How To Harvest Seeds From Peonies

Peony seeds that have been collected can be planted right away, either outside in the garden or indoors in seedling trays or pots. Warmth-cold-warmth cycles are necessary for peony seedlings to develop their first genuine leaves.

In the natural world, seeds are spread on warm late summer to fall days and grow swiftly. By winter, they have developed tiny but useful roots. During the winter, they lay dormant before emerging as the soil warms in the spring. Peony seed trays or pots can be placed in a warm, sunny spot after being kept in a refrigerator drawer for about three months to simulate this natural cycle.

Harvested peony seeds can also be planted to create new peonies by placing them in a plastic sandwich bag with damp peat and vermiculite. Until roots start to form in the bag, keep the bag tight and set it in a dark area with a constant temperature of 70 to 75 F (21 to 24 C). After that, store the bag in the crisper of your refrigerator until spring when you may plant the plants outside.

Peonies may produce seeds.

We save the seeds from our Northwest Cultivar Group (rockii) tree peony every year. You can place an online order for them or mail us $12.50 to get 25 freshly picked in late August. (Postage is included in price.) A small number of different peony seeds are also available for purchase. Please visit our website for further details. Send in your requests as soon as possible because we can only offer a certain quantity of seeds per year.

Many of the seeds from the hybrid tree peonies in the Northwest Cultivar group p.rockii will grow into plants that produce these stunning white blooms with crimson flares (blooming in about four years). This flower’s shape and color closely resemble those of the P. rockii wild species.

The period to gather the peony seeds for this year will be in August. Try your hand at growing a harvest of peonies from seed if you left the pods on the plant throughout the summer because the vast majority of peonies produce viable seeds. Peonies grown from seed do not look exactly like their parent plant, despite possible striking similarities. Nearly all cultivated tree and herbaceous peony are hybrids that are very different from their predecessors in the wild. Seeds gathered from a single peony species that did not cross pollinate with other peonies are the exception to this rule.

Peonies that are intersectional hybrids (Itoh) are sterile and do not produce viable seeds. Sadly, other popular garden plants, including the high-tech herbaceous hybrids “Coral Charm” and “Lois’ Choice,” are also infertile. Most ‘lutea’ hybrid tree peony from Europe and America, such ‘Leda’ or ‘High Noon,’ hardly ever produce viable seeds. These, however, make up a relatively minor portion of the entire peony population; the vast majority of Chinese and Japanese tree and herbaceous peonies all produce copious amounts of healthy seeds that are quickly ready for harvesting and sowing.

The lovely star-shaped pods are currently growing and starting to change from a leathery green to a brown hue. When the seedpod has turned a dark tallow-brown, the seeds are ready to be picked. Between the first and third weeks of August, we often harvest our tree peony seeds here.

The seeds are ripe and prepared for harvesting when the seed pods have turned a dark brown hue and are just starting to crack open. Carefully pry open each section of the seed pod to release the seeds. Seeds with damage won’t grow.

Peony seeds go into a twofold dormancy when fully ripe, consisting of a hard outer seed coat and a dormant embryo. When water and air can get past the seed coat and into the embryo, germination happens.

Starting peony seeds can be done in a variety of ways. Some are based on the seed’s natural state, or degree of dormancy, while others are determined by the grower, namely whether to sow the seeds outdoors or indoors.

Freshly harvested seeds that have not yet had a chance to fully form a hard outer coat may germinate during the same growing season (late fall) and sprout the next spring as a tiny green stem above the earth. It may take two growing seasons for seeds with stiff, dry seed coats to break their natural double dormancy when planted directly.

Each beautiful pearl contains the embryo of a peony that has never bloomed before and has the potential to astound spectators for many decades to come. Plant some peony seeds this fall to make the world a more lovely place.

When seedpods are left to mature, they will turn a dark brown, and the seeds inside will turn black. In addition, the seedpods will break open. Black seeds may surprise you next spring, but they are likely to take two seasons to germination and growth. Tan colored seeds have a higher chance of producing sprouts the first spring after planting.

Fresh (tan or black) seeds should be sown immediately in sandy loam, garden soil, perlite, or aged bark nuggets for drainage. The pH should be close to 7.0, which frequently requires adding garden lime to make the soil more palatable. Either plant directly in a seed bed or use 10–12 diameter pots with sufficient drainage holes. For seeding, plastic pots are acceptable although we prefer clay pots or root control bags.

If everything is in place, the seed will sprout in the warm late summer weather, and the cooler fall temps will encourage root growth until the weather turns icy. Nothing will emerge above the soil until the next spring. Some seeds won’t begin to sprout until the next spring. Do not rush anything.

When the ground has thawed in the spring, remove the mulch from the pot and submerge it in the garden. By May, look for any new growth. During the growing season, which runs from April to September, young sprouts need to be watered and fed a moderate liquid fertilizer, such as Neptune’s Harvest fish-seaweed fertilizer, every other month. Young sprouts are around two inches tall.

Only transplant young seedlings in the fall. Till September of their first year, let them develop unmolested. After the first year, the garden should be spaced about six apart.

The tree peony seedlings reach a height of over 6 inches when they have genuine leaves by their second year.

In the fall of their third year, young plants may be relocated once more to a more permanent site. For each plant, allow at least 4 to 5′ (3 for herbaceous peonies), and select a well-drained location with 5 to 6 hours of sun. Usually, tree peony seedlings begin to blossom in their fourth year. Herbaceous plants occasionally bloom in their third year. Remember that peonies occasionally display their mature form after several years of immature blossoms.

The Northwest Cultivar group Chinese (P.rockii) tree peonies, such as “Snow Lotus,” and herbaceous peonies respond exceptionally well to this “direct” sowing technique. The benefits of the processes outlined below may make it easier for seeds from different hybrid groupings of tree peony to germinate.

As previously said, crack open newly gathered seed pods. Some gardeners choose to let seed pods cure in brown paper bags for a week in your garage or another dark, dry, and cool area rather than opening the pods right away after harvest. Carefully open the seedpods after a week.

Put the seeds in a zip-top bag with vermiculite or fine sand that is just slightly wet. Place the bag in a warm location (around 80 degrees). We make use of the refrigerator’s top. The sprouted seeds can be planted outside as indicated above or placed in a refrigerator for a period of cold stratification of 3 months at 40 degrees when root growth begins, which may happen in 4-12 weeks (the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator is a good spot).

seedlings of the herbaceous peony. If it’s still early in the fall, you can either plant these outside or store them in the refrigerator for a period of cold stratification.

The sprouting seeds can then be put in pots and nurtured either indoors with lights or outdoors gradually exposed to natural sunshine. The projecting rootlet should be handled carefully while planting because it is quite delicate. Repeat the three months of warm treatment (at or near 80 degrees), followed by the three months at 40 degrees, if seeds don’t germinate after the first cycle of hot/cold stratification.

Peony seeds with a hard, dry seed coat and a black or dark brown tint are fully dormant. It will probably take two growing seasons for the ideal mixture of water, heat, and bacteria to break down the seed coat and allow water and air to access the embryo if these seeds are sown outdoors without any particular care.

Dry, black seeds need to experience warmth followed by a winter frost (either real or simulated) in order to germinate without extra care.

The seeds could be scarified to hasten germination. This is a technique for physically dissolving the seed coat’s outer layer. We work with a rough file.

Give the seed 2-3 light passes with the file while holding it between your thumb and forefinger.

It only takes a few of gentle passes with the file; going too far will harm the embryo. You have gone too far if you file the seed all the way to the point of the white inside. Filing to get rid of the outer layer of sight is generally sufficient. Only a little portion of the seed needs to be filed. A significant quantity of seeds can be scarified using a diluted sulfuric acid solution.

All that is required to let air and moisture to reach the dormant embryo and begin germination is to fill in just below the shiny external covering.

Seeds can be sown soon after scarifying if it’s still early in the fall and the ground is suitable for planting.

If planting indoors, adhere to the warm/cold stratification guidelines in the section on planting new seeds.

Other things to think about while buying peony seeds:

  • Flowers that are single or semi-double typically produce more seeds than intricate double varieties.
  • If you can’t plant straight away, store in a cool, dry place.
  • It’s possible that the seeds you collect from a single tree peony specimen that’s not close to any other tree peonies won’t grow.

We have grown some of the lovely tree and herbaceous peonies from seed. Although we claim ownership of these Peony Heaven hybrids, we are really simply stealing the bees’ and the wind’s thunder!

Unnamed and brand-new Peony Heaven tree peony. 2011 marked the first year that bloomed.

We have raised herbaceous peony from seed for many years. Our open-pollinated seeds have produced some lovely new plants because we have a sizable collection of cultivars from numerous different species of herbaceous peony. View a few of our favorites from the test garden in the gallery below.

Is it necessary to remove peony seed pods?

My transfer of several fragrant peonies from Kentucky was successful. The seedpod cluster remains when the bloom fades. Are those pods in need of pruning? Rebecca Pell, county of Fayette

A: Peony seedpods don’t prevent further blooming because no fresh flowers are anticipated after spring. However, because they lessen the plant’s summer bloom, most people remove them as soon as they are seen. Before it turns brown in November, there is no need to remove any leaf. The common peony can then be cut all the way back to the ground. Reminder: If you have a tree peony, avoid cutting the brown structural twigs all the way to the ground. Tip: To prevent people from stepping on my peony clumps in the winter, I made 1″ wide rims from the tops of old plastic pots and placed them around dormant plants to make them stand out more.

A tree that was felled five years ago keeps producing tiny sweetgum saplings on my fescue lawn. What is the most effective way to guarantee that I destroy every sapling? Randy Harrison, County of Gwinnett

A: In all honesty, the most effective method is the most basic: Regularly clip or mow the leafy sprouts to starve the sweetgum root fragments that are still alive after the main tree was felled. I promise that if you regularly remove the leaves, the sprouts will eventually cease growing.

Do you have any recommendations for the ideal soil type for a bonsai tree kept indoors?

Email from Kristin Jones

A number of “tree-like” houseplants can be trained to have the traditional bonsai appearance. The Norfolk Island pine, ficus, and jade plant are excellent choices. They therefore don’t require anything more complex than ordinary potting soil. But one thing to remember is that your plants will continue to grow in the same container for a while. The earth will eventually become compacted and less permeable to water as time goes on. Put a reminder in your calendar to replace the soil in your indoor bonsai every few years.

A yellow jacket nest appears in my yard each year. I discovered the newest nest on Sunday (i.e. I got stung three times). Is there anything I can do to make my yard less appealing to yellow jackets? email from Michael Morrow

A: Last week, I “found” a nest on my own, but I only got two stings. I had to cross a shady pine island to get to the entrance. Yellow jackets cannot be repelled in any way. Being extremely vigilant in areas where they might build a nest is all that is required. At, I have information regarding their habits as well as many trap types.

How long does it take for peony seeds to sprout?

The seeds require a period of wet warmth for several weeks or months in order to germinate, and after a root has emerged, they require a period of cold for roughly 10 to 12 weeks.

Lindsay D’Aoust of Quebec offers comprehensive directions for starting these plants from seeds (link opens in a new browser window).

Of course, you may simply deadhead the plant after it blooms if you’re not interested in gathering seeds so it will focus its energy on the roots rather than seed production.

What do peony seeds resemble?

Peony blooms always offer an elegant, age-old touch to flowers, whether they are herbaceous, Itoh, or tree types. Peonies are strong perennial or woody landscape plants, hardy in zones 3–8. Peonies have been raised for a variety of purposes throughout history. They are now mostly produced for their beautiful, but occasionally fleeting, blooms. Flower stalks are typically pruned after their blooms fade, and plants are shaped into smaller, rounded shapes.

Peonies produce intriguing clusters of wedge-shaped, gray to brown seed pods that are lightly fuzz-covered when they are young. The seed pods become dark brown and leathery as they grow older, and as they ripen, they break open to reveal lustrous dark purple to black seeds. They can spice up the garden and give you access to seeds for peony replanting. To learn how to collect peony seeds, keep reading.