Wednesday, November 11, 2015

2015 Peony Experiments - Intersectional Stems

With the success of my peony experiment planting intersectional peonies with little to no stem attached (2012 Peony Experiments - Intersectional Divisions / 2013 Peony Experiments - Intersectional Divisions Grow), I decided to try another experiment this year planting intersectional peony stem pieces only. I want to see if intentionally planting only the intersectional peony stems will grow a new intersectional peony. I'm sure this would be a much slower method of propagation, since they would have no roots and would have to develop their entire root system and then grow large enough to bloom.

Yellow Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella' Stems

Even if this does work, I'm not sure it would work for every intersectional peony variety. For this experiment, I am using the same peony variety that I used in my 2012/2013 experiment - Peony 'Bartzella'. After cutting back a peony I planned to divide, I saved any of the stems that contained pink growth buds. Stems without these growth buds probably do not have much chance of growing. So I reserved only those stems that had a visible pink growth bud. Also I made sure that the stems were long enough to include at least two of these growth buds, and even three if there were three growth buds present on one stem.

Small Trench Dug in Peony Test Bed

For this experiment, I have 10 nice looking intersectional peony stems, 7 stems with 2 growth buds and 3 stems with 3 growth buds. First I dug a small trench in my peony test bed. I laid the shorter, 2 growth bud stems diagonally in the trench and covered them with dirt. I planted the three taller, 3 growth bud stems vertically with one section of the stems sticking out of the ground. I intentionally planted these two different ways to see if one way roots better than the other. I did not use any growth hormone or fertilizers on these intersectional peony stems. I plan to let Mother Nature work her magic on these, and we'll see what she comes up with in the spring.
2 Growth Bud Intersectional Peony Stems Planted Horizontally
2 Growth Bud Intersectional Peony Stems Covered With Soil

3 Growth Bud Intersectional Peony Stems Planted Vertically


  1. Good morning Adriana! I just re-found an old website that had some really cool articles written for the APS bulletin around 10 years ago and one of them talks about grafting this type of stem just like grafting tree peonies. I thought of your experiment when I saw the article. It also links back to an old website that is inactive but has some amazing Itoh pics. Here's a link to the article:
    So looking forward to the results of your experiment, I'd love to be able to do something with those otherwise wasted buds!

    1. Liz,

      Me too! Thanks for sending me this article. I know who wrote this! I just met Don at last year's convention. If these experiments do not work, I might have to give grafting a try. It doesn't sound too hard. Also I have some other ideas for getting the plant to root if au naturale doesn't work. :-)


  2. Adriana,

    Hopefully you are finding some new growth as a result of this experiment !

    Back in the late 90's, when I was helping out at Caprice in the fall, we tried this very same thing when Bartzella was the wonder of the moment, and everyone was doing all they could to increase stock. I was shown some eyed green stem sections that had been wrapped in damp paper towels for a few weeks, and I'll never forget the astonishment I felt when seeing that the vast majority of them were sending out new white roots. These roots were emerging not from the nodes, but randomly from the surface of the stems themselves in the area between the nodes. With this sort of encouragement, I was given the task of planting a batch of freshly trimmed eyed stem sections directly in the ground. These were not the woody pink-budded clippings that one might normally think of choosing, but rather green stems from the current year's above-ground growth. The whole endeavor seemed so unlikely, since one would certainly not expect much if they were carrying out the same sort of experiment with any of the tree peonies, and yet once spring rolled around, rather than simply having rotted in the ground, somewhere around 50% of these stem sections were sending up small new green leaves.

    This result was our secret for quite, and even to this day I suspect that only a handful of people are aware of the fact that at least some intersectionals will respond in this manner.

    In the long run, propagation by division will probably always be the best approach for commercial growers, but for home gardeners, and simply for the amazement of the thing, it really is worth experimenting with this unorthodox propagation method.

    Bob Johnson

    1. Bob,

      I haven't seen anything come up yet, but I'm still looking. Not everything has pushed up yet, and usually these types of things are the last to sprout. We are getting a good rain right now. So I'm sure that will jump start all of my peonies! I'll keep you posted!