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When to cut peonies: After flowering in summer or better in autumn? Incl. care tips after the cut

They delight with their filigree flowers that please the eye of the amateur gardener in early summer. But by mid-July at the latest, the blooming season of peonies comes to an end. Then it is time to prepare the perennials and shrubs for the next gardening season. This includes maintenance pruning, which takes place in late summer. Then, in the fall, another vigorous pruning is on the garden schedule. We explain how to prune faded peonies and what to keep in mind.

Pruning peonies: When is the right time to prune?

Cut off peonies after the end of the flowering period

Late July – early August is the right time to prune faded peonies. After the end of the flowering period begins to form seeds, for which the plant wastes valuable nutrients. But if the faded flowers are cut off in time, then the perennial begins to form its roots and prepare for the cold season.

Cut peonies in the summer, after flowering: Instructions

Cut back peonies in autumn or leave them standing

  1. First, thoroughly clean a sharp pair of garden shears.
  2. Then cut off the withered flowers along with the stems.
  3. Leave the shoots and the leaves standing.
  4. Exception: remove ailing shoots and leaves immediately.

For hybrids, cut back to the old wood. Since these sprout in the spring, hybrid varieties can tolerate heavy pruning without problems. If you decide to do so, then you should protect the plant from frost.

When to consider pruning in the fall?

Cut peonies in summer which shoots to remove

The above-ground plant parts of the peony die in the fall. You can then cut back the plant close to the ground. However, it is better to leave them for now and then remove them in the spring. Mainly because the dead leaves and shoots act like a mulch layer and protect the soil from frost.

However, if the peonies are infested with pests or suffer from a disease, then pruning in the fall is advisable. The cut parts of the plant are collected and disposed of with household waste.

Proper care of faded peonies after pruning

After all faded flowers are removed in late July to mid-August, you should prepare the plant for the upcoming fall season.


Peonies need plenty of water even after they have finished blooming.  In hot weather, water the plants extensively early in the morning, every two – three days. Never allow the soil to dry out and use rainwater when possible. If it rains in the summer, then you can water as needed.


Do not stop fertilizing after the flowering period is over. Similar to watering, you should provide nutrients to the plant regularly into the fall. Fertilizing is very important because it is the only way the peony can gain strength to sprout vigorously and form flowers again the next year. The perennials tolerate especially well organic fertilizers such as horn meal and compost. Give the plants fertilizer every 2-3 weeks to encourage root development.

Cut shrub peonies or let them grow?

Cutting peonies instructions with secateurs in summer

Unlike the other peony varieties, the shoots of shrub peonies do not wilt. In the fall, the shrub loses all its leaves, they fall off, but the shoots remain green and fresh, and after the end of winter can again form leaves and flowers. Therefore, the shrub does not need pruning in the fall, and you can just let it grow. In the spring, this gets a topiary.

Peonies in the pot do not need pruning.

Cutting peonies useful tips for cut flowers for the vase

As far as pruning in the summer is concerned, peonies in pots are not much different from outdoor perennials. Remove any wilted flowers after the blooming period ends in July and August. You can then cut back the plant if you store it in a warm, wind-protected place during the winter. Otherwise, leave the dead above-ground parts of the plant.

Peonies in containers need regular fertilizing because, as with all potted plants, watering washes away important nutrients from the soil.

Cutting peonies for the vase

Cutting peonies in vase useful tips

Peonies from your own garden also cut a good figure as cut flowers in the vase. However, the perennials should be at least 4 years old before the flowers can be cut off.

The right time is also crucial in this case. As soon as the flower buds on the plant open slightly, you can cut off about 30% of all the flowers along with the stems and leaves. Then cut the peonies at an angle, with a very sharp knife. The rule of thumb is – the larger the cut area, the better. This will allow the flowers to carry enough water to the flower via the stem. For this purpose, leave a 24 – 25 cm stem and three to four leaves. It is best to arrange the cut flowers in a tall vase .