Peonies in a vase: pruning & cutting peonies


For me plants are some of the most exciting living beings, even though they live in slow motion. They have fascinating abilities and just so much potential! That's why I studied organic farming. However, since plants are rather thin on the ground in my city, I often spend time hiking in the nearby mountains at the weekend. In the future I would love to run a farm myself.

Favourite fruit: strawberries and gooseberries
Favourite vegetable: courgettes

Peonies from the garden are a favourite in any gardener’s vase. We show what to look for peonies in a vase.

soft salmon peonies in a vase
Follow these crucial steps when cutting peonies for your vase to keep them flourishing [Photo: Africa Studio/]

The idea is interesting and its implementation is simple: why not bring peony flowers (Paeonia) into your own home to enjoy them there as well as in the garden. In this article, we explain how peony requirements change as a cut flower in a vase.

Peonies for the vase

The window of opportunity for a common peony in a vase can be very short. After one day, the flower emerges from the bud, and after another three days the fallen petals cover the table. On the other hand, the lactiflora peonies and some modern hybrids boast a shelf life of 10 to 14 days. Popular cutting varieties also include several Paeonia lactiflora cultivars such as ‘Lady Alexandra Duff’ with its semi-double to double white-pink flowers, ‘Sarah Bernardt’ with a double bright pink flower, ‘Karl Rosenfield’ with a double crimson flower, ‘Madame Claude Tain’ with a double pure white flower, and ‘Jan van Leeuwen’ with an open white flower with a gold Japanese-style stamen wreath.

When to cut peonies for vases?

Peonies should grow for three to four years before the stems are cut for vases. Even at this stage, only two to three stems should be removed and no more than one-third of the shoots should be cut off. The reason is that peonies need their foliage for nutrition. The flower buds determine the exact time for cutting the stems. If they are still closed and green, they are better left alone. Cutting them off at this stage may result in the buds not opening at all. However, as soon as the buds have a strong colouration and begin to emerge, the promising harvest can begin and peonies cut for vases.

bunch of unopened peony buds
The best moment for cutting peonies is right before their colourful buds open [Photo: Fusionstudio/]

How deep to cut peonies for vases?

Peonies are placed in the vase with a stem about 20 cm long. Vases should not be too shallow because very short stems increase the risk of the flowers failing to bloom. It is also advisable to leave two to three leaves on the stem in addition to the flower bud so that the plant can still photosynthesise and the nutrient uptake from the vase fertiliser can run off.

Skilfully cut peonies

Any pruning work on the peony should be done at an angle and with a sharp knife or scissors. If frayed tissue is visible at the cut – which occurs with a blunt knife – clean the cut again just above it. The cut surfaces of the stems should be as slanted and as large as possible so that the peonies can absorb enough water.

Peonies in a vase: care and changing water

The stems of the peony are very sensitive to pressure, so it is recommended not to tie them. Long stems in a shallow vase will possibly snap and wilt from the weight of the flower. Therefore, a slightly taller vase is placed in a bright place with little drafts. The reason for this is that wind causes the plant’s transpiration moisture to swirl and be carried away more quickly, and in this case the peony expends more water to create new cooling transpiration moisture. In addition, peonies are very thirsty plants, so the water level should be checked and replaced at least every other day. Changing the water regularly is generally to prevent too much bacteria from forming in the water, which can affect the stems’ ability to absorb water.

vase of five hot pink peonies
Check the water level in the vase every other day [Photo: mahey/]

Tip: the right substrate is critical for your peonies to bloom beautifully. We recommend our peat-free Plantura Organic Flower Compost, which will provide your plants with optimal nutrition for lush blooms.