The Q&A Archives: Peonie Bush andTrees

Question: When is the best time to divide peonies? I saved seeds from my Peonie trees, but how do I plant them?

Answer: Peonies are not normally started from seed. Instead, they are divided. This assures that the new plant is a clone of the original and just as nice, where seedlings will vary from the parent. If you'd still like to try, here are two methods; one for fresh seed and the other for seeds which are slightly dried:

Indoor method 1, probably used by most hybridizers.

1. Gather seeds before they are naturally shed, (approximately 2 to 10 days early; this is a learned art). (Seeds must not be allowed to dry out).

2. Place in plastic bags with damp medium (not soggy), and keep in a warm room out of direct sunlight.

3. In 2 to 3 months, a variably large fraction will have already germinated. (Anywhere from 5 to 95 percent).

4. Plant into boxes or pots, and keep cold until outdoor planting can be done. A coldframe of some sort helps in this because such plants are usually ready to go several weeks before you are ready to put them out. Plants often show first leaf while there is still snow on the ground, and frosts or freezing every night. If the plants are held indoors too long at this stage, they will invariably die, negating all your effort.

Indoor method 2. (Might get a fraction of dried seeds to germinate).

1. Seeds into plastic bags with damp medium which approximates damp earth (not soggy).
2. Give 3 months of warmth, temp = 80 to 90 degrees F.
3. Place bags in cold location, temp = 36 to 44 degrees F.
4. During the next three months, check bags for seed growth, plant into containers, continue to keep containers in cold location until appropriate outdoor planting time.

Peonies are long lived plants that resent disturbance, so it is not usually a good idea to divide them unless you have a specific reason for doing so. They are best divided in the fall and replanted immediately. The new divisions usually take several years to settle in and begin blooming. If you do this, prepare the soil very well and make a large planting area. Plant the eyes (buds on the roots) so that they are about two inches deep. Incorrect planting depth can cause the new plant to fail to bloom.

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