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6 Steps for Maximizing Peony Vase Life

It’s July and your box of fresh peonies has just arrived from Alaska! You’re already wondering what you can do to make sure your peonies last as long as possible in the vase, so we’re going to share six easy steps that you can take to ensure your peonies put on a big, beautiful, and long-lasting show. 

It is important to remember the peonies have traveled over one thousand air miles to arrive fresh at your doorstep and they are thirsty for a drink. They may look a little sad at first glance. They will be in tight bud form, wrapped in paper to protect them during shipment, the ice pack will be melted, the leaves may be soft or limp. Don’t let this first look disappoint you! With proper care, in just 24 hours they’ll look dramatically different; full, fluffy and glossy.

A box of peony buds upon arrival

1. Receiving Peonies

Welcome your peonies home by removing them from their packaging as soon as possible. Whether they are a bouquet of peonies from the market or a box of buds all the way from Alaska, you’ll want to unwrap your floral treasures and get them processed and into water as soon as possible.

Buds will look dramatically different depending on the variety

2. Hydrating Your Peonies

Draw a vase of cool water for your flowers, and plan to change the water daily. Just like us, peonies perform best when they have access to fresh, cool-temperature refreshment. Changing the water daily lessens the chance of bacterial or fungal growth in the vase and helps to keep the flower stems in prime condition.

‘Felix Supreme’

3. Feeding Your Peonies

Boost your blooms with a bit of cut-flower food to keep them lush and happy. Flower food usually contains sugar to provide energy to the bloom (since it is no longer receiving energy from the mother plant), as well as a bit of citric acid to help maintain the pH of the water, and a smidgin of bleach to keep bacterial and fungal growth to a minimum. This step can really make a difference in vase life, so always remember to add a sprinkle of flower food into the water if you want to maximize the longevity of your blooms.

Photo by Blueberry Hill Photography

4. Recutting the Stems

When peony stems are harvested from the field, they are immediately moved to refrigeration where they are stored cold and dry (no water!) until shipment, which prevents the buds from opening until they arrive. Because of this, the bottom of the stem forms a protective healed-over layer where it was originally cut, which needs to be removed before the stems are put into water to bloom. 

To do this, cut about 1-inch from the bottom of your stems with sharp scissors and then place the stems into your vase of fresh water and floral food. Soon,  your blooms will uptake water and nutrients freely. It is also wise to recut a bit off of the bottom of the stem each time you change the water. 

‘Sarah Bernhardt’

5. Avoid Direct Sunlight and Keep Cool

Keep your vase of peonies out of direct sunlight. Although flowers love sunlight when they are growing in the field, once they have been harvested they must be kept cool to prolong vase life and slow the deterioration of the bloom. The best light for fresh flowers is soft, indirect, and cool. 

Similar to other flowers, peonies will last the longest when the ambient temperature in the room is moderately cool. In hot climates, peonies will enjoy a cool, air-conditioned room, but should be kept away from any strong breezes, such as direct blowing from an air conditioner. 

A mixed peony bouquet

6. Maintain Your Arrangement

It’s just a fact of nature that some blooms fade a little quicker than others. Keep an eye out for blooms that have reached the end of their prime and remove them (and any dropped petals) from the vase while allowing the other blooms to continue to shine. For the very last blooms in the arrangement, feel free to recut the stems to fit a smaller vase, and continue to enjoy your ‘new’ little vase of floral joy. 

Also, a good rule of thumb regarding vase life is that varieties with more petals will tend to have a longer vase life than varieties with fewer petals. So if a long bloom time is your goal, order full double varieties like ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ rather than single, or semi-double bloom forms like ‘Seashell’.

By following these six easy steps, you’ll keep your blooms happy and in tip-top condition while you enjoy a long and bountiful display of peonies for many days.

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-Written by the member farms of the Alaska Peony Cooperative

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Alaska Peony Cooperative
PO Box 913
Willow, AK 99688-091

Martha Lojewski – Sales Manager

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