Finish dead heading your peonies if you got sidetracked after bloom season. It not only tidies up the plants, but let’s more energy go into next years’ bud and root development. Cut off any unsightly leaves and trim stems to even up your plants to whatever is pleasing to your eye.
While peonies are rather drought tolerant, a bit of water keeps the foliage from stressing between rains; as well as nourishes the plant for next season. When there isn’t much rain, the soil dries out a lot faster, so adding moisture to your gardens will keep things growing nicely. Water peonies in containers frequently during hot weather, as they tend to dry out fast.
If you didn’t deadhead in June, you will likely find some seed pods on some of your peony varieties. I often receive questions about ‘what those hard, leathery growths are’ on the ends of the stems. Most folks are pleased to hear that they are seed pods and might actually be fertile. Prolific peony seed producers include Blitz Tort, Delavan Rose, Flame, Lemon Chiffon, Lois Kelsey, Nosegay, Picotee, Villosa and White Sands. Sometimes I leave a few spent flowers on particular varieties when I am dead heading, to produce open pollinated seed in late summer. Other times I leave a few on varieties that never or rarely produce pods – just in case ‘this is the year’.
It’s a bit early to think about ripe peony seed in July…..but, we’re a couple of weeks ahead of average weather in Oregon. We had an early spring and the crops are all keeping that full speed ahead pace this summer. I noticed some cracked-open seed pods on quite a few Paeonia mlokosewitschii over a week ago. As I scouted the peony seed pods in the field today, I saw quite a few that are already opening. Yikes! Nosegay seed are already scattered. This is far ahead of the usual mid-late August seed ripening. Keep an eye out to catch the pods starting to crack open and then harvest your seed. I put mine in a bowl of water and discard the floaters (likely hollow or underdeveloped) and plant or pot up the sinkers. Some will sprout next spring and some the following spring. Be sure to label the seed parent (and the pollen parent if you hybridized it). With a bit of patience you may grow the next, best peony plant.