Growing Peonies for Cut Flowers

Keen on growing your own peonies specifically for cut flower?

Some varieties are better suited to cut flower production than others. We are looking for stems that are long and strong with striking, large blooms.

Herbaceous peonies are a great option as they perform well in both the vase and garden. There are many varieties to choose from, in a range of colours, and many peonies are fragrant so there's the added bonus there!

But where to start?

Let’s have a look at some of the things you’ll want to bear in mind when planting peonies for cut flower.


Any position in the garden will be fine, in either full sun or part shade preferably in a more sheltered place away from strong wind.

Soil Conditions

Any type of soil will be fine as long as it has excellent drainage. If you do have lighter, sandy soil, remember to add a generous amount of organic matter to the bottom of your planting hole and perhaps feed a little more regularly.

Best time to Plant

In cooler climates like we have here in the UK, peonies can be planted in either Spring or Autumn.

Planting Depth and Spacing

  • Don’t plant them too deeply. The eyes should be no more than 2.5-5cm below the surface
  • When you order from us your peony will be in a pot already planted at the correct depth which makes it easy to plant it straight in the ground at same depth
  • 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

How long until Harvest Time?

If your peony plants are still less than 3 years old you won’t see many (if any) flowers yet. Peony cutting gardens take a little while to get going as the plants develop relatively slowly and need time to establish well before flowers can be picked.

Not having any flowers is not a bad thing as it means all the energy and nutrients are going in to the roots and building a strong foundation. You want a strong plant that will keep on going for decades so you can reap the gorgeous rewards for as long as possible.

From 4 years and up you will see a marked difference in flower production.  At Primrose Hall we nurture all of our plants until they are at least 5 years old ensuring they are mature flowering Paeonia plants. So you are much more likely to see it flowering from its very first season in your garden. Little patience required.

When to Pick?

The best time to pick peonies is 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 at this point, rinse them in cold water (especially if they are covered in ants!) and put them straight in a bucket of water or vase.

Within in a day or two the flowers will have opened and you should have beautiful peonies in a vase for at least a week.

Which Varieties are best?

Varieties such as ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ seem to do best as cut flowers, as do other soft coloured double varieties such as:

Paeonia lactiflora 'Boule de Neige' (Peony 'Boule de Neige')

Beautiful double white flowers, highly scented, with crimson flecks on the outer part of the petals on dark green foliage. Flowers mid-season. 

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Vogue’ (Peony ‘Vogue’) (Fragrant)

Excellent herbaceous perennial with dark green foliage and huge white double flowers with a crimson edge and inner petals with a silvery reflex. Absolutely stunning. 

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Madame Calot’ (Peony ‘Madame Calot’) (Fragrant)

Herbaceous perennial with dark green divided leaves and large, double pale pink and cream flowers. Highly scented, floriferous.


These ones make great cut flowers too:

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Honey Gold’ (Peony ‘Honey Gold’) (Fragrant) (Mid Season Flowering)

Fragrant semi-double creamy white flowers with a pale yellow centre on long strong stems.

Paeonia ‘Claire de Lune’ AGM (Peony ‘Claire de Lune’) Fragrant (Mid-Season Flowering)

Claire de Lune is a very special peony because of its unusual lemon coloured flowers and gorgeous scent; it also makes an excellent cut flower. Claire de Lune has distinctive broad mid-green leaves and stunning lemon coloured single, cup-shaped flowers with golden centres. Floriferous, impressive and reliable peony.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Doreen’ AGM (Peony ‘Doreen’) (Fragrant)

A herbaceous perennial with finely cut green foliage and lightly scented, HUGE, single flowers of pink guard petals and yellow centres. Fragrant, large flowers.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Victoire de la Marne’ (Peony ‘Victoire de la Marne’) (Fragrant) (Mid-Late Season Flowering)

Mid-sized burgundy purplish red double flowers with lighter edges. A striking flower with a distinctive colour.


Happy gardening! May the peonies be with you!

Caring for your Tree Peony

Tree peonies.

The loveliness that’s inspired many beautiful art pieces through the ages.

And you can have one of these charming muses living in your very own garden.

They are sure to make a real statement in a sunny garden border, growing up to 2-3 metres, although they respond very well to pruning and can be kept at a more manageable 1-1.5m.

Tree peonies are long-lived, deciduous shrubs with large, sometimes dinner plate size, flamboyant, often fragrant flowers in a variety of colours. They range from white through pink to dark red and purple; yellows are also available, along with the more unusual apricot shades.

They are happiest in a sunny or lightly shaded, location sheltered from strong wind to prevent foliage and flower damage and although they can take up to four years to get settled and start flowering the rewards outweigh the wait!

You can plant containerised tree peonies at any time in the year - just remember to water it well when you plant it.

Planting Pointers

Some planting tips:

  • Tree peonies are often grafted onto herbaceous peony rootstock so the graft union will need to be planted about 15cm below soil level. This encourages it to form its own roots
  • Once in, water generously to settle the soil


TLC for the Tree

Technically, tree peonies aren’t trees but rather sub-shrubs so they need much the same care as herbaceous varieties.

This is how you can help your tree peony stand the test of time:

  • It is best to water regularly during the first summer especially during dry spells
  • Mulching well in late Autumn to late winter with organic matter helps keep moisture in but leave a dish around the base of the plant which is clear of any mulch as that can lead to root rot
  • Prune in the Autumn and either take back the top growth by about 1/3 in stages or, if you have a multi-stemmed tree peony, cut back every 3rd stem to about 2cm, removing the oldest stems first
  • After hibernating happily through the winter chill you’ll want to give it a little boost with a feed come Spring time


Want one?

So! If you are thinking about adopting a tree peony into your peony family have a look at these lovelies (pictured right):

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kokuryu Nishiki’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Japanese tree peony with large semi-double incredible dark burgundy/purple flowers with white veins/flashes on the outer petals

Paeonia ‘High Noon’ AGM (Japanese Tree Peony) Fragrant (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Stunning semi-double to double, large yellow lemon scented flowers with a red basal flare. Will often flower again in the autumn. Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit so it is a very reliable tree peony

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Shichi Fukujin’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Japanese tree peony with large papery thin striking double pink flowers with a raspberry basal flare. Often with a crinkled edge

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kuro-Ageha’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid Season Flowering)

A romantically deep red bloom with large golden stamens in the centre of this semi-double peony

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Fuso-no-tsukasa’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid-Late Season Flowering)

An absolutely stunning, elegant Japanese tree peony with large, pure white double flowers

Peony of the Month – ‘Love Affair’

‘Love Affair’.

What a grand bloom.

Its name takes me back to the time when I first fell bud over stem in love with peonies.

I remember the moment this love affair began quite vividly.

My grandfather taught me a lot about horticulture and gardening, showing me how to sow seeds, grow vegetables and, with chrysanthemums, how to pinch them out and curl the petals to get the perfect bloom. Today I use what I learnt from him with my peonies.

Of course, the biggest thing he left me with is his love and passion for gardening.

My after-school job was watering the hanging baskets at the local garden centre and I absolutely loved it. I got to spend time in the nursery with the plants and with people who loved plants.

So when it came to choosing A-levels, I really wanted to study horticulture and botany but my career advisers and teachers said I needed to do something a bit more "sensible" in terms of any future career so I ended up studying law.

But fundamentally it wasn't what I wanted to do. I was always looking for ways to grow plants and be outside.

After switching careers, buying this nursery and starting to experiment with growing various perennials, I recall one day spotting peonies from afar and thinking “What is that flower?!”

It ruled the nursery, towering above everything else.

It’s a love affair that has not faded and I suspect it never will.

‘Love Affair’ is a sumptuous, fragrant, semi-double Itoh Hybrid. When mature the flowers may become nearly double. This variety is particularly sought-after as there aren’t many whites among Intersectionals, making it very unusual and rare. Its snow white petals can, at times, have a hint of pale pink of the carpels in the centre, highlighted by golden stamens.

You’ll see blooms on this vigorously growing beauty mid-season to late mid-season and can enjoy the dark green foliage on its compact, medium bush (about 70cm) throughout the growing season.

Developed and registered by Hollingsworth in 2005 (parentage Lactiflora ‘Gertrude Allen’ x Lutea Hybrid ‘Alice Harding’) this Intersectional Hybrid appeared around 1990 as a branch sport of the American Peony Societies yellow flowered ‘Prairie Sunshine’. ‘Love Affair’ and ‘Prairie Sunshine’ seem just about identical in all respects apart from the petal colour, however the symmetry of ‘Love Affair’ with its wonderfully broad, rounded guard petals and copious rows of inner petals makes it a superior Intersectional Hybrid.

Intersectional Hybrids are also known as Itoh peonies as they were named after a Japanese breeder, Mr Toichi Itoh, who created the first hybrid in the 1940’s, crossing Paeonia x lemoinei (a hybrid tree) with Paeonia lactiflora Kakoden (a white flowered herbaceous).

There were many others involved along the way in making this “impossible dream” of creating the perfect flower come true, but we’ll talk about this more in a future post.

So what have we learnt?

Well, if lawyers can become horticulturists and impossible flowers can come about, any dream will do and can come true!

Wouldn’t you agree?