Grow peonies from seed

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!

If you are interested in collecting seeds from your peony, wait until the pods are truly ripe. They turn brown and leathery and begin to split open when it’s time to collect the pods.

Break the pods open, drop the seeds into a glass, then fill the glass halfway with water. If the seeds float, they are sterile and won’t grow, so skim them off and throw them away. Drain the water from the rest of the seeds and put them into a plastic zip-top bag that’s filled about halfway with vermiculite or soilless potting mixture. Moisten the mix with a little water, but don’t add so much water that you can see it in the bottom of the bag. Mix the seeds and vermiculite together and seal the bag.

Put the bag in a spot that’s at average room temperature (65-80ºF) and check the bag weekly to see if roots have begun to spot. This can take a few months to happen so be patient.

Once the seeds have sprouted, put the bag into the refrigerator vegetable drawer for three months. This chilling process is necessary and mimics what happens in mature. After the seeds have been chilled, they are ready to plant.

Your period of patience is not over, because it can take five years or even longer to get the peony to bloom. Be aware that it won’t look like it’s original parent plant, but you may discover a brand new peony variety, and you can get some very interesting color variations.

You may remember reading my blog last June when I showed you photos of my incredible tree peony blossoms. Unlike herbaceous peonies, which die back to the ground every fall, tree peonies are woody-stemmed shrubs that produce large and elegant flowers. I have always loved tree peonies and have a long border planted in the semi-shade of giant maples in varying shades of lavenders and pinks. Many of these specimens were transplanted from my Turkey Hill garden and miraculously, they survived the move extremely well.

This fall, my gardeners and I decided to try a little experiment and grow tree peonies from seed. That sounds easy but the process takes time (about three – five years) and the steps are kind of involved. For example, once the seeds are planted, the containers are placed in sealed plastic bags and set in a warm location, where the plants will begin to grow after about three months. After that happens, the plants are moved to a cold spot, like a refrigerator, where they will rest until spring, when it’s warm enough to plant them in the ground. Then, it’s nurture, nurture, nurture……..when, after four or five years, the plants should begin to produce gorgeous blooms. Oh, I can’t wait!

Here’s an exceptional source for tree peonies:
Klehm’s Song Sparrow


Picture 1 of 14

I love my curving border of tree peonies.

Posted in: Miscellaneous

You may wonder about growing peonies from seeds. This can be tempting to try when you notice the pods that some types develop after flowering.

If you want to propagate from seed, the fact is that with peonies it’s a long-term project. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Popular cultivars don’t come true from seed.
  • Many peonies – generally, the big double ones – are infertile (they don’t produce pollen or seeds).
  • Patience is required. From seed it can take five to seven years to produce a mature flower.

How to grow peonies from seeds

Unripe peony seed pods
Photo :© Yvonne Cunnington

Sometimes novice gardeners mistake the seed pods for seeds (or even bulbs), and wonder if they can cut the pods off and stick them into the ground.

But starting these perennials from seed is a lot more involved than that.

Here’s what to do:

When you find seed pods, leave them on the plants to ripen.

Wait until they harden and begin to open, and you’ll see the seeds. This is the time to collect them.

Ripe peony seed pod
Photo: Flickr glaciergirl

To germinate, the seeds need a period of moist warmth for a few weeks or months, and once a root has emerged, they need a period of cold for about 10 to 12 weeks.

Quebec peony grower, Lindsay D’Aoust, provides detailed instructions for growing these plants from seeds (link opens in a new browser window).

Of course, if you’re not interested in collecting seeds, simply deadhead the plant after blooming, so it will put its energy into the roots, and not into seed production.

Sharing is caring!

Peonies forum: How To Germinate Peony Seeds Indoors

Easiest way: Plant outdoors as soon as they ripen. If seeds are obtained in the fall or winter, you may plant them in the spring. Some peonies will emerge the spring after planting, some will take an additional year to germinate.
The information is a combination of my own experience, information obtained from an article by Don Hollingsworth that was published in a Bulletin of The American Peony Society and information from both Nate Bremer of Solaris Farms and Harvey Buchite of Hidden Springs Flower Farm.
*Soak the seed in water for several days (I usually do anywhere from 5-8 days), change the water once or twice a day to ensure freshness. You will hydrate the seed and possibly help remove germination inhibitors. Discard any seed that becomes mushy or moldy during this process.
*Place the seeds in a plastic bag, (Ziplock freezer quart bags work well for a few seeds, gallon size for more)with slightly moist vermiculite, peat moss or seed starting mix that is soil free) Close bag tightly.
*Place seed bag in warm area. 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is optimal. At room temperature, incubation will take much longer and will not be uniform. Places I have found success are the top of my water heater or laying in next to the hot water pipe coming from the water heater. I have also had success using a seedling heat mat. Using a thermometer and having an exact measure of temperature is very helpful.
*Check on your seeds every two weeks, check for moisture in the bags and seed condition. You may not notice any change in the seeds during incubation period. Normally this stage takes three months.
*After the incubation period is complete, move the bag to a cool location between 45-60 degrees Farenheit. Optimal temperatures are important. Too cool may lengthen the time it takes for roots to form, too hot may inhibit them from forming at all. Roots will start to appear in a few weeks and may grow 6 or more inches in length. You will be happy when you see these!
*After roots have formed, move the seeds to temperatures nearing 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit. I have used my refrigerator veggie crisper drawer to maintain this temperature. This step overcomes leaf dormancy. If your temperatures are cooler, this will happen at a slower rate (again, thermometers are really helpful). Once the leaf emerges, you can either pot them up in pots deep enough to accommodate the root or plant outside. I tend to pot up first and place under a shade tree to help harden off for two weeks, before planting out, Bill Seidl shared that tip with me. If growing in pots, be sure to keep evenly moist, never wet because it will cause rotting.
* The first season your new peony may produce a single leaf. Providing fertile, well drained soil, keeping them evenly watered (not too wet though, they hate wet feet) and protected from hot sun will keep your seedling happy. In late fall, in cold climates, mulching your seedlings will protect them. Most seedlings will bloom in 3-5 years, some tree peonies can take a year or two longer than that. Your patience will be rewarded.

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Brooks Gardens Peonies

If you didn’t deadhead in June, you will likely find peony seed pods on some of your varieties. I often receive questions about ‘what those hard, leathery growths are’ on the ends of peony stems.

Most folks are pleased to hear that they are seed pods and might actually be fertile. Yes, you can grow peonies from seed. It takes a few years longer to get a mature peony plant from seed than from a root division.

Some prolific peony seed producers include Blitz Tort, Delavan Rose, Flame, Mischief, Lemon Chiffon, Lois Kelsey, Nosegay, Picotee, Topeka Garnet, Villosa and White Sands. Sometimes I leave a few spent flowers on particular varieties when I’m dead heading, to produce open pollinated seed in late summer. Other times I leave a few on varieties that never or rarely produce pods – just in case ‘this is the year’.

It’s a bit early to think about ripe peony seed in July…..but, we’re a couple of weeks ahead of average weather in Oregon. We had an early spring and the crops are all keeping that full speed ahead pace this summer. I noticed some cracked-open seed pods on quite a few Paeonia mlokosewitschii over two weeks ago.

As I scouted the peony seed pods in the field, I saw quite a few that are already opening. Yikes! Nosegay seed are already scattered. This is far ahead of the usual mid-late August seed ripening. Most seed is still developing (green pods); but do keep an eye out to catch the pods starting to crack open and then harvest your seed.

I put mine in a bowl of water, discard the non-viable seed (red on P. mlokosewitschii) and the floaters (likely hollow or underdeveloped) and plant or pot up the sinkers. Each peony variety that produces seed will have slightly different colored viable seed ranging from tan, dark brown, blue-black to black. Some will sprout next spring and some the following spring. Be sure to label the seed parent (and the pollen parent if you hybridized it). With a bit of patience, you may grow the next, best peony plant.

It’s all in the family with our peony seed photo shoot his summer – I grabbed a handmade ceramic vase to put a few pods in and my niece Soraya shot the great photos.

While I knew the vase was made by my sister Janet in 1973 high school ceramics class, it was pure coincidence that it was on her birthday when we did the photo shoot (I never even made the connection until I was typing this). While Janet has only seen my farm from heaven, I know she loves being a part of it.

Whether floral, Itoh or tree type, peony flowers constantly include an elegant, timeless touch to blossom. Hardy in areas 3-8, peonies are quite hard seasonal or woody landscape plants. Throughout background, peonies have actually been grown for selection of usages. Today, they are primarily expanded for their charming, yet often brief flowers. After their flowers discolor, blossom stalks are normally cut down as well as plants are trimmed to a smaller sized, rounded form.

Peonies develop intriguing, collections of wedge-like grey to brownish seed sheathings, covered when young with a mild fuzz. As they develop, the seed sheathings transform dark brownish as well as tough, and also as they ripen, the seed sheathings fracture open, exposing dark purple to black glossy seeds. They can include rate of interest to the yard as well as enable you to gather seeds for peony breeding. Continue analysis for pointers on gathering peony seeds.

Harvesting Peony Seed Pods

When expanded from seed, peony plants will certainly not develop right into real kinds. Kinds of nonsexual breeding, such as cuttings or divisions, are the only method to generate real duplicates of peony cultivars. You may, nevertheless, generate distinct blossom variants by proliferating peonies from accumulated seed. Floral perennials are slow-moving to develop, taking 5-6 years to generate. When expanded from seed, tree as well as Itoh peonies will certainly develop much quicker.

So when should you get rid of peony seed sheathings? Peony seed hull harvest is executed in autumn. They ought to be accumulated when the seed sheathings transform dark brownish as well as tough, as well as somewhat fracture open. To make certain that you do not shed seed to birds, little animals or pressures of nature, connection nylon or little mesh bags around developing seed sheathings prior to they divided open. After gathering peony seeds, put them in a dish of water to examine their stability. Advances are clean and sterile as well as ought to be disposed of. The feasible seeds that sink ought to be washed with 10% bleach.

What to Do with Peony Seed Pods

Harvested peony seeds can be grown quickly, straight in the yard or inside in seedling pots or trays. Peony plants need a cycle of warmth-cold-cold in order to generate their initial real fallen leaves.

In nature, seeds are spread on cozy late summertime to fall days as well as swiftly sprout. By winter months, they develop little, yet ideal, origins. They exist inactive with winter months after that ruptured forth as springtime heats the dirt. To simulate this all-natural cycle, peony seed trays or pots can be positioned in a cabinet in the fridge for regarding 3 months, after that positioned in a cozy, bright place.

Another space-saving technique of peony plant breeding is to put gathered peony seeds in a plastic sandwich bag with damp vermiculite as well as peat. Maintain the bag shut as well as put it in a dark place with a typical temperature level of 70-75F. (21-24C.) till origins start to develop guaranteed. Put the bag in the fridge’s crisper till plants can be grown outdoors in the springtime.

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