Fall Peony Pruning and Care Guide

Ted Lare pink peony bush in yard

Peonies are a perfect choice for your garden or adding to your favorite bouquets, and their beauty is worth the time and effort. If you’re planting peonies in fall in the hopes you’ll enjoy their blooms in spring, be sure you’re planting them at least six weeks before the ground freezes. There is belief that fall-planted peonies establish themselves quicker. Keep reading to find out how to best care for these beauties this fall and beyond.

Why You Should Grow Peonies

Most grand bouquets feature peonies that steal the show. Growing your own peonies is one way to turn your garden into a romantic getaway and fill your vases with colorful delight. There are many varieties to choose from and, if growing from seed, you never know what you may get. Choose from pinks, purples, reds, and white to dot your yard with color and graceful style.

adding mulch to garden Ted lare design and build

Mulching Peonies in Fall

Young and newly-planted peonies will need some mulching for intensely cold winters. We recommend a layer of organic mulch like shredded bark, straw, or pine needles loosely at the base of the plant. Keep the mulch at least 1-2 inches away from the stems of the plant, and be sure to remove any heavy layers once spring arrives; they don’t love to have their base surrounded by too much mulch.

How to Prune Your Peonies in Fall 

Pruning your peonies keeps them in optimal health year after year. Once peonies die off in fall, cutting back the dead branches can help to prevent disease and insect infestations. The key to pruning is to find the sweet spot to cut. When pruning peonies in fall, you want to stop trimming before you hit the crown, which is the fleshy area between the stems and roots. The new shoots will grow from the crown next spring.

Pruning is also essential in spring to cut back any damage that winter may have caused. When pruning off any diseased or infested areas, remember to dispose of them directly and don’t attempt to compost. 

Harvesting Peony Seeds

For the experienced gardener, you can harvest peony seeds to spread to different areas of your landscape or to propagate and gift to family and friends. Peonies have pods that will become brown and leathery once they are fully ripe. These pods will eventually split open, exposing round seeds that you can gather. While the process of seed to sprout to full-grown peony is a long journey, it can be extremely rewarding. 

  • Pop the peony seeds into a half-glass of water. If they float, they are not fertile. Discard.
  • Fill a plastic bag halfway with vermiculite, and a bit of water and add your fertile seeds.
  • Place the bag in an area that sits around 65 – 80 degrees. Check regularly for signs of root growth. 
  • Once you see sprouts, you’ll need to put the bag in your fridge for three months. Making the seeds go “dormant” in the cold is essential to their growth. 
  • Planting and patience! That’s what you need to do next. Plant the peony during the spring, and wait to see when it blooms, which could take up to 5 years. 

Caring for Tree Peonies in Fall

Tree peonies aren’t actually trees, they are just a variety of peony that has been grafted to grow into a tree-like form. Their blooms are a bit more delicate, like crepe paper, and add a unique beauty to your landscape. Unlike herbaceous peonies like those mentioned above, you do not want to prune these beauties in fall. In fact, they don’t need frequent pruning at all. Just give them a light layer of mulch, and they can handle the rest!

If you’re looking for peonies for sale in Des Moines, come visit us. We are happy to help you pick your perfect peony and make sure you have everything you need to help it thrive.


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