Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013 How to Deadhead an Herbaceous Peony

Peony with Spent Blooms

After your herbaceous peonies have finished blooming, you can deadhead them (remove their spent blooms). There are several purposes of this. Firstly, it keeps the plants looking neat and tidy. The dried brown flower petals and sepals aren't very attractive hanging on the plant. Secondly, it prevents the spread of disease. The petals of peonies are perfect hosts for fungi to grow. If left on the plants, they absorb and hold moisture and warmth very well, making a perfect home for a fungus. Thirdly, it allows the peony to divert its energy towards creating a larger root instead of developing seed pods and seeds (unless you want to grow a peony from seed). With a larger root, the peony can develop into a larger plant the next growing season.

Brown Peony Petals and Sepals

When pruning the peony plant to remove the dead blossoms, the plant should only be cut back to just above the next leaf node. Take your pruners and follow the stem from the top near the bloom or bloom cluster down to just above the next leaf nodule. This is the point where the peony should be cut back. Use pruners that have been disinfected to make a clean cut at this point. You can use rubbing alcohol or vinegar to disinfect your clippers between cuts. I usually keep a small, lidded, plastic container filled with one of these biodegradable disinfectants to dip my clippers in while pruning.

Prune Peony Right Above the Next Leaf Nodule

Since peonies do not continuously produce new foliage growth, as much of the foliage should be preserved as possible. The leaves of the peony plant are needed to generate energy for storage in the peony's underground tuber. The plant will use this stored energy to regenerate itself the next year. Sometimes I will prune the plant back a little further than the next leaf nodule if I find a stem that has been severely affected by disease. This is identifiable by black spots on the stems or leaves, wilting, and/or leaves or stems that have turned totally black. If you find a stem like this prune that stem back to the next healthy leaf nodule. If the entire stem has been affected and turned black, remove the entire stem, and be sure to bag it for garbage collection.

That's it. If your peony was newly planted last fall, you should water it during any summer dry spells to help it survive its first year. Now your peonies are ready to collect as much energy as possible until the weather gets cool and the foliage goes dormant! At which point you'll need to learn How to Cut Back an Herbaceous Peony. That's why I love peonies, they are relatively carefree and deer do not eat them! :-)

Neat & Tidy Deadheaded Peony

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