A peony plant may live up to 50 years or more.

How Do You Deadhead Peonies?

by Jessica Westover

It's no wonder that peonies (Paeonia spp.) appear in paintings, flower arrangements and other works of art, as their ruffled, colorful blooms easily capture your attention. Depending on the specific variety, peonies grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. Peonies need a nutrient-rich, moist soil with a neutral pH and full sun. Buds begin to appear in spring and open in late spring to early summer. Removing the smaller side buds, known as disbudding, as soon as they appear, will encourage larger terminal blooms. Deadheading faded blooms will keep the plant looking neat and divert its energy into storing strength for next year’s flowers.


Pour 1 part bleach and 4 parts water into a bowl. Submerge the blades of your pruning shears in the solution for five minutes. Let the blades air dry before making any cuts.

Grasp a flower stem with one terminal, or end, flower bud and multiple side buds. Cut off each of the side buds with the pruning shears, making each cut 1/4 inch above the point where its stem joins the main flower stem.

Repeat this process to remove all side buds from each flower stem. Put the buds in the compost pile or garden waste can. Sterilize the pruning shears once you finish disbudding the peony.


Pour 1 part bleach and 4 parts water into a bowl. Put the blades of the pruning shears in the bowl and leave them for five minutes. Let the blades air dry before making any cuts.

Select a faded, dead, dry, drooping or petal-dropping peony bloom. Cup the bloom's base in your non-dominant hand. Cut through the flower's stem with the pruning shears, 1/4 inch above the first or second leaf below the bloom or the topmost side shoot containing a separate flower or flower bud. Make the cut at a 20- to 30-degree angle, sloping away from the leaf stem's base.

Repeat the deadheading process to remove all spent flowers. Place the clipped flowers into the compost or yard waste can. Pick up any flower petals, leaves or twigs on the ground around the peony plant and place them in the compost or yard waste can.

Items you will need

  • Bleach
  • Bowl
  • Pruning shears


  • Sterilize the pruning shears before and after disbudding or deadheading peonies to minimize the spread of disease.

Photo Credits

  • Dynamic Graphics Group/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images