Cutting Flowers

If you've planted peony plants as part of your cut flower garden, you'll want to know how soon you can put those blooms in a vase. Peonies make fantastic cut flowers. They change size and shape and color over their days in a vase, and many varieties can perfume a whole room. So of course you're eager to get your hands on them.

Peony plants take some time to establish themselves, and it's best to take a restrained approach at first. Here's a calendar for those first years:

Year One: Don't cut any flowers. In fact, remove all buds but possibly one, as discussed in Removing Flower Buds. Your plant may not even attempt to bloom this year, saving you the heartache.

Year Two: Again, don't cut any flowers. You can be less strict about removing buds, but still, leave the plant to itself. Any flowers that bloom this year stay on the plant. Remove the spent flowers as soon as they fade. Leave all the leaves.

Year Three: If your plant is doing well, sending up many shoots and filling out, you may cut a few stems. The key is to leave as many leaves as possible, so that the plant can store energy for next year's blooms. 

Year Four and beyond: This year, if your plant is happy, it's likely to bloom much more vigorously than it has before. Now you can cut more of the flowers than you did last year, always remembering to leave lots and lots of leaves.

There are rules of thumb out there about cutting peonies, such as never cut more than 1/3 of the blooms, or leave 10%. But I find that the shape of peony plant varieties, well, varies, and a rule of thumb is difficult to apply to all of them. Some varieties hold their flowers far above their leaves on long stems. Some varieties require cutting deep into the plant to get stem length. The only rule that works consistently is to leave as many leaves as you can.

What's the best way to cut flowers from my peony plant?

Clean, sharp clippers or scissors are always best. Take only as much stem length as you need. Strip the leaves from any part of the stem that will be beneath the water in your vase. Care for your cut flowers as shown in Cut Peony Care.

What if I need to save my flowers for later?

Your daughter decided to get married, she wants to use your peonies in her bouquet, but the date is weeks after the blooms will have faded? If you're willing to dedicate refrigerator space, you can keep peonies fresh for up to a couple of months. The longer you store cut peonies the shorter their vase life becomes. For an event, though, a shower or a wedding, one day is enough.

To store your cut peonies for later, bunch them together in groups of up to six or so. Wrap them in newspaper or several layers of tissue paper, then in several layers of plastic wrap. Store more than you'll need, as you may lose some, and store in small bundles to minimize damage in case it does occur.

When you take your flowers out, they're likely to look awful. Make no judgement on them until you've cut the stems and placed them in water for half a day or so. Dry stored peonies have astonishing resurrection capabilities.

Although it takes time and patience to establish peonies as members of your spring cutting garden, once you've made it through the first few years you can look forward to an abundance of blooms. Until then, may I suggest you find a local cut peony grower to help fill your vase?

Cutting Flowers from Peonies. A pile of pink and white cut peonies lies on mulch.