How to Grow Peonies from Cuttings: Expert Guide

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Peonies are a popular choice among gardeners for their lush blooms and delightful fragrance. Many may not know that these flowers can be propagated from cuttings, making them a cost-effective and rewarding addition to any garden. This alternative propagation method allows you to create beautiful, healthy peony plants for your garden.

To successfully grow peonies from cuttings, choose the right method and materials, maintain moisture and environment, and provide proper care from the beginning. This article will guide you through these essential steps and techniques, ensuring that you can successfully grow your own peonies from cuttings.

With some patience, dedication, and proper guidance, growing peonies from cuttings can be an enjoyable and rewarding gardening experience. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you can expect to see your peony cuttings thrive and eventually produce the stunning and fragrant blooms for which these plants are beloved.

About Peonies

Peonies are beautiful, perennial plants known for their large, fragrant flowers and lush foliage. They come from the Paeonia family and are native to Asia, Europe, and Western North America. Peonies are classified into three main types: herbaceous, tree, and intersectional.

Herbaceous peonies are the most common type, and they die back to the ground each winter. In contrast, tree peonies have woody stems and require more care than their herbaceous counterparts. Intersectional peonies, also known as Itoh peonies, are hybrids between herbaceous and tree peonies and have characteristics of both types.

Peonies are adored for their stunning blooms, which can range from simple to elaborate, depending on the cultivar. The flowers come in various colors, such as white, red, pink, and even yellow. Peonies are usually known for their large, fully double blooms, but there are also semi-double and single varieties.

These lovely plants are relatively easy to grow, requiring well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight. Peonies are hardy in USDA zones 3-8, which means they can tolerate cold temperatures but also thrive in moderate climates.

When it comes to growing peonies from cuttings, patience is key, as it might take a few years for the plant to become established and bloom. The process requires a healthy parent plant, careful preparation, and proper aftercare.

Here are some essential steps in growing peonies from cuttings:

  1. Choose a healthy, disease-free plant in the early spring or fall.
  2. Prepare a pot or garden bed with well-draining soil and a balanced fertilizer.
  3. Take a softwood cutting from the parent plant, ideally with at least one growth bud.
  4. Plant the cutting in the prepared soil, making sure to cover the growth bud.
  5. Keep the soil moist but not overly saturated, and avoid direct sunlight.
  6. To encourage root growth, maintain consistent temperature and humidity levels.

Once the cutting has established its roots, it may take a few years for the plant to produce flowers. Proper aftercare, such as regular watering, pruning, and fertilizing, is critical to the success of your propagated peony plant. With the right conditions, your peony will reward you with stunning blooms for years to come.

Understanding the Cutting Process

Selecting a Cutting

When growing peonies from cuttings, it’s crucial to choose the right cutting. Pick a healthy-looking, mature twig with few visible flaws such as dead leaves or wilted stems. Ideally, the cutting should be about 4 to 6 inches long, with several leaves on it that are still green and vibrant. The best time to take a cutting is during the late spring or early summer, when the plant is in a robust state.

Preparing the Cutting

To prepare the cutting, start by removing the lower leaves, leaving only the top two to four leaves. This will make it easier for the cutting to focus its energy on rooting. Trim the stem at a 45-degree angle just below the lowest node (where the leaves were removed). An angled cut is beneficial because it offers more surface area for rooting, allowing the cutting to take up nutrients and water more efficiently.

Next, dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone to encourage root production. Many rooting hormones are available in both powder and liquid forms, and they can be found at local nurseries or online. Gently tap off any excess rooting hormone to avoid overdoing it.

Finally, plant the prepared cutting in a container filled with sterile, well-draining potting soil. Ensure that the pot has good drainage by including drainage holes at the bottom or using a mix of soil and perlite. Water the cutting thoroughly and place it in a warm, bright spot with indirect light. Cover the container with a plastic bag or clear plastic container to maintain humidity and help the cutting retain moisture.

It is important to be patient and allow the peony cutting time to establish roots. Check for root growth after a few weeks by gently pulling on the cutting. If it offers resistance, this may indicate successful root growth. Once the cutting has taken root, it can gradually be introduced to its permanent home in the garden or a larger pot.

Potting and Planting

Choosing the Right Soil

It’s essential to select the right type of soil when growing peonies from cuttings. Peonies prefer well-draining, fertile, and slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to improve both drainage and fertility.

Some potting soil options for peonies include:

  • Peat-based potting mix
  • Loam-based potting mix
  • All-purpose mix with added organic matter

It’s crucial to avoid using soil that retains too much water, as this can lead to root rot.

Potting the Cutting

Before potting the cutting, prepare the container. Select a pot that is at least 6 inches deep and has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging. Fill the pot partially with the chosen soil mix, leaving enough space for the cutting.

Next, prepare the cutting. Select a healthy and robust stem from a mature peony plant, and cut it at a 45-degree angle, ideally with about 5-6 inches of stem length. Remove all but the top pair of leaves to reduce water loss and avoid overcrowding in the pot.

Place the cutting in the pot, ensuring the node and bottom part of the stem are under the soil surface. Fill in the remaining space with soil, gently firming it around the cutting to provide support.

Water the cutting thoroughly, ensuring the soil is moist but not saturated. Place the potted cutting in a spot with bright, indirect sunlight and maintain regular watering as needed.

Planting the Cutting

After the cutting has developed a robust root system, typically in 4 to 8 weeks, it’s time to plant it. The ideal planting location provides:

  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Well-draining soil
  • Sufficient space for the mature plant, keeping in mind that peonies can grow quite large

To plant the cutting, follow these steps:

  1. Dig a hole: The hole should be twice as wide and as deep as the container with the cutting. Add some compost or aged manure to the hole to improve soil fertility and drainage.
  2. Remove the cutting from the pot: Gently loosen the soil around the edges of the container and carefully lift the cutting with the root ball intact.
  3. Place the cutting in the hole: Position the cutting in the center of the hole, making sure it’s level with the surrounding ground. Fill the hole with soil and lightly tamp it down to remove air pockets.
  4. Water the area: Give the newly planted cutting a thorough watering. To ensure proper establishment, continue watering consistently until the plant is well-established.

Following these steps and maintaining proper care will help your peony cutting grow into a beautiful and thriving plant.

Caring for the Newly Planted Peonies

Watering Schedule

The success of newly planted peonies depends heavily on a consistent watering schedule. Generally, it’s best to water them at least once a week, preferably in the morning, to provide an adequate amount of moisture for their growth. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. During the hotter months, you may need to water them more frequently, as the soil dries out faster.

Using a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system can help maintain the right level of moisture for your peonies. Avoid overhead watering, which can lead to fungal diseases due to the excess moisture on the foliage.

Pruning Practices

Pruning helps promote a healthy growth pattern and allows for better air circulation around your peonies. For the first two years, focus on removing dead or yellowing leaves and any other weak growth. Once the peonies reach their third year, they will benefit from regular pruning of both their leaves and stems.

To prune peonies effectively:

  • Cut back any dead or damaged stems to the ground in late fall or early spring
  • Remove any spent blooms after the flowering period is over
  • Trim any crossing or rubbing branches to promote good air circulation

Pest and Disease Management

In order to protect peonies from pests and diseases, it’s crucial to establish a preventative maintenance routine. Observe your plants regularly and watch for any signs of pests, such as aphids or Japanese beetles, or diseases like powdery mildew or gray mold.

Here are some measures to help keep your peonies healthy:

  • Ensure proper air circulation by spacing the plants appropriately and pruning as needed
  • Clean up the garden area, removing any diseased or dead plant material
  • Apply a regular spray of neem oil or insecticidal soap to deter pests
  • Use a fungicide in the early stages if you observe signs of a fungal disease

Remember, prevention is critical in protecting your peonies from common troubles. By staying attentive and incorporating these practices, you can ensure that your peonies grow strong and produce beautiful blooms for years to come.

Transplanting to the Garden

When it’s time to transplant your peony cuttings to the garden, follow these steps for a successful process. First, choose a location with well-draining soil and enough sunlight; peonies thrive in areas that receive at least six hours of sun each day.

The ideal time to transplant peony cuttings is in the fall, when the plants are dormant. Start by preparing the garden bed, tilling the soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches and amending it with compost if necessary. This will ensure a fertile environment for your peony cuttings to grow in.

Next, dig a hole for each peony cutting, ensuring it’s large enough to accommodate the entire root system. The hole should be slightly wider than the roots and deep enough so the eyes (the small, pinkish-red buds on the roots) will be about 2 inches below the soil surface.

Before placing the peony cutting in the hole, create a mound of soil at the bottom to help support the roots. Position the cutting in the hole, carefully spreading out the roots down and around the mound. Fill the hole with soil, making sure to cover the eyes with no more than 2 inches of soil. Tamp the soil gently around the plant to eliminate air pockets and ensure proper contact with the roots.

After planting the peony cuttings, water them thoroughly to help establish good root-to-soil contact. Keep the soil consistently moist while the plants are establishing, and add mulch around the base to help maintain moisture and suppress weeds. Be mindful not to let the mulch touch the stems of the cuttings, as it can promote rot.

Continue to monitor your peonies as they grow, providing support through stakes or cages if necessary, especially for larger, double-flowered varieties. With proper care, your peonies will reward you with stunning blooms for years to come.

Winterizing Peonies

Peonies are beautiful and long-lasting perennial plants that require some care and attention during the winter months to protect them from harsh weather conditions and ensure healthy growth in the following season. This process, known as winterizing, involves several steps that can be easily followed by gardeners.

Firstly, it’s important to wait for the right time to begin winterizing peonies. This should be done in late fall, once the plants have fully entered dormancy and the foliage has turned yellow and wilted. At this stage, the peonies are most receptive to pruning and are better prepared to withstand winter stress.

To start winterizing peonies, gently trim the stems back to about 3 inches above the ground using clean, sharp pruning shears. This helps to remove any lingering pests or diseases and keeps the plant tidy during the winter. It also promotes better air circulation around the plant’s base, which can deter fungal growth.

Next, clear away any debris, dead leaves, or weeds around the peony plants. This step is crucial, as it minimizes the risk of diseases or pests overwintering in the debris and potentially harming the plants in spring. Rake up the trimmed stems and dead leaves, and dispose of them properly to prevent any fungal infections or pest infestations.

In colder climates, it’s essential to add a layer of mulch around the base of the peony plants to provide insulation and protection from freezing temperatures. This can be done using organic material like straw, pine needles, or shredded leaves, which can later decompose and enrich the soil. Apply a 2-4 inch layer of mulch, being careful not to cover the crown of the plant, as this may lead to rot.

For peonies grown in pots, additional measures should be taken. Transfer the potted peonies to an unheated shed or garage, where they can remain dormant and protected from freezing temperatures. Check on the plants periodically to ensure they remain sufficiently moist but not overly watered, as excess moisture can lead to root rot.

By following these measures, gardeners can successfully winterize their peonies and ensure a healthy and vibrant return in the spring. Attention to detail in the winterizing process can greatly enhance the longevity and beauty of these elegant perennial plants.

Tips and Tricks for Success

Growing peonies from cuttings can be a rewarding experience, but to ensure success, follow these helpful tips and tricks.

Firstly, selecting healthy cuttings is crucial. Choose young stems with multiple buds and no signs of harmful insects or diseases. The optimal length for cuttings is 4-6 inches, so be sure to measure before starting.

Next, timing matters. The best period for taking peony cuttings is when the plants are dormant, which occurs between late fall and early winter. During this phase, the plants have stored energy that can be directed to establishing roots.

Before planting, prepare the cuttings by trimming leaves and lower buds, leaving only the top buds intact. This encourages root development and helps the cutting focus its energy on growing.

Once the cuttings have been prepped, it’s time to apply a rooting hormone. This step is not mandatory, but using a hormone can increase the chances of successful rooting. Dip the cut end of the cutting into the powder or liquid, tap off any excess, and plant it in the medium.

The planting medium should be well-draining and fertile. A mix of perlite and peat moss is ideal, as it retains moisture without becoming waterlogged. Plant the cutting about 1 inch deep and provide support by staking, if necessary.

While waiting for roots to develop, maintaining proper conditions is critical. Peony cuttings need a humid environment, so you can either cover them with plastic or mist them regularly. They should be placed in a location with bright, indirect light and kept at a consistent temperature of around 70°F (21°C).

Lastly, be aware that patience is key since peony cuttings can take a few months to develop roots. Monitor the cuttings by occasionally tugging very gently on the stem to check for resistance, which indicates root growth.

By following these tips and tricks, you can successfully grow beautiful peonies from cuttings. Remember to provide the proper care they need throughout the process, and soon enough, you’ll have a thriving peony plant to enjoy.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When growing peonies from cuttings, it is essential to avoid some common mistakes to ensure healthy and vibrant plants. In this section, we will discuss a few vital errors to avoid.

Firstly, selecting unhealthy cuttings can lead to unsuccessful growth. Ensure that you choose cuttings with at least three buds, free of any visible diseases or pests. Healthy cuttings will have a better chance of establishing roots and growing into a thriving plant.

Secondly, inadequate soil preparation can hinder peony growth. The soil must be well-draining, fertile, and slightly acidic with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Adding organic matter such as compost can improve soil quality. It is also crucial to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 18 inches to promote proper root growth.

Another common mistake is over-watering peonies. While it is essential to keep the soil moist during the initial weeks, over-watering can lead to root rot and other diseases. Using a moisture meter can help in determining the right amount of water for your cuttings.

Planting peonies too close together is another issue that gardeners often encounter. Peonies require sufficient space for root expansion and adequate sunlight to grow properly. Therefore, it is essential to plant peonies at least 3 to 4 feet apart.

Furthermore, peonies are sensitive to planting depth. When planting a cutting, make sure the buds are placed 1.5 to 2 inches beneath the soil surface. Planting too deeply can result in poor flowering or delayed growth.

Finally, it’s essential to avoid exposing the cuttings to extreme temperatures. Peonies need time to acclimate to their new environment. Providing a sheltered location with partial shade initially can help prevent transplant shock.


Growing peonies from cuttings is a rewarding gardening endeavor, resulting in beautiful and vibrant flowers. With proper care and attention, it’s possible to cultivate these stunning perennials successfully. The process requires patience, as it typically takes two to three years before peonies bloom. Nevertheless, this time investment is well worth it, considering the long-lasting beauty they bring to gardens.

To grow peonies from cuttings, gardeners should select healthy, mature stems with at least three buds to increase the chances of successful propagation. Preparing a well-draining, fertile soil mixture and an optimal environment conducive to growth is crucial in ensuring healthy root development.

Successful peony cuttings require proper care, such as regular watering and the application of fertilizer during the growth stages. Don’t forget to protect the plants from pests and diseases, which can hinder their development or even ruin the entire effort.

In summary, growing peonies from cuttings may be slightly more challenging than propagating other plants, but with diligent care, the outcome can be spectacular. A garden adorned with these captivating flowers is well worth the effort and serves as a satisfying reward for dedicated gardeners.