Winter Shoots the First Year

In the first winter after you've planted your peony, you may find shoots emerging from the soil in December or January. This seems too soon, and it is. So what's going on?

Before your peony plant lived in your garden, it lived somewhere else. It may have lived in my fields in South Carolina, or it may have lived in the Netherlands. Peonies monitor the temperature all winter, all year, in fact, and grow and bloom when conditions are right. A plant that began the winter in one location and is finishing it in another is confused. Being dug up, divided, and planted in a completely different climate isn't something peonies have evolved to be able to anticipate. So they may act a little funny the first year.

Is it a problem?

No. Peonies that send up premature shoots the first winter soon acclimate. In my fields, this often happens with first year plants from outside sources. It almost never happens with older ones.

What should you do?

Nothing. As hard as it may seem to leave the first shoots you're seeing alone, your plant will figure it out without intervention and develop a healthier "sleep schedule" over time.