Treasured for their sumptuous, lush blooms and lovely floral fragrance, peonies are considered aristocrats of perennial flowers. But did you know growing peonies from seeds, while slower initially, ultimately costs less than buying plants and yields greater plant diversity suited to your garden over time? Let’s get growing!
Gathering Ripe Peony Seeds
Start with harvesting ripe seeds from existing healthy plants post-bloom. Follow steps below:
- Choose disease-free plants propagating unique or heirloom strains you wish to replicate like fragrant double blooms, exotic coloring or forms etc. Select fully open dried seed pods.
- Snip off entire faded flower heads bearing the ripe round pods. Drop into bags labeled by plant if collecting from several varieties. Air dry indoors further.
- When pods split partly, carefully pry shells fully open by hand. Extract round black seeds and discard chaff. Tiny seeds resemble black peppercorns speckled sometimes.
- Place seeds in a bowl and add water allowing any non-viable ones to float up for easy removal. Viable seeds sink.
- Dry washed seeds on paper overnight before transferring into labeled envelopes for storage in air-tight containers under cool dark conditions. Refrigeration aids longevity too.
Stratifying Peony Seeds
Fresh peony seeds undergo ‘embryonic dormancy’ failing to sprout readily needing special treatment for prompt germination later. This process called ‘stratification’ exposes seeds to warm and cold phases.
Follow steps below:
Prepare moist chilling medium like sand, peat or vermiculite. Place seeds between damp paper towels or cheesecloth then put bundles into chosen medium held in containers.
Store sealed containers with labels (8-12 weeks for tree peonies; 15-18 weeks for herbaceous ones) in refrigerator maintained at 34-40°F letting seeds experience optimal cold treatment.
Remove stratified seeds showing slight swelling after completed chrono-periods. Rinse if needed and dry overnight. Plant seeds ASAP before secondary dormancy sets in.
Sowing Stratified Peony Seeds
Adequate seed prep done, it’s now time to sow them! Follow tips below:
Site and Bed Preparation
Select a permanent sunny spot with well-drained yet moisture retentive fertile garden soil.
Prepare planting beds 12-18 inches deep, mixing composted manure. Create raised rows/ridges to improve drainage if needed.
Take a soil test for optimal pH between 6.5 to 7.5. Incorporate organic material and balanced fertilizers as required for vibrant peonies later.
Direct Seed Planting
Sow prepped peony seeds in prepared garden beds before last frost date when soil temperature exceeds 60°F, usually September-October (Spring in warmer zones).
Drill seeds 1 inch deep spaced 18 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. Gently firm soil over seeds and water thoroughly.
Alternatively, first sprout stratified seeds in trays. Transplant young seedlings into garden beds in early fall at 4-6 leaf stage spacing them 18 inches apart in rows.
Install wire mesh guards 2 feet diameter and 1 foot tall around plants to protect emerging shoots from animal damage.
Apply 2-3 inch clean organic mulch avoiding contact with stems.
Keep beds moist until strong autumn frosts. Overwinter plants under insulation blankets or leaves for protection in very cold zones.
Next spring, remove coverings after last frost once vigorous growth resumes. Apply general spring feeding and top dress mulch ensuring steady moisture.
As juvenile plants establish over next 2-3 years before flowering, keep areas weed-free not disturbing roots. Be very patient!
See also : When to plant Lenten rose ?
Seed-Grown Peonies Payback
Raising peonies from seeds definitely requires time, care and patience initially. But the pleasure of watching own plants flourish over the years yielding incredibly beautiful, sometimes rare blooms making this priceless process completely worthwhile!