Cut Peony Care

You've just received a peony bouquet as a gift. Or you've proudly cut the first blooms from your own plants. Peonies are so much fun to watch as they grow and change color and shape in the vase. So how can you make the show last as long as possible?

At first, a peony bouquet looks like a handful of lollipops.

They're easiest to handle at this point, before they're open and would get damaged by moving in and out of the cooler, bouquet-making, etc. I'm always, still, amazed by how this little handful of buds becomes an explosion of ruffled petals.

To get the most out of your flowers, it's worth taking a minute to understand what happens to the stem. The stem is essentially the straw that transports water and nutrients to the bloom, so when it comes to cut flowers, it's where all the action happens.

After I cut peonies from my field, they go straight into my cooler in bundles, flat on shelves, with no water at all. This allows me to keep them fresh much longer than storing them in water in buckets would. It also lets my cooler hold many times more stems than it could otherwise.

During this dry storage, the cut ends of the peony stems dry out. This seals the water that's in the stem and bud inside. But it also means that when we take them back out, no water can get in unless we cut that dry portion off. So when they go from being dry stored in the cooler to being ready to go into water, they need at least 1/2" of stem clipped off so that they can begin to drink again.

After any cut flower is placed in water, the race is on to keep bacteria from plugging the bottom of the stem before we've enjoyed the flower long enough. This is why cut flower care relies on keeping the vase scrupulously clean and the water fresh. Also why the stems should be recut every day or so. We're trying to keep the straw open, and the water flowing.

We can also use cut flower food to prolong vase life. Cut flower food contains some bactericide, to help in the race against bacteria, and some sugars to replace what the flower can no longer get from the plant. Cut flower food is included with every peony bouquet or bunch I sell. So if we make a tidy list of how to care for your cut peonies it will look like this:

Caring for your cut peonies:

1) Mix cut flower food at the rate shown on the packet. Fill a clean vase with the mixture.

2) Cut at least 1/2" off the bottom of the stems. Remove any foliage that will be beneath the water line in the vase.

3) Arrange your flowers in the vase. The best place to set them to enjoy is away from direct sunlight and heating or cooling sources.

4) After you've enjoyed them for a day or two, wash the vase, recut the stems, and replace the water. Repeat until the flowers finally drop their petals with one final flourish.

And that's it. Now there's nothing left to do but gaze in awe as your peonies do their amazing vase show. From lollipop to dramatic heap of petals on the table, it's something to behold. And even though I've seen them do it hundreds of times, I'm in awe every time.

Cut flower care for peonies. A colorful bunch of peonies is held up in a hand.