Cut Flower Peonies – Grown at Home

Why grow your own peony cutting garden?

Isn’t it easier to just order a bunch of blooms whenever you need one? Arranged perfectly and ready to go?


But we think it’s more fun to grow your own, as well as these other compelling reasons:

  • You’ll have access to a wider variety of peonies.
  • You can choose the peonies you especially like and get the look you want.
  • You’ll learn more about your garden and your peonies in the process.
  • You’ll have a regular supply of peonies in season which can be more affordable in the long run.



Here’s how to get started on growing your own peonies.

Which Peonies are Best

Blooms from most herbaceous cultivars perform well in both the vase and garden.

These are some of the best peonies for cutting (some pictured right):


If your peonies are young (less than 3 years old) it’s unlikely you will be seeing flowers just yet.

Peonies mature relatively slowly and they will need time to establish well to be sturdy enough for flower picking.

However, they are worth the wait. Being perennials, peonies are a great choice for a cutting garden as they will come back every year to knock your gardening gloves off with their beautiful blooms.

When Planting

In cooler climates, peonies can be planted in either spring or autumn so you could get started now. Here’s how:

  • Plant in a sunny spot in well-draining soil with less frequent, longer watering to encourage deeper, stronger rooting.
  • Don’t plant them too deeply. The eyes should be no more than 2.5-5cm below the surface.
  • Make sure there is enough space between plants – at least 60cm – as peonies benefit from good air circulation. This also makes them easier to pick.
  • Keep the area weed-free so your peonies aren’t competing for nutrients.
  • Provide staking/supports if needed.
  • Include peonies of different bloom times in the same bed to avoid empty patches


When Picking

It’s more cutting than picking you’ll be doing as it’s best to use secateurs rather than the hand to get a good clean edge so they can draw the water up well.

The best time of day to pick/cut them is on a cool day or in the morning.

You’ll want to:

  • Make sure your secateurs or scissors are really sharp.
  • Cut peonies when the bud is quite soft but not yet opened. A gentle pinch between your forefinger and thumb should reveal that the bud is as soft as a marshmallow.
  • Pick them with a bucket of water in hand and put the stems straight in (the ends start to seal over as soon as they’re picked so if you put them straight in the water they will drink up the water more readily than later).


When in the Vase

If picked at the marshmallow stage, within a day or two the flowers will have opened and you should have beautiful peonies in a vase for at least a week.

Make sure to:

  • Take off the leaves that will be under the water and put a little Milton in the water. This will stop the fungal moulds from growing and prolong the life of your cut peonies.
  • Every few days, trim the stems and change the water to keep them fresh.

Christmas – A Time to Give Back

Is it just me or is this year speeding to a halt?

Another year! Another December! And we’re all still around to enjoy it.

Now that’s something to be grateful for.

Another thing to be thankful for is our gardens. They are just the best little pieces of peace we could ever have. Sanctuaries. Places to experiment and learn more about life and ourselves.

This time of year is a good opportunity to think about how we can show our gratitude.

Here are some ideas:

Give to the Earth

One way you can do this is by thinking of ways we can look after the environment.

For instance, cutting down on unnecessary waste at this time by reusing old Christmas decorations. Or making your own out of natural/recycled materials.

Give to Your Peonies

While your peonies are not flowering they’re having a long, rejuvenating slumber underground.

So here are some ways you can show your peonies some gratitude for all the hard work they’ve done and are still doing:

Herbaceous and Itoh

  • With the stems and leaves having died back, trim the stems without cutting any exposed peony ‘eyes’
  • Make sure to clear the ground around each peony plant and dispose of the stems and leaves in the bin. It can be tempting to compost them but this may attract botrytis, especially if it is a wet winter.
  • If your peony is mature (5+years) it’s likely that the crown will push through the soil in winter and show some ‘eyes’. You won’t need to worry about protecting them as peonies love the cold of winter and will be just fine.


Tree peonies

  • While the leaves are also dead and require removing, there is no need to trim back the branches. They’ll be fine out there in the cold. If you’ve trimmed them already, that’s ok. As long as the roots are well established the branches will grow back.
  • Unlike Herbaceous peonies, Tree peonies like to be buried more deeply. So if it looks like it needs a bit of a boost, experiment with adding a few inches of soil around the base of the trunk.


Give a Peony

As mentioned, peonies aren’t flowering now. But they will be next year and the year after that and the year after that!

Peonies are the most wonderful, long lasting gift to give as they really do just keep on giving. They grow on for decades.

And although the receiver may find it a bit strange getting a pot of soil with some dormant roots in it, they will not be disappointed.

You can think of it like gifting a savings account to a relative for future gifts. Such as being able to go to university or buying a piece of property. They may not be able to enjoy it right now but when they do, it will be the best gift ever!

And that’s peonies – the best forever gift.

Peony Myths Debunked – Part 2

If you missed our first post on this, please check it out.

Otherwise, here are some more myths that we’d like to shed some light on.

We hope you find it helpful.

May the myth debunking continue!

Peonies Don’t Have Fragrance

You’ll be pleased to know that this couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, most varieties of peony are scented although some have a more intense fragrance than others.

Scent is a tricky one to pin down as it is quite subjective. For example, in wine tasting - there are many different aromas and tastes each person finds in any given wine. One person picks up freshly cut lawn and another detects tobacco.

Open to interpretation, to say the least…

And so it goes with peonies. The fragrance can also differ at various times of the day according to the weather conditions.

However, we believe these to be some of the most NOSE-able peonies:

  • ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ (AGM) – Beautiful semi-double creamy white flowers with a strong, intoxicating scent
  • ‘Madame Calot’ – Prolific, double pink flowers and strong fragrance
  • ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ (AGM) – Gorgeous fully double sugar-pink with crimson flecks on the outer petals and with a sensational scent
  • ‘Bartzella’ (AGM) – Luminous yellow Itoh peony with gorgeous lemony scents
  • ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’ – Wonderfully fragrant variety with lavender pink double flowers which tend not to fade in full sun, making it an excellent cut flower
  • ’Festiva Maxima’ (AGM) – A personal favourite, with a good scent and large, fully double white flowers with a crimson fleck on the outer petals. Makes a popular cut flower


You will find many more to choose from here according to your taste.

Peony Flowering Season is Short

Although the main time for them to flower is May, it is possible to have flowers from April all the way through to July. This is because peonies can be divided into early/early-mid/mid/mid-late/late flowering varieties. So if you pick one or two from each category you could have a flowering peony for up to 4 months!

Some examples of ones you could pick:


Peonies Won’t Flower Without Ants

There is a popular line of thought that if you don’t have ants on your peonies they won’t open, as the ants make little incisions on the buds whilst harvesting the nectar which enables them to open.

This is not true.

We love having the ants around the nursery but your peonies will still bloom without them.

However, they do have a mutually beneficial relationship as the ants thrive on the nutrient rich nectar and their presence is helpful as they ward off other insects such as thrips that are harmful to peonies.

So don’t get rid of them! Ants and peonies are firm friends.

The ants will only “stick” around until the peony blossoms but if you are cutting some peonies you can just gently shake them off before bringing them inside.


And that’s all the debunking we’ve got for now!

If you have any questions about this or anything else, please feel free to catch us on social media.


Peony of the Month – ‘Nymphe’

This isn’t the first time nymphs have been connected to peonies.

You may be familiar with the one Greek myth about a beautiful nymph named Paeonia that Apollo falls for. This captures Aphrodite’s attention of course and the little nymph becomes embarrassed, turning bright red. So Aphrodite decides it’s only logical to turn her into a red peony.

Because, why not?

And that is how peonies came to symbolize bashfulness.

But there’s nothing to be bashful about when it comes to this herbaceous beauty. A lovely single with its large pale pink/nude flowers and contrasting golden stamens, it is one of the prettiest mid season bloomers and recently took home an AGM which means it will do exceptionally well in your UK garden.

And it’s a winner with the bees too!

Peonies for Pollinators

Peonies such as ‘Nymphe’ that have single, open-shaped flowers are irresistible to pollinators. Pollen is prized as it’s a protein source for bees so they will work hard to get it. However, if they can conserve their energy in this process, they will. So they will usually avoid flowers with many layers of petals they have to wiggle through. That’s why the easily available, pollen-laden stamens in flowers shaped like ‘Nymphe’ are easy pickings for those busy honey bees.

Peonies are a bit like lollipops for bees as they have what is called ‘extrafloral nectaries’. This means that the nectar becomes available for harvesting at the bud stage already. So this is another reason bees really like peonies - they don’t have to wait for them to bloom to start collecting that nectar!

Clearly, patience isn’t high up on the priority list for pollinators.

Also, if you’ve ever wondered why there are so many ants on your peony buds it’s because they also like those nectary lollipops. And you won’t have to worry that they are damaging your buds. In fact, they are helpful to them as their presence wards off other insects that would prevent them from blooming. So don’t get rid of them! Ants and peonies are firm friends.

There is a popular line of thought that if you don’t have ants on your peonies they won’t open, as the ants make little incisions on the bud whilst harvesting the nectar which enables the bud to open.

This is not true. As mentioned before, it is more a case of the ants warding off other more harmful floral-feeding critters that helps the blooming to be more successful.

More reasons to love those bees and ants!

Gardening for Insects

With the growing awareness around the importance of pollinators in the garden there has been a surge of gardeners being more intentional about creating environments that are insect friendly.

And as we saw at the Chelsea Show this year, it doesn’t matter if your space is limited. You can plant things that will encourage a symbiotic eco system no matter how little space you have.

Balconies, window boxes and even one small piece of wall with containers on can become a playground for all sorts of creatures.

Humans included!


What Peonies Teach Us

With this time of constant change and having to keep re-inventing the wheel, the saying “Adapt or die” comes to mind...

But we prefer the more hopeful spin on that idea.

To rather think of what we’ve learnt during this time of uncertainty. Something along the lines of:

"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust." — Gertrude Jekyll

Yes, our precious peony plants have taught us all these things and more. We are so grateful to have had a connection to nature through all of this. It has been an anchor in many ways.

And it seems we aren’t the only ones experiencing that. Many are turning to plants to find some peace and calm in the chaos. Sales of seeds have grown exponentially as window-sill gardens and veggie patches pop up everywhere.

Some that swore they’d never have kids are now trying their hand at plant parenting.

So what are some of the things we’ve learnt from the peonies we are privileged to care for?

Flexibility and Resilience

The only guarantee in life is change so we’ve got to be flexible. Although we’ve had a topsy turvy season this year, it’s been amazing to see how our peonies learnt to adapt and still put on a good show, even if a little late.

In spite of all the unpredictability of what is happening with us humans, those plants and animals just keep doing their thing. With grace and beauty.


Peonies show us how to hurry up and wait!

For a start, when growing them from seed, peony seeds need to go through a double vernalisation. Then you need to wait another five years to see if the flower is worth anything. Then you’ve got to bulk it up, either the slow way of dividing every two years or the short cut of tissue culture. And still you’ll be lucky to get anything in your life time.

Also, with the flowering season being delayed this year and the show being relatively short anyway, we’ve really had to be present to every moment of this celebration of blooms.

Slowing down and taking all the beauty in each day has had a revitalising effect, helping us to appreciate many other fleeting, yet monumental moments in life.


As we know, peonies are not difficult to care for. In well-drained soil with enough sun and a bit of water, they’re good to go. In fact, the peony’s ability to survive for decades untended is testament to its incredible hardiness and longevity.

Now we’re not suggesting you starve and deprive yourself down to the barest necessities. But it got us thinking of the benefits of being content with a simple life and to use life’s challenges as growing opportunities.

What do you think?

What have you learnt from your peonies?

The Late Bloomers

The unexpectedly cold weather we experienced in April made our peonies afraid to put their heads out.

And understandably so. Those sub-zero temperatures were a shock to us too - we had to get all our winter woollies out of storage!

Like us, after the warm spell in March, you were probably all geared up to get to work on your garden over Easter. But with temperatures peaking in the single digits and snow in some areas during April, that just didn’t happen.

We hope those overnight frosts didn’t kill too much of your garden off.

Chief horticulturalist at the Royal Horticultural Society, Guy Barter, said: “Overnight frosts in April are dreaded by gardeners. Magnolia and camellia flowers are ruined, fruit blossom and young fruitlets including pears and apples are spoiled and the tender tips of potatoes will be burnt off if they appear above ground. Gardener’s hearts are in their mouths through April as they anxiously scan the weather forecasts for frost warnings ready to rush out and cover vulnerable plants to ward off damage.”



Understandably, flowering season has been considerably delayed and we feel your frustration.

Typically, tree peonies are the first to bloom followed by herbaceous and intersectional. Intersectional or Itoh peonies often flower twice as long as tree peonies.

The following is a general guideline of the flowering season for peonies in the UK.

Weather conditions and your specific location will affect this timing. However, due to the cold weather we experienced you can expect these time estimates to be delayed by approximately 3-4 weeks.


Very Early - flowering begins late April

Early - flowering begins early May

Mid - flowering begins mid-late May

Late - flowering begins early June



With all this talk about late flowering, let’s have a look at some of the late bloomers beautiful faces we should be seeing near the end of this month (pictured right):


Paeonia ‘Old Faithful’

Herbaceous perennial with finely cut dark green foliage and fully double velvety red flowers. Vigorous, must-have plant.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Couronne d’Or’

A herbaceous perennial with finely cut dark green foliage and large double flowers comprising ivory coloured outer petals and red/yellow flecked centres. Excellent cut flowers.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Nippon Beauty’

A herbaceous perennial with finely cut dark green foliage with large, fragrant, single flowers with ruby red outer petals and red feathery centres with cream coloured edging. Striking and will flower heavily.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sword Dance’ AGM

Large, deep wine-red guard petals and golden staminoids, Japanese style peony. A show-stopper!


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Bowl of Beauty’

This classic, long lived perennial has very large flowers with carmine pink outer petals and lots of tiny creamy petals in the centre.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Felix Crousse’

A herbaceous perennial with finely cut green foliage and a heavily scented stunning double magenta red flowers.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ AGM

This excellent example of the classic, long lived perennial has very large, double, fragrant rose-pink flowers. The inner petals are ruffled and have silvered margins.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sorbet’

Herbaceous perennial with attractive foliage and large, fragrant, double soft pink flowers with cream coloured frills.


After flowering season it is best to deadhead your peonies, cutting off the flower heads.

If you deadhead the peony stems after blooming, the energy can be used for future stem and root growth instead of making seeds.