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They are imperishably beautiful and want to be left alone. These associations have flanked peonies for generations. As a result, home gardeners shy away from multiplying the floral jewels. In fact, there are several methods to choose from for breeding peonies. These instructions explain in detail how to successfully propagate perennial peonies and tree peonies. Practice-oriented information on division, cuttings and seeds with useful tips on timing and procedures show how to do it right.

Division only in old age

Division only at an advanced age

When you divide a Paeonia largely determines the result. Give your peonies a window of at least 5 years so that they can establish themselves undisturbed at the location. Only then can the opulent flower beauties cope with the stress of a division.

This applies to a herbaceous farmer peony as well as to the majestic tree peony. Autumn has proved to be the best season in practice. Please use sharp tools that you have previously disinfected with high-proof alcohol.

How to do it right:

  • dig up the rootstock extensively
  • place on a stable surface
  • divide with a spade, scissors or saw
  • each segment has at least 2 eyes (buds)
  • Dust cuts with rock flour or charcoal ash
Paeonia mascula, coral peony

For each section, dig a planting pit in a sunny location. Add some mature compost or horn shavings to the excavation to promote rooting. Please make sure that the previous planting depth is maintained as precisely as possible. Finally, water the peonies generously. You can make your work easier on perennial Paeonia by first cutting the plants back to 5 cm. You can use this opportunity to remove deadwood from shrub peonies and thin them out thoroughly.

cuttings propagation

Instructions for the propagation of cuttings

Thanks to their woody shoots, tree peonies are perfectly suited to vegetative propagation using cuttings. The Chinese ornamental tree bears its magnificent blossoms from April to June. If the plant is in full bloom at the end of its flowering period, this is the ideal time to take cuttings.

Proceed professionally in these steps:

  • cut semi-lignified, non-flowering head cuttings with a length of 10-15 cm
  • Pluck off the lower leaves and dip the cutting edge in rooting powder
  • Place the cuttings individually two-thirds into pots with peat sand or potting soil and water them
  • provided each pot with a transparent hood
  • Use wooden sticks as spacers to prevent contact between the cover and the cutting
  • keep constantly slightly moist in a partially shaded, warm window seat
  • air the cover daily to prevent mold and rot

Greenhouse conditions give the best chance of rapid rooting. Nevertheless, it can take several months before a fresh shoot signals the successful course of root growth. The hood can then be removed. Once a young Paeonia has completely rooted its pot, it can be planted out in spring or autumn in a sunny spot.

Paeonia suffruticosa, tree, shrub peony

Breeding requires patience

Growing from seeds requires patience

The horticultural bar is set high for successfully growing peonies from seed. A peony seed can only be encouraged to germinate if it has gone through a cold spell. Seedlings then take it easy with growth, so that it takes 5 years and more until the first flower appears.

The effort is rewarded with a whole host of new peonies, which can surprise you with unexpected colors and shapes when they first bloom. In contrast to vegetative propagation by division or cuttings, no reliable prognosis can be made for the result of generative breeding of Paeonia by sowing. The individual phases of an exemplary sowing are examined in more detail below.

Best time

When is the best time?

Under normal weather conditions, the follicles on a faded Paeonia are bulging with ripe seeds from mid-September. This applies to almost all perennial peonies and tree peonies. Only the intersectional hybrids, such as Itoh peonies, are sterile and do not provide germinable seeds. The fresher a seed, the easier it is to germinate. It is therefore advisable to start sowing immediately after the seed harvest.

Paeonia officinalis, Peony


Stratification made easy

Mother Nature has endowed the embryos of peonies with an inhibitor of germination within the seed coat. A single seed remains on standby until an 8- to 12-week cold spell signaled that winter was over. This strategy will prevent Paeonia from germinating and freezing to death in the midst of the cold season. In order to grow peonies under controlled conditions, the seed is exposed to simulated winter weather and only then sown.

This procedure is called stratification in technical jargon and is implemented as follows:

  • pluck the spherical, black seeds from the open follicles of perennial or tree peonies
  • clean thoroughly under running water
  • Soak in lukewarm chamomile tea for 24-36 hours
  • Place in a plastic bag with damp sand and seal tightly
  • keep for 4-6 weeks in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator at 0 to +4 degrees Celsius
  • weekly check the moisture content of the sand

The sand should not dry out completely during the cold period, but should remain slightly moist. The seed must not freeze either, because a peony embryo does not survive temperatures well below 0 degrees Celsius.


Once the seeds have completed the stratification process, sowing leads to the procedure for normal germs. It should be noted that the seeds of peonies are gradually accustomed to higher temperatures.

That is how it goes:

  • fill small pots or a seed tray with seed soil
  • put the germinating seeds 1 to 2 cm deep into the substrate
  • Sieve thinly with sand or vermiculite and spray with water
  • set up for 8 to 10 days in a semi-shady location at 12 degrees Celsius
  • then increase the temperature to 20 to 23 degrees Celsius
  • Spray the substrate regularly with room-warm water
  • do not apply fertilizer

Measuring the moisture content in the substrate requires a sure instinct. Since the Paeonia seedlings still have to develop their roots, they are constantly threatened by drought stress. On the other hand, excess moisture triggers mold and rot. By creating drainage in the seed tray or in the seed pot on the bottom with expanded clay balls, waterlogging is effectively avoided in this delicate phase.

Paeonia officinalis, Peony

Since the growth of cotyledons and first true leaves extends over the dark and cold season, we recommend compensating for the lack of light with plant lamps. If you grow peonies on the windowsill, the seedlings are well protected from cold drafts in a heated greenhouse.

Prick out and repot

Prick out and repot - this is how it works

If sowing proceeds as expected, sooner or later the seed pot will become tight. After the two cotyledons have developed, the first true leaves sprout. If the peony seedlings have 3 to 4 pairs of leaves, they are strong enough to be transplanted into individual pots.

How to separate perennial or tree peonies correctly:

  • 12 cm or 13 cm transplanting pots made of stable, UV-resistant plastic are well suited
  • lay a 1 to 2 cm thick drainage made of expanded clay or potsherds over the water outlet
  • Fill in a first layer of pricking soil or potting soil thinned with sand
  • Lift the seedling out of the seed container with a spoon or pricking stick
  • plant in the center of the pricking soil while maintaining the previous planting depth
  • Press the substrate lightly with the pricking stick for a good ground contact

Water the little peonies a little and leave them in a warm, partially shaded window seat for 8 days to regenerate. Once the young plants have acclimatized well, they take a sunny spot. After about 6 weeks, the nutrient reserves in the pricking soil are used up.

Paeonia officinalis, Peony

From this point on, the nutrient supply begins by administering a liquid fertilizer at half the concentration every 4 weeks. When you plant a home-grown Paeonia depends on the progress of growth. As can be seen from experience in the home garden, peonies can cope with outdoor conditions within 2 to 3 years.

direct sowing

Direct sowing is subject to numerous imponderables

In view of the long time it takes to germinate and the expansive habit of growing Paeonia, there is not always enough space available. In order to breed more young plants than you can get from dividing or cuttings, direct sowing comes into focus.

Alternatively, just give nature free rein and leave some of the wilted blooms intact. The resulting pods burst open in the fall and disperse the seeds throughout the garden. Within 5 to 7 years, new perennials and peonies will thrive where the seed fell.

To sow them in a targeted manner, proceed as follows:

  • Thoroughly weed and rake the nutrient-rich, fresh soil in a sunny location in September
  • Dig 10 to 15 cm deep holes at a distance of 60 cm for perennial peonies and 100 cm for tree peonies
  • place a vole basket in each plant pit and fill it with loose substrate
  • Stick 1 to 2 seeds seed-thick into the soil and sieve thinly
  • moisten with a fine shower and protect against bird damage with a close-meshed net
Paeonia officinalis, Peony

In the context of direct sowing, the seeds experience the necessary cold stimulus to overcome the germination inhibition in a natural way. Spread a layer of leaves over the bed throughout the winter to protect against the biting frost and too much moisture.

When the seed decides to germinate depends on the local light, temperature and soil conditions. Until then, don't let the soil dry out and consistently pull out any weeds. Despite loving care, a failure rate of more than 50 percent can be expected.

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