Peonies are rarely troubled by pests or diseases, but here’s an easy, poison-free way to make sure yours stay that way. We do it every fall.
1. Don’t wait. Cut them down early enough that the leaves are still green. If you wait until they’re dry and brittle, they’ll be much harder to clean up – and disease organisms can over-winter on any scrap that’s left behind.
2. Start with hedge-clippers so you can cut a lot of stems at once. Chop them off a few inches above the ground, and pile the foliage to the side.
3. Follow up with pruning shears to cut off the remaining bits of stem as close to the ground as possible – being careful not to injure the pink buds of next year’s stems which are at or near the soil surface.
4. Bag all leaves and stems and throw them in the trash. DO NOT COMPOST. Your goal is to leave virtually nothing behind that disease organisms can over-winter in.
5. Sterilize your tools by dipping or rubbing them with bleach or alcohol before going on to the next peony.
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? And remember, healthy peonies bloom more!