How to Grow Peonies from Seed
Do you have difficulties growing peonies from seed? Despair no longer...help is on the way!
Growing peonies from seed is as easy as growing carrots, except it takes a little longer, (about 3-5 years). The results, however, are far more satisfying.
There are two approaches which we have found will have good success.
In late summer / early fall we collect seed pods from many different cultivars. These are strictly open pollinated seeds, so the variety is huge. Simply leave the pods in an open container to dry, and then remove the seeds. The pods will start to crack as the seeds ripen.
One has the option of planting the ripe seeds outdoors or indoors.
Use the seeds as soon as they are properly ripened. Prepare a nursery bed area somewhere in your garden area. Simply plant the peony seeds much as you would beans. Insert a marker label to delineate the area.
Most seeds should make a shoot in the coming spring/summer months.
The outdoor planting in early fall gives the seeds their obligatory warm moist treatment, the cold treatment of winter followed by the warming of spring. This sequence is the one mimicked by the indoor treatment.
About the beginning of October fill 4-6 inch pots with moist potting soil. Plant the seeds ~4 cm. apart and ~ 2-21/2 cm. deep. If you wish you may spray the soil with a fungicide (such as ‘No-damp’) or treat the seeds with a bit of ‘bulb’ dust. Rotting is not usually a problem.
Place the pots in plastic food-storage bags. Tie with a twist tie and place in a warm place (~ 20 deg.C ), leave for about 3 months. During this period the radicle and also a root system will develop. Soil can be carefully removed for periodic inspection without harming the little plants. Simply replace soil and place back in the bags.
When radicles and roots are sufficiently developed place the pots in a cold spot (just above freezing). That old fridge in the basement is marvelous for this purpose! Leave in the cold for 2/3/4/months...until SPRING!
Select a spot in the garden for a nursery bed. Carefully knock the soil and seedlings out of the pot (keep intact as much as possible) and plant at the same depth as in the pot. Insert a plant marker with the seedling information. Keep planting area moist (mulch). Throughout the summer you will see the first leaves appear. Some seedlings may not put forth leaves until next spring…be patient. Leave the little plants over winter (a further layer of mulch will help them overwinter without heaving) until Aug-Sept the following year. Transplant at this time to about 1 foot apart and at the same depth as the plant was growing. The little peony roots look a bit like carrots with coarse roots.
With a bit of luck (and good management) you can have a few blooms the following year (3rd year). You can expect to have plenty of blooms in year 4 and 5.
What a pleasure... what a thrill and what
satisfaction to see the first peony flower from your own plants! Flowers no one
in this whole wide world has seen before!