how to preserve peonies

This is the first year my peony bushes gave me a plethora of blooms. The peony bushes are three years old. After getting buds I went crazy trying to research how to care for peony blooms. I planted them for cut flowers, not for a garden look. After experimenting with this for the past few months, I’m sharing with you some great tips that have worked for me, along with a giant “oppsies” to help you avoid making the same mistake!

how long do peonies bloom

Peonies only bloom once a year. You get one shot at this. In Georgia we get our blooms in late March/early April depending on climate. For us they bloom once spring is on it’s cusp. Once they bloom they stay in shrub form until it’s time for them to either be cut back or die back on their own (we have the latter version.) The following year they will regrow from the ground up again and start over.

How to grow peony bushes
When to cut back peonies after blooming.
Peony bushes in full sun in Atlanta.

when to cut peonies for arrangements

This is where I made my giant oppsies. I cut many blooms much too early. When knowing how to cut peonies, you need to look for:

  1. The green outer leaf to be open revealing the colorful petals inside.
  2. Softness of the bloom. Squeeze it – if it’s hard as a rock it’s not ready yet. Wait until it’s a bit squishy. Some people say they should feel like marshmallows, but I’ve found that even if a little tougher than that level of softness they bloom beautifully.
  3. If it’s a fully green ball it’s nowhere near ready to cut.
  4. If it’s started to open then by all means, cut it! It will finish blooming in your arrangement!

Example of when not to cut a peony bloom. This was my major oppsies.

What not to do with peonies.

Example of peony but bud ready to be cut (or preferably a tiny bit larger than this!)

Growing peony bushes.

Dark pink peony blooms in flower arrangement.

how to cut peonies

Always cut on the diagonal. Don’t cut midway through a stem. Cut just above where another stem is forming. I like to cut mine 2/3 down the length of the stem to give me enough playroom for how I’ll arrange them. Keep a bucket of warm water nearby to place them in. Nearly all flowers like warm, tepid water, not cold. If you haven’t read my blog post on keeping cut hydrangea alive longer, please do because water temperature is very important for lasting hydrangea!

How to cut peony flowers and what not to do.
When to cut peonies.
Caring for peony bushes

Important: all of the above photos of cut peonies show how I cut 90% of them too early!

Learn from my mistakes! Can you look and see which ones I should have left to bloom more? Ugh. Lesson learned!

Create Beautiful Peony Bouquets

can you preserve peonies?

Yes! This has been my most favorite discovery! After watching this Martha Stewart video I was so intrigued so I began experimenting for four weeks with this. It works!

cutting peonies for later use

  1. Cut the peonies at the right time as described earlier, just as they are beginning to bloom.
  2. Do not cut them when they are wet – I found it best to cut at sunset on a dry day. Wipe away any ants on them (don’t worry about ants – they won’t hurt your peonies. Please don’t kill them off – let nature do it’s thing!)
  3. Group blooms in vases with a little bit of water and put in your refrigerator.
  4. Pull out blooms as desired for arrangements, cutting them for the vase, giving them some warm water and watch them open up!
  5. The Martha video says you can store these for up to six months!
  6. Mine have been in my refridgerator like this for nearly 5 weeks and I’ve been pulling them out a little at a time to keep fresh blooms around our home!
How to store peonies. Keeping peony blooms for flower arrangements.
Keeping peonies in the refrigerator and tips to keep peonies alive longer.
When do peonies bloom and how to cut them.

when to cut peonies for arrangements

After pulling your peonies out of the refrigerator it will take around 2 days for them to fully bloom. So if you’re having guests over, create your arrangement, put them in tepid water and give them a few days in a warm room to begin to open. The blooms should stay beautiful at least 5-7 days! I find that a little peonies go a long way. I’ve been using groupings of three to have small, pretty fresh floral arrangements scattered throughout our home.

This is an arrangement that’s transforming from fresh out of the refrigerator to slowly opening. Beautiful!

Soft pink peony blooms in Waterford Vase. How to cut peony blooms.
Pink Peonies bouquet in home of bluegraygal lifestyle blogger, Kelly Page.

what’s next

Next year I’ll have learned from my mistake and won’t cut my blooms too early. I had over six dozen cut flowers, and most of them are unusable. Giant mistake! If you’re careful about when you cut, you can preserve them in your refrigerator for several months and extend the life of these gorgeous flowers for arrangements around your home! They also make a lovely gift for a teacher for host!

Also, if you see peony blooms on sale at a grocery store, snag them! Put them in your refrigerator to save! These gorgeous beauties only bless us once a year so capitalize on them!

If you have any tips, please share! These are new flowers for me and would love to hear any insights you have!

Beautiful Vases for Peonies (I prefer Use Faux for All Year Long Peonies!



  1. Avatar
    Shannon Valentine
    June 16, 2018 / 7:28 am

    Wow Kelly! I have never had success with peonies in GA. I have found three years is the magic number for plants to really show off and thrive. What I’d like to know is, how many plants gave you that many blooms? Where do you have them planted? Are they protected? Do you cover them for frost warnings? Do the bunnies like them?

    • Avatar
      November 15, 2018 / 2:22 am

      Hi Shannon: I’m up here in southern Ontario. We can sometimes have very mild Winters with very little snow (wore my boots twice one particular Winter) and have hot, humid Summers ranging from say, 87F to 93F. This past Summer was very uncomfortable with a few days reaching 100F. I had a gorgeous bed of peonies at my last house (now in a condo); I never covered them and rabbits leave them alone. In the Fall, the rule of thumb is … when the stalks have turned brownish and look half dead, cut the stalks down to about 4” and leave them alone, no Winter covering, it’s not necessary. They come up every Spring, healthy and ready to bloom again. If you forget to cut them back in the Fall, it doesn’t seem to matter. I forgot a few times and still had masses of beautiful blooms. I hope this helps answer your question.

  2. Avatar
    Kathie Irwin
    June 17, 2018 / 1:49 am

    We all learn as we go along, right? We have a team of gardeners who are learning to love on people through the good times (celebrations of love) and the tough times (those going through chemo, grief, loss of various types). We grow the flowers, then assemble them individually and as a team and have found that we are filled with joy as we offer the beauty that God has given us to assemble!

Please share your thoughts!

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