightly colored flowers are a welcome sight when summer finally arrives. But in order for the bushes to bloom well year after year, the plants need a little care after they finish flowering. What to do with your peonies after they bloom, our article will tell.

What to do with peonies after flowering: pruning, care, fertilizer

Peonies can be found in almost every yard, but even with their huge popularity, there is often confusion about how to care for them during the season, especially after they have faded.

Before we move on to this issue, it is worth clarifying that there are two varieties of peonies: herbaceous and tree-like.
Tree peonies are larger perennial shrubs with lignified stems that produce more growth each season than the previous year.

Herbaceous peonies are herbaceous perennials that die off to the ground every year (they also include ITO hybrids, since their shoots die off completely). They are by far the most popular of all peonies, and that's what today's article is about.

Do peonies need to be trimmed after flowering?

As soon as the peony flowers begin to fade, they should be removed from the plant. Removing dead flowers not only keeps the bush clean and tidy, but also helps keep the plant strong for flowering next year. If the seed heads are left in place, the bush will continue to use resources to set seeds. In addition, removing the main flower on the stem allows the smaller side flowers to get all their energy from the root and bloom faster, keeping the bush in bloom for longer.

When pruning seed heads, some of the resources are redirected to the growth of denser foliage, and the remaining nutrients are saved to ensure flowering next year. Therefore, do not leave faded flowers on the stems for more than one week.

Interesting : Have you ever wondered why ants love peonies so much and are always present on flowers? As you know, ants love sweets. And what could be sweeter than the nectar and aroma of these large flowers? For ants, peonies are a really sweet treat, and they use their pheromones to encourage other ants to "harvest" and protect their food source. So their presence helps to scare away other pests that may come to the flowers!

As soon as the peony flowers begin to fade, they should be removed from the plant. Removing dead flowers not only keeps the bush clean and tidy, but also helps keep the plant strong for flowering next year.

How to properly remove wilted peony flowers?

To remove wilted flowers, simply cut the flower, along with part of the stem, down to the first full leaf. It is important to use clean, sharp garden shears when doing this. Clean cuts heal more easily and the plant needs fewer resources to recover.

When pruning, it is important to remove only the first upper set of leaves near the flower. Never prune a peony to the ground after it has finished blooming! It is very important to keep as much foliage as possible on the plant, as it helps the plant get more nutrients and energy for the rest of the growing season. They will use them next year.

To remove wilted flowers, simply cut the flower along with part of the stem to the first full leaf

Feeding the peony after flowering

Peonies respond well to top dressing as they provide the plant with additional nutrients for strong growth and flowering. There are two critical periods for fertilizing peonies: in early spring and immediately after flowering. Never fertilize peonies later than August! Otherwise, the bush may begin to form young growth, and early frosts will destroy it.

Early spring fertilization promotes upcoming flowering. It should be applied at the beginning of the season, as soon as the plant starts to come out of the ground.
After the peony bush has faded, it is important to give it another boost. Feeding after flowering helps the plant to recover quickly and provides a supply of nutrients for growth and flowering next year.

When it comes to what fertilizer is best for peony, many experienced flower growers use a combination of compost and bone meal for top dressing. Bone meal helps nourish plant roots and is an excellent choice for peonies. And compost is balanced and has a wide range of plant nutrients.
If you are using a granular fertilizer, choose a fertilizer with a lower nitrogen content. Although peonies need nitrogen, they require potassium and phosphorus to a much greater extent. A fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 5:10:10 is an excellent choice for peonies.

Peonies respond well to top dressing as they provide the plant with extra nutrients for strong growth and flowering

Can peonies be replanted after flowering?

Although most perennials are repotted after they have finished flowering, peonies should not be repotted after flowering.

The best time to plant peonies is autumn. At this time, you can transplant old bushes, as well as divide them.

Although peonies can be planted in early spring, bushes are more difficult to establish and develop more slowly during the hot summer. As a result, the bushes lag behind in growth in the first year. Because of this, most peonies planted in the spring will take an extra year before flowering.

But when planted or divided in autumn, the roots have enough time to establish themselves in cool weather before leaving for the winter. This allows them to be more ready to bloom next spring.

Water peonies properly

Watering is an important condition for proper care of peonies after flowering. It is necessary that the soil around the plants is always slightly moist (but without stagnant water). Peonies can tolerate a little drought for a short period, but it's best to give them enough water on a regular basis.

On average, peonies need to be watered once every 5-7 days in the absence of precipitation. Sandy soils may require more frequent watering, up to twice a week. If your site has clay soil, then watering can be reduced to once every 7-10 days.

Always check soil moisture and water peonies if necessary.

On average, peonies need to be watered once every 5-7 days in the absence of precipitation. Sandy soils may require more frequent watering, up to twice a week. If your site has clay soil, then watering can be reduced to once every 7-10 days

Powdery mildew control

After flowering, peony bushes are weakened, as a result of which they can easily be easily affected by powdery mildew. Although they are usually very resistant to diseases and pests, powdery mildew can make the beautiful green leaves of peony dull, gray and powdery.

This fungal disease is named for the whitish-gray powdery spores that may coat the leaves. This is a common problem for many plants during wet summers and regions with high rainfall. June to July is the period when peonies can pick up powdery mildew, and it will look like the plant has been dusted with flour or powder.

Although this will not cause much damage to the bushes in the long run, the fungus prevents the plant from getting nutrients and this can cause the bushes to look weakened at the beginning of the next growing season. In fact, there are several types of this fungus, but their prevention and treatment are the same.

To prevent infection of peonies with powdery mildew, you should follow a few rules:

Late autumn care for peonies

Herbaceous peonies lose their leaves completely after a few hard frosts.

Learn more