Martha Stewart's rule for pruning tree peonies will leave you with 'beautiful' blooms – and experts agree
The key to abundant tree peonies is simple. Here's what the lifestyle guru follows on her farm – and why we should follow her lead
Few possess the beauty of a tree peony – the gloriously colored blooms that blossom – and create a stunning display – every early summer. It's easy to understand why so many gardeners can't resist their beauty – including, most famously, Martha Stewart – the lifestyle magnate – who recently shared her tree peonies with the world. And aesthetics aside, her post comes with an important lesson.
'Some of the many tree peonies in bloom in my garden right now. They are truly beautiful flowers with lovely characteristics. Remember, never prune a tree peony plant!'
Knowing when to plant peonies for an early summer show is the first step to success. However, the question of pruning is a different story. Martha's instructions are clear – we should avoid pruning at all costs – but is there ever any exception? H&G's resident garden expert, Drew Swainston, weighs in on the discussion.
A post shared by Martha Stewart (@marthastewart48)
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Tree peonies do require minimal pruning, though they can need some work once they are well-established,' he says.
'Sometimes a tree peony can get too big for its space and contain lots of unproductive older wood. If this happens, prune in the spring before they start actively growing, as they may bleed if you leave them any later, and they will be weakened.'
Homes & Gardens' resident garden expert Drew Swainston is passionate about walled gardens and has always enjoyed propagating, growing, and harvesting edibles and producing cut flowers throughout the year. Throughout his time working outdoors, he has continued to write and is a member of the Garden Media Guild alongside H&G. Drew has also managed a blog called Perennial Nerd for many years, talking about his life working in and managing walled gardens, the gardens he has visited, and projects at home.
Though, in many ways, Drew agrees with Martha. 'The downside to any tree peony pruning is that you will sacrifice some of that year’s blooms,' he says. 'Apart from that rare regenerative pruning, most years a tree peony will require little more than deadheading and the removal of any dead shoots'
The experts at the RHS mirror this teaching. In the discussion of how to grow peonies (and care for them around the year), they say that the tree requires pruning – with a few exceptions.
'Just remove flowered shoots, cutting them off just above the new growth on the stem in summer; or in the autumn after the seeds are collected if desired,' they say. Also, we should remove any dead shoots in late winter – 'cutting back to a healthy bud.'
The RHS adds that tree peonies tend to produce more vigorous, upright stems, so removing some of the oldest stems at ground level in fall can help control their size during springtime.
This eternal bloom has topped garden trends in recent years – and with Martha Stewart's approval, we expect they will continue to impress for many seasons ahead. We're joining the tree peony movement with these beautiful blooms from Lowe's below.
Peony Perennial Plant | $12.50 at Lowe's
We're following Martha Stewart's lead by investing in a pastel-hued peony plant, just like the one on her Bedford farm. Care for this peony is seamless– especially if we're turning with such caution.
Megan is the News and Trends Editor at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes. As the News Editor, she often focuses on emerging microtrends, sleep and wellbeing stories, and celebrity-focused pieces. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.
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