Cutting flowers yourself from your garden peonies

Optimal moment to cut flowers from (peony) plants is early in the morning, while the crop is still cool and activity is low. Leave at least 2 to 3 leaves on each stem, and never cut more than 75% of the total amount of stems per plant. Always use a very sharp knife or scissor in order to leave the cleanest wound behind on as well the harvested, as the remaining stem.


The right cut stage

The optimal cut stage of development of the buds is hard to describe in words. For most varieties the flowers are ready to be harvested when the bud feels 'as soft as a marshmallow'. Feeling the bud is best done by placing your pointing and middle finger underneath the bud, and pressing it gently in the top center with your thumb of the same hand to feel softness (see image on the left).

Flowers of single varieties are ready to be cut a bit sooner in general, so when the bud is still a bit harder. A general rule of thumb is: The more flower petals a flower has, the softer the bud should feel at its right cutstage.

Experience is the very best teacher in this, especially because every variety is so different. The practiced person will discover a minimal change in bud shape and/or color difference/intensity of the bud when it has reached the ideal cut stage.

Too early harvested peony flowers do not open. These prematurely picked flowers are known in Holland among growers as 'drumsticks'... Please also pay close attention to this when you buy peony flowers from a grower, at the market or in the shop!


Peonies in the vase

Always make sure you use clean vases, this means cleaned with chlorine and rinsed with water several times afterwards. Bacteria can seriously harm vase life because they can settle and grow in the vascular system of stems. The vascular bundles can get blocked by this: bad water uptake, and in the worst case no water uptake at all.

By adding a sachet of cut flowerfood to the water, the vase life will be further optimized. For peonies the nutrients in these sachets are not so important, but the substances in these sachets that inhibit bacterial growth are very important. An alternative for a sachet of cut flowerfood is refreshing the vase water daily.

When your flowers are not cut from the plant only minutes before, but e.g. you bought them at the florist, always cut off the bottom few centimeters of the stems. This piece of stem can be dried out or filled with bacteria - both scenarios will seriously decrease water uptake. Cutting the bottom bit of stems under water will prevent airbubbles to enter the vascular system of the stems which could also badly influence water uptake.

Then remove all leaves from the stems that would end up below waterlevel in the vase, doing so will prevent dirty water as well. Finally, never place a vase of flowers in direct sunlight or in a drafty location (e.g. near open or much opening doors).

Whether you have harvested your own peony flowers, or when you have purchased a bunch at a florist; when you have taken foregoing tips into account your peony flowers should always have a minimal vase life of at least 6 or 7 days.