How to open peonies fast – the quickest way to force buds open, including using a banana

Opulent peonies are the beauty queens of the plant world – they'll bring romance to your plot and your home

Coral Charm Peonies, Peony style tips
(Image credit: Larry Walshe)

Stunning beauties, resilient and long-lived, peonies deserve a place in every home. There's nothing quite like a herbaceous peony when it comes to sumptuous blooms, silken petals, and sweet but subtle fragrances.

For crucial events like weddings (peonies are one of the top flowers of choice for bridal bouquets), having a few tricks on hand to ensure your peonies bloom on time for the big day can be essential. Peonies that aren’t blooming can be a huge disappointment. Their voluptuous colorful blooms make for a spectacular display, so a lack of flowers is a huge letdown.

Like many cut flowers, peonies are often delivered or bought in their freshest state possible meaning they will often arrive at their destination closed to guarantee they’ll last longer in their vase or bouquet. However, arriving closed doesn’t need to spell disaster, there are a few florist-approved tips you can use to force these delicate blooms out of their slumber.

How to force peonies open

There are a variety of reasons why peonies don’t bloom, including gardeners not being in the know about how to grow peonies and when to plant peonies, plus issues such as extreme weather, pests, and diseases, so it’s important to understand how to make these flamboyant flowers open, fast. 

Growing in popularity, peonies are symbols of good fortune and a happy marriage, they are often used in bouquets given to celebrate a 12th wedding anniversary and in Chinese culture stand for peace, luxury, beauty, and high social status. So if you're looking to force peony buds open ready for an indoor display or floral bouquet, here's how.

Peonies, Meghan Markle nursery

(Image credit: Photo by Patrick Langwallner on Unsplash)

1. Remove all unnecessary foliage

We think the leaves on peonies are beautiful, however, the excess energy they use is slowing down the final bloom. We recommend removing any leaves you don't need for your vase display or bouquet to speed up the blooming process. 

2. Cut the stem on a sharp angle

The trimming process should be done with sharp flower-cutting scissors, such as these highly-rated Leize Garden Flower Scissors from Amazon, which are available in a variety of pastel colors. 

Disinfect the tool before using with a small amount of bleach or washing up liquid then proceed to trim about an inch from the bottom of the stems. Repeat this step every four hours, or until your bud has bloomed.

3. Place stems in a vase of tepid water

The slightly warm water will also help to speed up this blooming process but make sure the water isn’t too warm. Water that is too hot will only hinder the blooming process.

Use flower food, such as this Miracle-Gro for Fresh Cut Flowers from Amazon, which is a best-seller.

4. Keep the flowers in a warm bright room

Following this final step will encourage your peonies to open. Ensure that the room is warm but not hot, or you risk your flowers becoming too dehydrated. 

The warmth in the room will help to speed up the blooming process. Make sure the peonies are kept away from direct sunlight and heating vents since these are known to dehydrate flowers.

On the flip side: If your flowers are too open, simply put them in cold water or a cool room to help them close a little. If you have a wine cellar, this is a good option.


Why aren't my peonies blooming?

'Herbaceous peonies sometimes infuriate their owners by refusing to bloom,' says our garden expert, Drew Swainston. 'This could be blamed on too much shade, poor soil, or competition from other thirsty plants in spring. More often than not, the crowns have been buried too deeply. Now, when peonies are dying back for winter, is a good time to move any that are badly placed and underperforming, perhaps dividing crowns in the process.'

Dig deeply, as they have long fleshy roots and don’t panic if a few break. Plants will settle quickly in well-conditioned soil and though they might miss a year, they will soon be back in bloom. Fall is also a great time for adding more peonies to the cut flower garden.

Drew Swainston
Drew Swainston

Drew qualified as a journalist before studying for a horticulture qualification, after which he worked as a professional gardener for several years, specializing in kitchen gardening. He's now bringing his expertise and passion to Homes & Gardens as a member of our team. 

How do you speed up peonies opening?

Do you need your peonies to open faster? If you have a special event, you can speed up the blooming process within a few hours. 

Firstly, cover the peonies with a large plastic bag to seal them in the ethylene gas to encourage them to open faster. Place the blooms as close as you can to ripe bananas, to add more ethylene gas.

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.