Peonies!!! One of the first flowers I think of when I think of spring. Growing peonies can be such a joy. Their large, billowy blooms and sometimes hundreds of petals and colors make them a beauty for any garden or bouquet. And as a cut flower, they can last over a week in the vase, many also carry a sweet and subtle scent. Knowing When to Cut Peonies definitely requires some prep and basic knowledge for the best results.
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How to tell when to cut peonies
Have your bucket of room temperature, CLEAN water ready with flower food already added so you can put the stems directly in them. When I am using my stems right away I give them an immediate drink, if you need to pick but are not using them right away scroll down for my tips on delaying them from opening and instead preserving them in the fridge!
You can pick your peonies as open as you like but I prefer to cut them when they are in a specific bud phase called “soft marshmallow.” What does this mean? Basically, if you gently squeeze the bud and it feels like a squishy marshmallow, it’s ready to be picked! If it feels harder than a marshmallow, let it ripen a little more but keep your eye on it. Peony buds are known for going from hard to soft marshmallow in a matter of hours!
I pick them at this stage because it gives me the longest vase life and they actually open. If you pick buds too soon and the petals haven’t finished fully developing you’ll get a wonky looking half-bloom if anything at all. If you pick the flowers too blown out and open it’s no big deal, they are still gorgeous, you just won’t get as long of a time out of them in the vase.
Cleaning Peony Stems
Remove ALL foliage and minor buds, immediately after cutting from the plant. I know it seems counterintuitive to remove potential flowers but these minor/side buds are only sucking life away from your main bloom and will cut its vase life down significantly if left on the stem. They also won’t open in water because they are not developed enough.
It is imperative to remove all foliage not only because if it sits in water it will rot (this is true for all cut flowers, by the way!), but also because again these leaves are sucking energy from the main bloom and will cut down its vase life. I cut all foliage and unnecessary buds of my blooms immediately – right after I cut them from the plant, before I put them in the water bucket.
Extra Peony Harvesting Tips
As far as stem length, I suggest cutting as long as possible! I tend to cut them at about 24″ long so that I have wiggle room for whatever height I want them to be in their final vessel. Another trick I’ve learned is to give the stems a second cut while under the water. So the initial cut is when they are taken off the plant but give a second cut, under the water, as you put them in your bucket. You should be using CLEAN and sharp snips (I use THESE by Fiskars) to get the best cuts, just spray or dip the blades in rubbing alcohol prior to use. Cutting at a 45-degree angle is best for water absorption.
That said, when harvesting, be sure to leave at least 2 sets of leaves on stems that remain on the plant so that it can continue to grow and store food over the summer.
It’s best to cut peonies in the early morning or late in the afternoon/evening. Cutting them in the heat of the day will only stress them out, make them open faster and shorten their vase life. This is true for cutting pretty much all flowers – do it either in the cool morning or evening!
How to Make Your Peonies Last Longer in the Vase
Peonies can last 2-3 weeks if you want them to and have the proper storage. Just one of the many reasons I love them!
Once cut, different peonies will open at different rates. For example, Coral Charm, Festiva Maxima and Karl Rosenfeld are quick, while Sarah Bernhardt is slower. Regardless, cooler temperatures will always extend their vase life. If you want to really slow down the opening, keep your cut blooms in the fridge in a vase of water, you can just take them out when you’re ready to display or use them.
If you do not have the space for a vase of peonies in your fridge don’t worry! You can store them by bunching the stems together, drying them off with a clean towel and slipping them into a plastic bag with a few paper towels wrapped around the base of the stems. The paper towels will both absorb excess moisture and keep the stems just moist enough to live. Take care to make sure there is no moisture on the blooms or leaves though!
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Preserving Your Peonies in the Fridge
Additionally, you can wrap the entire bouquet (bare stem) in either a few sheets of tissue paper or newspaper and preserve them in the fridge. Lay your bunch flat and check them every day for signs of mold; change out the paper towel if you see mold and trim away any brown (rot) on the stems.
Make sure to keep the blooms away from moisture and also fruits and vegetables (in or outside the fridge). These naturally give off ethylene gas which will speed up the aging of your blooms. You can keep peonies out of water in a refrigerator for up to two weeks!
If you do not have a fridge available, the next best thing is to keep them in the coldest and dimmest room possible. That could be a closet, bathroom, basement or better yet, a garage. Just make sure it’s not SO cold that they freeze – around 41 degrees is ideal!
The flowers will look limp upon removal from the fridge but give the stems a fresh cut and put them immediately in a vase of warm water with flower preservative. They will perk up and open beautifully within the next 24 hours. They should last about a week in fresh water!
We love growing and using Peonies in our bouquets and know that you will too. For more information about Peonies check out-