Should I cut back peonies? SIX autumn tips for peonies in your garden

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Timing is everything when it comes to cutting back this vibrant flower in order to secure a recurring flush of growth the following year. Cutting back too soon could halt the growth of the plant and leaving it too late will slow its re-growth, delaying the flowering period. As our gardens fade from green to golden brown, it’s a good time to give your peonies some TLC.

When to cut back peonies

Cutting back peonies in your garden is not as simple as simply diving in as soon as the flowers disappear.

First you need to know what type of peonies you are growing and understand the best method to cut them back in order to promote regrowth for a recurrent display of these voluminous blooms.

According to Gardeners World, herbaceous peonies should be cut back hard in autumn to ground level.

Tree peonies do not need pruning but you should always remove faded seed heads during the autumn to redirect the plants energy on fresh growth.

What to do with peonies in autumn

Peonies flower from late spring to early summer so it may seem odd to wait until autumn to pay them much attention in the pruning department.

The key reason to leave your peonies untouched until October arrives is because of the invisible ground-work going on beneath the surface of the soil.

Herbaceous peonies may appear worse for wear after their flowering season but they’re actually busy developing new buds for the next year, which will eventually turn into the voluptuous pink, red, white and yellow flowers they’re renowned for.

Wait until late October/ early November before cutting back your garden peonies to avoid disrupting the budding growth of next year’s border display.

With October well on its way it’s time to get clued up on how to care for your peonies later this season.

It’s generally safe to start cutting back peonies in the second to last week of October – though it can be done as late as the first week or two of November.

Using sharp secateurs cut back the bloom and stem to about 2.5cm from the base of the stem.

A generous cut will help to prevent potential disease – such as peony wilt – which can occur during the spring and early summer.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), this disease generally appears in spring or early summer when the shoots of affected herbaceous peonies wilt and turn brown for no apparent reason.

If you notice this happening in the Spring, burn or dispose of the dead foliage to avoid spreading this fungus disease across the plant.

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Six tips for caring for your peonies this autumn

Autumn is the prime time to care for your peonies to get them growing again ready for the Spring and Summer.

These are the six things you should be doing in your garden this season if you’re growing these stunning summer blooms yourself:

  1. Cut back herbaceous peonies to ground level, leaving 2.5cm of growth
  2. Split and move well-established herbaceous peonies – take big clumps to avoid root damage
  3. Plant bare-root peonies – mother plants will be lifted from the fields in September/October and split so be cautious of buying roots for sale any earlier in the year as they may lack growing potential
  4. Give tree peonies a very light prune – cut back every third stem for a stronger, bushier plant
  5. Fertilise lighter soil to inspire nutrient-rich growth
  6. Remove all the foliage, dropped leaves and flowers on the ground to prevent diseases from lingering to the next season

How to plant bare-root peonies

Peonies are full hardy which means they don’t need winter protection and can be left outside throughout the year

Plant them in fertile soil with full sun and use garden compost or manure for a rich soil bed.

The RHS recommends:

  • Spacing plants about one metre apart depending on their ultimate height and spread
  • Digging a planting hole the same depth as the root ball or division and twice as wide
  • Drawing back the soil with a spade and firm gently around the plant by pressing with your heel of your shoe
  • Ensure the bright red buds are covered with no more than 2.5cm (1in) of soil as deep planting reduces flowering
  • Water in to settle the soil and continue watering regularly, especially in dry weather, during the first summer

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