Breeding Peonies the Easy Way
Breeding peonies the way the pros do isn’t hugely difficult, but it takes a lot more care and attention than what might be called the
Go With The Flow Method of Breeding Peonies
Step one: Don’t get around to deadheading everything.
Step two: Don’t get so enthusiastic about weeding you inadvertently pull up the self-sown babies.
Step three: Transplant the babies to a nursery row or to large pots filled with a mixture of 1/3 promix and 2/3 freely draining, fertile garden soil.
Step four: Cultivate patience; the foundling won’t flower until it’s three to five years old. If it’s in a pot, bury the pot for the winter after the plant goes dormant. Dig it up in early spring before the shoots get going.
There’s only one reason I can pretend this is breeding instead of propagating: garden peonies don’t come true from seed, so you never know what you’re going to get. But honesty compels me to admit that while this method does yield surprises, it’s unlikely to lead to anything truly astonishing.
The red/magenta single above probably came from one of the red/magenta doubles, but it might be some sort of throwback delivered by a pink bomb, or a white double, or some combination thereof. The one thing I know for sure is that it came from something(s) fluffy, because that’s all I had when the seedling appeared.
Then, a couple of years before it flowered, I bought a bunch of new peonies, including a fancy single red.
It wasn’t hugely expensive, but it sure cost a lot more than the volunteer. And it looks like it’s going to be much less vigorous plant.
This is peony purchasing season. I usually buy from Klehm or Adelman, but this year I’m thinking of trying Hidden Springs Flower Farm, discovered when I was cruising around seeking wisdom on breeding peonies. They came up because they’ve put varieties known to be good parents into a special group, but the site is – as peony sellers’ sites tend, alas, to be – mighty enticing just in general.
Not kidding about purchasing season. Many rarities, like Hollingsworth’s brand new, peachy-pink Nelda’s Joy, are already sold out.
It’s also peonies fall down in rain season. For advice, see Floppy Peonies, What is to be Done