Should you deadhead peonies? Garden experts reveal the secret to better blooms

Is your peony bush starting to look rather sad? We asked garden experts whether or not it's safe to tidy them up and start deadheading

picture of peony bush with pink flowers to ask should you deadhead peonies after flowering
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you were lucky to get an impressive peony bloom this year you might now be seeing a few flowers passing their best-by date, which may leave you asking should I deadhead my peonies? 

No matter what the garden trends are this year, peonies are always going to be a popular flower to have growing in any plant collection. Knowing how to grow peonies and mastering the maintenance will give you the most beautifully rewarding blooms. 

On that note, when it comes to the end of spring fully bloomed peony bushes can start to wither and look rather untidy. But can you deadhead peonies without causing harm? We've chatted with garden experts to uncover whether it's good for the plant or if it's best left undone. 

Should you deadhead peonies? 

When it comes to the plants you should prune this month, are peonies on the list? Well, whilst you may be reluctant to attack your peony bush with a pair of secateurs there is no need to fret.

"I’d say that deadheading is a very important peony maintenance practice, specifically if you want to improve their appearance and get more blooms the following year," explains Peter Ivanov, gardening expert at Fantastic Gardeners

Woman deadheading a peony bush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Peter does however point out that this rule does differ depending on the type of peony you have growing in your garden.

"There are 3 varieties of peonies, which is important to keep in mind when considering if you should deadhead your plant," he explains. "The first one dies back to the ground in winter. The second one, known as 'tree peonies', is taller and more woody and doesn’t die during winter. The third variety is a cross between the first two but it’s not very easy to find." 

For the peony that dies back in winter, Peter recommends cutting it completely down to ground level in the autumn whilst tree peonies don't require any type of pruning.

For tree peonies, Peter suggests removing faded seed heads from their stems. So yes, if you have one of these species, it's very important to deadhead them. 

What are the benefits of deadheading peonies?

Similar to the benefits of succession planting and what to do with daffodils after flowering, deadheading your peonies can make a huge difference in the plant's short-term and long-term health. 

Tatiana Sergeenko, owner of Floritta Flowers and seller at Flowwow, explains that deadheading your peonies will stimulate the plant's growth and extend the flowering period – a reason to time when to prune lilacs also.

She says, "When you cut the flower, you also conserve its energy, for seed formation, which affects the growth of the plant. It's not only important to prune the flower but also to remove any rotted petals as this reduces the risk of disease in the flower."

It's also important to keep on top of your plant's seeds as a simple gust of wind could also spread diseases from one plant to another in your garden. So whilst you may have got rid of the leatherjackets in your garden, your unruly peony bush could cause you a whole new pest problem.

picture of tatiana sergeenko
Tatiana Sergeenko

With over 10 years as a florist, Tatiana has a wealth of knowledge on the maintenance and styling of various plant species. She owns Florrita Flowers, a luxury floristry that offer bespoke fresh flower boquets, including peonies and tulips. 

How to deadhead peonies 

Now you have the all-clear to deadhead your peonies, what's the best way forward? Whilst it isn't dissimilar to how to prune a rose bush, there are a few differences in the steps when it comes to a peony bush. 

"Deadheading peonies is a simple practice that basically involves removing the spent flowers. Still, you’ll need to know when the right time to perform this task is," says Peter. The ideal time for deadheading is when you begin to notice that your peony blooms have started to fade and fall away. 

The time frame for this is usually late spring or early summer, however, the exact timing depends on the variety of peonies you're growing. Peter says that besides the timing, you'll also need to consider the weather. He explains, "The ideal conditions will be a dry and sunny day and when the plant isn’t wet from rain or dew. This is important to prevent any spread of disease."

picture of peony bush with wilted flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Once you've chosen the right time, the actual method for the deadheading is rather simple. Whilst you may use your hands for deadheading other plants, Peter recommends using clean gardening scissors, secateurs or pruners and cutting the spent flowers to a set of healthy leaves or right above the leaf node. 

A good pair of secateurs or pruners is one of the essential tools every gardener needs to get more done.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Key by Spear & Jackson Wooden Bypass Secateurs: £22.99 at John Lewis 

Royal Botanic Gardens, Key by Spear & Jackson Wooden Bypass Secateurs: £22.99 at John Lewis 

We recommend this pair, made with drop-forged carbon steel for strength and FSC-certified ash wood handles which are finished with a protective lacquer. The pair also close safely with a reliable hook-catch lock. 

Ensure all peony remains are properly discarded so as to not attract any unwanted pests, why not add them to your compost heap and try out Monty Don's advice for making the best compost at home?

When you've tackled deadheading the flowers, Tatiana also recommends cutting off any yellow or damaged leaves as well as cleaning the soil around the peonies to get rid of weeds.

Emily Smith
Digital lifestyle writer

Emily joined woman&home as a staff writer after finishing her MA in Magazine Journalism from City University in 2023. After writing various health and news content, she now specialises in lifestyle and home writing where she covers all things cleaning, interiors and homeowning.