Peonies top the list of most beloved cut flowers around the world. While their colorful blooms don’t last long outdoors, their beauty can be extended by bringing them indoors. Follow this guide to find out how best to cut Peonies, with tips on how to make them last longer.
- How to Cut Peonies for a Vase? – Essential Tips
- Best Tools For Cutting Peonies
- When to Cut Peonies for Cut-Flower Arrangements
- Step-by-Step Guide To Cutting Peonies
- Post Cutting Care
- How Long Will Fresh Cut Peonies Last
- How To Extend The Life of Fresh Cut Peonies
- How To Preserve Peony Flowers
- Wrap Up
How to Cut Peonies for a Vase? – Essential Tips
Peony cutting season will differ depending on type and variety, ranging from April to June. They are best cut in the morning using sharp, disinfected shears to limit damage and the spread of disease. Keeping the flowers cool, away from direct sunlight, and in clean water will extend their life. You can also preserve them through refrigeration or drying.
Best Tools For Cutting Peonies
Your number one tool when cutting Peonies is a pair of pruning shears. They should be as sharp as possible to avoid damage to the stem, which can impact the life of your cut flower and the plant’s health.
Along with your shears, grab a bucket for gathering and a clear vase or mason jar for displaying. Your bucket should be filled with lukewarm water to keep the stems saturated until they reach their final display. Make sure your chosen vase is tall enough to hold the stems and support the large blooms without them falling over.
Your shears, bucket, and vase should all be cleaned with a 5% bleach solution before you get started. Shears can harbor bacteria and spread germs to your cut flowers and the main plant, resulting in potential long-term health issues.
Cleaning the bucket and vase will also help extend the life of your cut flowers by slowing bacterial growth and spread.
If you like to keep your hands clean while gardening, you can also grab a pair of gloves, but this is unnecessary.
When to Cut Peonies for Cut-Flower Arrangements
Mature Peonies are ideal for cutting as they produce many blooms each season and are established in the soil.
You can cut flowers from a first-year plant, but it’s best to leave as many flowers on as possible to allow the respective peony variety to focus on growth and establishment.
If you’re impatient, you can trim one or two, but it’s far better to wait the following year, or preferably at least three years before cutting frequently.
Most ornamental Peonies grown in home gardens are herbaceous. These types, including the popular Paeonia lactiflora and Paeonia officinalis, flowering in May and June for a period of 7-10 days. Tree Peonies flower the earliest – from April to May – while Itoh Peonies flower around June.
The exact time will depend on the species and cultivar. Some herbaceous peony plants are Early Season types, like ‘Early Scout’ or ‘Claire de Lune’, while other herbaceous peonies are mid to late spring, such as ‘Karl Rosenfield’ or ‘Dinner Plate.’
Things like climate and care can also influence peony bloom time. Take a look at our guide on Peony blooming seasons for a better idea of when your plant will be in flower. Also, see our guide to fertilizing peonies to maximize growth and vitality each season.
When To Cut
Once you notice buds starting to pop up, it’s essential to keep a close eye on them to determine the perfect time to cut. They should be snipped when they are still closed and slightly soft to the touch, known as the marshmallow stage.
Do not cut when the buds are still tight and firm, as they may not open at all if cut too early. You can cut the flowers once they start to open, but they will have a much shorter vase life if cut too late.
It’s best to cut in the morning just after watering. This will ensure the stems are saturated, and the flowers have enough moisture to last until they reach the vase or your peony bouquet. You can also cut in the early evening if the weather is cool.
Step-by-Step Guide To Cutting Peonies
Cutting Peonies for a vase is similar to cutting any other perennials, with a few additional factors to consider in maintaining the health of your plants:
- Identify a bud at the marshmallow stage. It should be soft when squeezed and not too firm. Also, look for buds that are just beginning to open.
- Follow the stem a few nodes down, cutting at a 45° angle. This increases the surface area, improving water uptake and preventing the bottom of the cut from sitting flush with the base of the vase.
- Ensure at least two sets of leaves, but preferably three, are left on the stem you are cutting. Peonies need these leaves to store energy in the crown before they die back in winter. Without these leaves, they will struggle to emerge again the following season.
- Don’t remove too many buds at one time. This will sap the plant’s energy and may cause it to go into shock.
- Place the cut stems directly into your bucket of warm water. The longer the stems remain out of water, the shorter their life span.
- Once you’ve gathered all the stems, bring them indoors. Remove any leaves on the stems that will sit below the waterline with your shears. Trim off any excess stems if necessary to vary the heights and create an exciting display.
- Arrange the stems in your vase and place in a cool area away from direct sunlight.
Post Cutting Care
Direct sun will quickly result in wilting peonies. Keep your peony flower buds as cool as possible until they open by placing them in a shaded area away from warm drafts. The cooler they stay, the longer the flowers will last.
Change the water every three days, or sooner if it becomes cloudy. Clean water prevents bacterial growth that can shorter the lifespan of the flowers. Lukewarm water is said to absorb faster than cold water, but room temperature water is also suitable.
Once cut, the stems will begin to scar over or attract bacteria that limits the uptake of water to keep the flowers looking as fresh as possible. When you change out the water, trim an inch or two off the ends of the stem to reopen the pathways and ensure continual water absorption.
How Long Will Fresh Cut Peonies Last
When cut at the right time, your garden peonies should last just over a week in a vase. They will take a couple of days to open and should last around five days once opened before wilting.
If you cut your peony plant too early, they may not open at all, remaining at the bud stage until they wilt and shrivel up.
If you cut the flowers once already open, they will only last two or three days before wilting. While this is suitable for immediate use, you will be able to enjoy them for a bit longer if left on the plant.
How To Extend The Life of Fresh Cut Peonies
Cut flower best practices like trimming and changing the water goes a long way to extending the life of your flowers. But, there are also a few tricks or ‘hacks’ that can potentially add another day or two to the vase life.
As we know from the experiences of florists, the best way to extend the life of your Peonies is to keep them cool. You can leave them in the fridge overnight to greatly extend their lifespan if you have the space. Alternatively, if the weather is still cool, you can move the vase outdoors in the evenings to make the most of the chilly night-time temperatures.
Adding certain household items or flower food to the water every couple of days can also have an impact on preserving peony blooms as well:
- Apple Cider Vinegar & Sugar: Apple cider vinegar limits bacterial growth while the sugar feeds the flowers.
- Soda: ½ a cup of clear soda adds enough sugar to the water to feed the flowers. However, it does encourage bacterial growth, so you’ll need to change the water and wash the vase more often.
- Vokda: A few drops added to the water limits the production of ethylene gas, slowing the opening and aging process in the flowers.
- Bleach: A tiny amount of bleach in the water will limit bacterial growth. Never use more than a few drops to avoid changing the waters pH, and never combine with other substances that can produce dangerous chemicals.
For more, see our in-depth guide to making fresh-cut flowers last longer.
How To Preserve Peony Flowers
When cutting Peony flowers, you don’t have to use them right away. By preserving them in the fridge, you can keep them to use at a later date.
Once you bring the stems indoors, strip all the leaves and cover the stems and buds in newspaper or plastic wrap. Seal them in an airtight container or zipped plastic bag and lay them horizontally in your refrigerator.
They should last about three weeks to a month in the fridge, ready for use whenever you need them. Once rehydrated, they will open and bloom for about a week in the vase.
You can also dry your blooms to preserve them for months on end. Once the flowers have opened, strip the bottom leaves off the stems and tie them together with a piece of twine or a rubber band. Hand them upside down in a dry spot away from direct sunlight to preserve their color.
The blooms should dry within two weeks and can then be arranged in a vase with other dried flowers or grasses for a long-term display.
It’s not hard to see why Peonies are one of the most popular cut flowers around. These richly symbolic blooms are loved for wedding flowers and everyday occasions every year. With a bit of extra effort and some care, you can make your blooms stay fresh in your vase for days on end.
Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.