Peonies are beloved for their stunning spring blooms, but to ensure they thrive and produce beautiful flowers year after year, it’s essential to protect them during the winter months. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to overwinter peonies effectively.

Understanding Peony Varieties

  1. Herbaceous Peonies: Die back to the ground in winter and regrow from the roots in spring.
  2. Tree Peonies: Lose their leaves but keep their woody stems above ground.
  3. Intersectional (Itoh) Peonies: Have characteristics of both herbaceous and tree peonies, with stems that partially die back.

Steps to Overwinter Peonies

1. Preparing Herbaceous Peonies

  1. Cut Back Foliage:
  • After the first hard frost, cut back the foliage to about 2-3 inches above the ground. This helps prevent disease and pests from overwintering in the dead foliage.
  • Dispose of the cut foliage away from the garden to reduce the risk of disease.
  1. Mulching:
  • Apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch, such as straw, pine needles, or shredded bark, over the root area. This helps insulate the roots and maintain a stable temperature.
  • Avoid piling mulch directly on the crown to prevent rot.
  1. Watering:
  • Water the peonies well before the ground freezes. Moist soil retains heat better than dry soil, providing extra protection.

2. Preparing Tree Peonies

  1. Protect the Stems:
  • Wrap the stems with burlap or horticultural fleece to protect them from harsh winter winds and freezing temperatures.
  • Tie the burlap loosely to avoid damaging the stems.
  1. Mulching:
  • Apply mulch around the base of the tree peony, being careful not to cover the graft union if present. This provides root protection without promoting rot.

3. Preparing Intersectional (Itoh) Peonies

  1. Cut Back Foliage:
  • Similar to herbaceous peonies, cut back the foliage after the first hard frost. Leave about 4-6 inches of stem above ground.
  • Dispose of the foliage to prevent disease.
  1. Mulching:
  • Apply mulch around the base of the plant, leaving space around the stems to prevent rot.

General Winter Care Tips

  1. Protect from Frost Heave:
  • Mulching helps prevent frost heave, which can push the roots out of the ground during freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Check occasionally and gently press any exposed roots back into the soil.
  1. Snow Cover:
  • Snow acts as a natural insulator. If possible, let snow accumulate over your peony beds to provide additional protection.
  1. Avoid Disturbance:
  • Peonies do not like to be disturbed. Avoid digging around them during the winter months to prevent damage to their root systems.
  1. Spring Care:
  • As temperatures warm in the spring, gradually remove the mulch to allow new growth to emerge.
  • Be on the lookout for early signs of disease and treat promptly to ensure a healthy growing season.


Overwintering peonies involves cutting back foliage, applying mulch, and protecting the stems of tree peonies. By following these steps, you can ensure your peonies survive the winter and produce beautiful blooms in the spring. Proper preparation and protection during the colder months are key to maintaining the health and vitality of these beloved garden plants.