growing peonies from seed
These are pictures of the first peony flowers that we at boreal farms have propagated from seed
Growing Your Own Peony Variety From Seed
Peonies can easily be started from seed by the home gardener with a little knowledge and a lot of patience. When propagating peony cultivars from seed, a point to remember, is that because of the mix of genetic material that makes up the peony the resulting offspring will almost never resemble their parents. Also, not all cultivars are capable of producing seed, and so a study of which plants produce pollen and seed is required if special crosses are wanted.
For the home gardener interested in germinating what seed he can collect on his own, from whatever crosses nature allows to happen in his garden, it is possible to germinate this seed and produce a never before seen flower.
Plant the resultant seedlings out in a finely tilled spot that has lots of organic matter. Be careful that they do not dry out too much the first summer. Mulch the bed in the fall to prevent the soil heaving and lifting the tiny plants out of the soil. After about two years the plants can then be moved to a place that offers them space to grow and mature.
When your seedling finally blooms, and this can take up to five years , do not be to hasty in your judgement of it's qualities. A peony can change in the following two to three years from a single to a semi-double or even to the Japanese form, with stamens changing to staminodes, before finally emerging as a full double. Others can remain as they first appeared. At any rate, give them time before deciding on their merit as a good peony plant.
Developing your own flower has great rewards, yes it takes a long time to create a peony, but when that first bud is set on your plant, trust me, you will make many trips out to the garden to watch it emerge.
If you only grow these seeds for you own pleasure it is not hard to decide to keep the plant, but if you are in the business of trying to grow a quality peony flower that has all the merits needed to register it and name it you have to be ruthless and more selective. Any plant that is inferior either in foliage or flower should be discarded. that is why breeding and propagation of the peony is so difficult, it takes a long time to produce a plant that flowers and then it could be regarded as junk.
Gathering the Seed
Herbaceous peony seeds are brown in color. The optimum time to gather these seeds is late in the fall when the pods have opened and the seeds are sticky. The seeds should be dipped in a 10% solution of bleach to sterilize them wash them and then look thru the collection, discarding shriveled or soft seeds.
Germinating the Seed
Two methods are suggested for peony seed germination.
1: the seeds can be directly planted in the garden. A peony seed needs at least on cycle of warm-cold-warm before it will germinate. You can expect a certain percentage of the seeds to germinate the following spring, but some seeds may take up to two years to emerge.
2: The seeds can be put into plastic bags with a little moist, but not wet, peat moss. The bag is sealed and then placed in a warm place. this moist warm environment will initiate the rootlet to form, but be aware, this can take upwards of three months. I use bags with a zip top, label them with the seed type and date, and then put them in a basket on top of the refrigerator.
Check the bags periodically over the next months and when a white rootlet forms allow it to grow to about 2-4 inches long. Transfer the roots as they germinate to another plastic bag with moist peat moss and put them inside the refrigerator for another 3-4 months. During this time you can check them for the emergence of a leaf, I have had them do this within the three month period, these I remove and plant in a pot with the seed just at ground level. they can then go into the light and when the ground is warm enough plant them out.