How to Propagate, Grow Chinese Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) and Care

Of the many species in the genus Paeonia, perhaps the most popular and important is the Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora), also known as the bush rose, hybrid peony or thornless rose. These clump-forming perennials have huge blooms that appear in late spring and early summer. Let’s see how to propagate, grow Chinese peony and care for it.

grow chinese peony


Basic Information

  • Common names: Chinese peony, wild rose, hybrid peony or thornless rose
  • Botanical name: Paeonia lactiflora
  • Plant type: perennial herb
  • adult size: 60 cm to 1 m high and wide
  • Sun exposure: complete, partial
  • Soil type: sandy, clayey
  • Soil pH: Neutral (6.5 to 7.0)
  • Flowering period: From late spring to early summer
  • Flower color: pink, red, white, yellow, purple, two-tone
  • Toxicity: Slightly toxic to pets (not humans)

When to start growing Chinese peony

Peonies are usually planted in the spring and summer as adult potted nursery plants, but bare root plants, often ordered from online retailers, are usually planted in the fall.

The Chinese peony is a slow-growing plant that can take up to three years to mature enough to flower, but your patience will pay off with a long-lasting plant. Peonies have an extraordinary lifespan: they can survive 100 years or more.

How to Propagate Chinese Peony

Chinese peony cultivar

The best way to propagate Chinese peonies is to dig up and divide the root clumps, but this is a somewhat complicated operation. Here’s how:

Cut the stems of the plant a few inches above ground level, then dig it up carefully.

Use a sharp knife to divide the root ball into sections, each having three to five growth eyes at the top of the section.

Replant stumps in desired locations, making sure growth eyes are not buried more than 5cm deep.

Planting too deep will prevent the roots from getting the cold they need and may compromise flowering.

Try to keep the soil always moist but not waterlogged, and leave the pots where they receive sunlight but no direct light until you see new growth on the plant, when this happens you You can give it direct sun and transplant it wherever you want.

Be patient, as a root division can take several months to develop into a mature flowering plant.

Growing Chinese Peony From Seed

Almost all peonies are hybrid plants that do not “come true” from seeds collected from the flower heads.

Even if seeds are purchased from a reputable commercial source, it can take many years for seedlings to develop into mature flowering plants. For this reason, Chinese peony seeds are not often propagated by hobbyists, as they find it much easier to do so by cuttings from already established plants.

Growing Chinese Peony

Chinese peony cultivar

Generous space and good air circulation are essential when planting peonies, as overcrowding promotes the spread of disease: a distance of 1 to 2 meters between plants is recommended.


For best flowering, Chinese peonies need full sun, with at least six hours of sun per day.

The only exception is in hot climates, where you can plant them in partial shade to protect them from the midday heat.

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Peonies can grow in many different soils, as long as the soil is fertile and well-drained.

Avoid damp places where water accumulates. If the soil is sandy or very clayey, add organic matter but not manure, as this can promote botrytis.

When adding soil amendments, be sure to mix them well. Chinese peonies prefer a relatively neutral soil pH, but tolerate slight acidity.


They generally don’t need fertilizer unless the soil is lacking in nutrients. In poor soils—or if plants aren’t flowering properly—apply a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as a bulb fertilizer, after the flowering period and again in late summer.

But it’s best not to feed peonies until there’s evidence that they need it, such as plants that won’t flower even if all other conditions are right.

temperature and humidity

They are perennials for cold climates; many varieties survive temperatures down to minus 15 degrees Celsius.

They need winter cold to induce complete dormancy which restores growth spurts.

Chinese peonies do not tolerate high heat and humidity well, especially during the flowering period. In areas with hot, humid summers, one solution is to select varieties that flower earlier, before the summer heat sets in.

Chinese Peony Care

Chinese peony cultivar


In general, they do not need additional watering in regions with regular rainfall. Their water needs are greatest in the spring and fall, so if dry conditions occur during these crucial months, keep the soil evenly moist by watering slowly and deeply as needed.

Remember to always water at sunset or very early in the morning, when the sun is not very strong. The norm is about 1 inch of water per week, through a combination of rainfall and irrigation.


The only regular maintenance peonies need is the removal of foliage and a thorough cleaning in the fall.

During the growing season, for a cleaner look and to prevent the spread of disease, remove diseased leaves.

Wilted flowers should be cut off to prevent fungal diseases and maintain plant attractiveness. Cut the flower stalks just above a strong leaf.

In the fall, prune the entire plant back to just above ground level. Remove and destroy debris to eliminate fungal spores that could re-infect the plant in the spring.


It’s a bad idea to give Chinese peonies too much protection in the winter, as they depend on the harsh winter cold to reset the blooming buds.

But it’s a good idea to cut the plants to just above ground level and clear any debris around the peonies before the snow arrives.

Plagues and diseases

The most common diseases affecting Chinese peonies are botrytis blight and other fungal diseases, which can be particularly troublesome in cool, wet spring weather.

If you see any diseased, blackened, or wilted leaves or stems, remove them promptly to prevent the spread of disease.

If you find that your peonies are susceptible to fungal diseases, a weekly spraying with a fungicide early in the season can keep the diseases from getting worse.

Downy mildew, which is also a fungus, appears as a white coating on leaves and stems, especially during hot, humid summer weather. It is simply unsightly and does not harm the plants. Also in this case, a thorough cleaning in the fall prevents the plants from being infected again the following year.

Peonies are virtually free of serious pest problems, although they can be susceptible to thrips, scale insects, mites and beetles, all of which can be treated with neem oil or organic insecticides.

The ants that often cover the flowers of peonies are completely harmless, attracted by the nectar of the flowers.

How to Make Chinese Peony Bloom

Chinese peony cultivar

With good sun exposure, mature peonies are usually quite ready to bloom vigorously. Young plants, however, can take around three years to flower, so don’t be discouraged if a peony doesn’t bloom in its first few years.

A peony planted too deeply may refuse to bloom because its growing eyes have not received adequate winter chill. Try digging up the plant and planting it a little lower.

It may also be interesting to read: How to grow gardenia in a pot and all its care

Finally, if the soil is poor, an autumn dose of fertilizer for bulbs can allow the plant to bloom better the following spring. However, be careful not to overfeed, as too much fertilizer can also hinder flowering.

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