Peonies are one of those unique plants that can light up every garden. Popular for their bright pinkish hues and beautiful fragrance, many gardeners use this plant to deck up their patio and backyard. But what exactly are the care requirements for peonies?
To be more precise, when should you consider cutting them back? Can these plants survive the fall? If not, what should you do to maintain their longevity? Well, these are some of the many questions we will address over the course of this article. So, if you have peonies in your garden or are planning to get one, keep reading for some valuable insights.
What is the Best Time To Cut Back Peonies?
Most herbaceous peonies are known to naturally die with the commencement of fall. After the commencement of fall, they will gradually regrow, and their full growth will be best witnessed during late summers and spring.
So, when should you cut back the peonies? Well, as with most flowering plants, you can consider cutting off peonies after autumn when its first set of leaves are already destroyed from frost. When you cut back the dead stems at this point, the plant will no longer be susceptible to diseases or insect attacks. The best part: your garden area will be spick and span!
Do Peonies Need To Be Cut Back For Winter?
Yes! Peonies definitely need to be cut back during the fall and winter months. This will not merely protect your plant from potential insect attacks but will also ensure that your plant comes up with beautiful and vibrant blooms the following year. With that said, it is important to understand that different types of peonies have different cutting requirements.
For instance, Perennial peonies need to be cut back after the first frostbite, tree peonies need to be cut back during the spring months, and intersectional peonies need to be cut back during the fall and autumn months. If you own either of these peonies and are looking to delve deep into the specific cutting requirements, here are some of the things you need to know.
Popularly found in gardens, the perennials are best classified as herbaceous. With beautiful greenish stems, these plants tend to die in the fall months after eventually regrowing in the spring of the coming year. Ideally, you should cut back your perennials after it witnesses the first frost.
Make sure you duly remove the excess foliage, along with the leaves and flowers that have fallen to the ground. This simple act will prevent the plant from catching any disease from its rotting and withered parts.
With woody stems and an almost deciduous nature, this type of peonies is usually grown in shrubs. While they are not known for dying back in the winter months, they might potentially lose leaves if the climate is not too favorable.
If you have Tree peonies at home, we recommend cutting them back in the spring months. While cutting the plant, you should also remove the dead branches or excess suckers that are usually found at the base of the plant. Over time, this will help to control the structure and the size of the shrub while also enabling you to maintain a consistently round shape.
A perfect cross between perennials and trees, these plants exhibit all the characteristics of herbaceous types. Their blooms, however, resemble the tree variant. While pruning intersectional peonies you should exercise the same degree of caution as with pruning herbaceous peonies. The ideal cutting time would be the fall or autumn months. When you start pruning these plants, make sure the excess foliage is effectively removed.
When To Cut Back Peonies For The Winter?
If you are cutting back the peonies in winter, we suggest cutting it right after your plant starts featuring yellowish and brownish spots. You will usually find this happening during the early fall months or right after the frost season between September to October. When you prune your peonies in the autumn months, you also inadvertently protect it from potential foliar ailments. What’s more, the plant is also less susceptible to common infections in the coming year.
If you live in a region where the winter months are excessively cold, we suggest adding some loose mulch to the zone right after pruning. You can eventually remove this mulch during the spring or summer months when you replant your peonies. In some instances, you might also have to prune your peonies sooner like early to mid-September.
When To Cut Back Peonies After Blooming?
Once your peonies bloom, the blooms are likely to last for 4 to 6 months. Over time, you will start noticing spent flowers especially during the end of the 4th or 5th month depending on the species of peonies. This is the right time to deadhead your peonies. As you start removing the spent flowers, you play an active role in preventing the plant from creating new seed pods.
Since it will otherwise spend its entire energy on the pods, it is best to remove them in the first instance. By removing faded peonies, you also get to protect your plant from an array of fungal ailments like botrytis where the flowers start rotting. So, when you get rid of the faded flowers, you actually end up preventing potential fungal ailments.
As you start deadheading or cutting back the peonies, you might instinctively want to cut back the entire flower head. However, this is not recommended as it leaves you with an elongated stem that ruins the structure of your cluster of peonies. Instead of doing this, snip the flower stem and make sure the cut is almost half to quarter inches above the foliage.
Can You Cut Back Peonies After They Bloom?
Of course, you can! In fact, you should cut back peonies after their blooms are spent. But as you do this, exercise ample caution because although it’s fine to snip off the dead flowers, even accidentally snipping out the foliage is a bad idea! This is because unlike the blooms, the leaves may not exhibit regrowth the following year.
Note that if you deadhead the plant, it won’t lead to another bunch of blooms the same year. But we would still suggest gardeners perform this task as excessively overgrown blooms will quickly take a brownish hue eventually ruining the elegance of your peonies.
Do Peonies Grow Back After Being Cut?
Unfortunately, your peonies won’t necessarily grow back the same year after you cut them or deadhead them. You will, however, witness regrowth the following year. In order for this to happen, you need to follow our guidelines and cut back the peonies at the right time. Remember, if you end up cutting your peonies a bit too early, they won’t exhibit its best blooms in the coming year.
After cutting the plant, make sure they are replanted properly. Always use moist soil and plant your pretty flowers in a zone that receives ample sunlight. Ideally, you should plant peonies during the fall, but this may vary depending on the species of the plant. As a rule of thumb, consider planting your peonies between September to October, though you can plant them even in November if you live in the Southern parts. Remember, it is important to give your peonies some time as they may need a couple of years to fully developing and blooming to their maximum potential.
What Causes Peonies Not to bloom?
There are many causes attributed to barren peonies. Here is a brief list of the most common causes.
1. Your Plants are Too Young
Your peonies may not bloom if they are extremely young. Since these plants are extremely slow-growing, it might take you an entire year before you start witnessing the first few blooms. Over the next 2 to 6 years, you can expect moderate to heavy blooms.
2. You’ve Planted Them Too Deep
This is yet another common cause of peonies not blooming. As you plant your first couple of peonies, you need to specifically ensure that their eyes are properly buried. However, it should only be buried from ¾ to 2.2 inches or 2 to 4 cm. Do not go any deeper as it might affect the quality and the quantity of the blooms.
In case this is the issue, you need to dig the soil and replant your peonies at just the right depth. Early fall would be the ideal season to get this job done.
3. Excessive Shade
While peonies enjoy some degree of shade, you need to make sure that you are not going overboard. Most average peonies enjoy the sun, and they thrive best in areas where they receive full sunlight. While some peonies are known to bloom in partial shade, those are the ones with fewer flowers and weak stalks.
4. Excessive Fertilizer
You will never find a situation that peonies are planted in soil that lacks so much in minerals that they end up staying barren. However, you might encounter a situation where your peonies stop blooming if the soil has excessive fertilizer. Things can get worse if you are using nitrogen-rich fertilizers. So, if you are already using some kind of lawn fertilizer, we suggest not using it excessively around the peonies as it might end up ruining its blooming potential.
Can I Cut Back Peonies in the Spring?
While you can cut back peonies during the spring months, this will entirely depend on the type and the species of the peonies. Ideally, peonies should only be pruned during the fall months and as you start pruning them, you need to exercise maximum caution as to not damage the roots, stem, or crown.
Well, now that you know all about cutting back peonies, wait no further, and follow the right strategies for pruning and trimming these plants at the right time. If you keep our guidelines in mind, you will certainly be welcomed with a beautiful set of peonies in the coming spring!
Things to Keep in Mind to Ensure Beautiful Blooms
When it comes to spurring your peonies’ growth, one of the first things to consider is the infiltration from pests. Make sure your peonies are well protected from pest attacks and other fungal ailments. Since wet seasons often make way for botrytis, you should be extra cautious during these months. As previously mentioned, botrytis may cause your plant to go black or brown with vivid patches along with the leaves and stems with a black base.
You can control this issue by regularly observing the plant and immediately getting rid of the diseased or rotten leaves. As you remove the leaves and the excess trimmings, the condition can be duly controlled. Also, make sure the debris is disposed of correctly in the trash as this kind of fungal ailment can possibly linger even on one stem or a solitary leaf. Over time, this will lead to the overwintering of your foliage which in turn might even end up infecting your peonies.
You should also follow the below guidelines to prevent such situations:
- Make sure your herbaceous peonies still have their leaves until the end of fall. This might make them appear unattractive. However, you should never attempt to trim the leaves at this stage.
- During October, take your sharpest pruning tool and snip off the extra growth at the soil level. Discard the trimmings and make sure they are disposed of properly. As you do this, avoid touching the crown as it might affect the quality of the existing and the potential blooms.
- Check the stems correctly and get rid of the stems that are diseased with insects or rotten due to any other reason.
- Make sure the foliage-free cuttings of your peonies are duly disposed of through the compost pile.
- If your tree peonies have fallen leaves, consider removing them immediately.
- In case the shrub gets sparse at the bottom, immediately get rid of the branches along the base.
- Snip out the crossings or weird looking branches. Make sure you cut at a 45-degree angle from the branch’s base right above a bud or a hanging branch.