Cutting Back

melissa520January 24, 2010

I just checked out a gardening book from the library on peonies that said I should cut them back to a few inches above the soil after the first frost. I planted 5 peonies Spring 09 but did not cut them back this fall. Should I do that now, as best I can with the snow coverage? Any suggestions would be great. Thanks inadvance.

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peonyman(Zone 5, Lawrence, Ks)


The stems and leaves of the herbaceous peonies can carry over Botrytis from the fall to the spring. The idea of cutting the plants back helps to prevent the disease. Another advantage of cutting the stems back is purely aesthetic. The garden looks better through the winter without the unsightly stems and leaves.

If you expect the snow to clear sometime in the next month or so, you might just wait and cut the stems off when you can see what you are doing. When you do cut the stems don't put them in your compost heap, instead put them in your trash that will be burned or hauled away to the landfill.

Don't do as I do, do as I say do. I am sure you know what that means. Yep, a lot of my peonies are still not cleaned up.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 11:17PM
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amulet(7b NC)


I know how you feel. Most of my clean up wasn't finished until this month (usually done in Nov or Dec). When I was outside this past week I saw a couple more peonies that I missed cleanup on too. Life happens I guess.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 11:11AM
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i am reposting this from another thread, i hope that's alright.
i transplanted a few potted peony plants to the ground last summer, then cut back the dead buds and dead leaves in the fall. however, i neglected to cut the stems down, i am knew to gardening (especially peonies, which seem to be quite particular). have i done something detrimental by not cutting the stems back? will the plant not sprout this summer?
i'm a little worried. i'm planning to cut them back now, but is it too late? should i still do it or should i not bother? what can i expect?
also, i have them planted beneath a dogwood in my yard (in new jersey), is this an alright location?
i'd like very much for them to grow successfully, and i don't even know what zone i live in! i'm a mess, help!
thank you in advance for your assistance and advice.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 5:28PM
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Coolbirth - usually it's helpful to just start your own thread to make sure people see your question. You should read Peonyman's response to Melissa above.
If the leaves were diseased at the end of the season, then leaving them on the plant could perpetuate the disease. However, it won't prevent the plant from sprouting. When you do get rid of the old growth make sure you cut it off, instead of pulling it up. New growth comes in at the bottom of old stems, and you can tear off new growth buds if you pull out the old stems.

Regarding planting - peonies are pretty picky, and I'm new to them myself. I have heard that, when transplanting, peonies prefer to be planted at the same depth they were at originally - don't bury them deeper than they were planted in the pot.

Also, when you say "planted them under the dogwood", how close are they to the base of the bush? Dogwoods are pretty dense plants, and peonies prefer full sun (meaning 7-8 hours of direct sun each day). I know that people often plant spring bulbs near the base of bushes, because the bulbs will bloom before the bushes leaf out. However, your peonies will keep their leaves until the fall, and those leaves will collect the most energy in full sun.

The last thing I can say is that peonies require some patience; were yours blooming in their pots? Peonies often take a few years before they're big enough to bloom. Even when they are mature, they may not bloom the year after they've been transplanted. To help out, you can give them a little bulb fertilizer when they leaf out (just scratch it into the dirt) and then a little more when they finish blooming.

Hope that helps!


    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 6:34PM
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Not necessarily correct. I replied in part on the other thread. There are three main types of peonies and the description of a stem leads me to believe that a tree peony is being referred to.

As far is planting from pots. Unless you put the peonies in the pot yourself you have no idea of how deep it is in the pot. For the peonies sake you should do as you would with ALL potted plants. Remove some/all of the material and make certain the roots are not compacted or circling the pot. If they are circling they will strangle themselves and other roots as they grow. Gently tease the roots if you can so that they are individual. Then plant. An herbaceous or lacti should be planted close to the surface but a tree peony should be planted so that several inches of the stem are below the surface of the ground. Tree peonies unless you pay a fairly large sum are sold as grafts in this county and even the few that are sold on their own roots should be planted deep so that additional roots will from from the stem.

An FYI the removal from nursery wrapping and teasing of roots is now considered the correct way to plant any tree or shrub. The difference with tree peonies is that the stem needs to be planted deeper than the recommended just above the top root for other plants.

Many peonies are from woodland and shrubby areas and live naturally at the base of trees and shrubs. Red peonies of all types retain their blooms longer when given some shade.

The only cutting back I do on tree peonies is to, as the leaves start dieing remove the leaf structure but leave the leaf stems where there is a bud. In this area when trimmed so that the leaf stems provide a stiff crown over the bud the deer are less likely to eat the bud, next years growth.

Some peonies will take up to 10 years before they are mature enough to have consistent blooms.

Starting a new thread is a very good idea as if you request email responses be sent they will be sent to you rather than the original poster, OP.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 7:23PM
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