Peonies Covered In Snow
peony winter
(Image credit: Masaaki Ohashi)

Are peonies cold hardy? Is protection needed for peonies in winter? Don’t worry too much about your prized peonies, as these beautiful plants are extremely cold tolerant and can withstand subzero temperatures and winters as far north as USDA plant hardiness zone 3.

In fact, a lot of winter peony protection is ill-advised because these tough plants actually need about six weeks of temperatures below 40 degrees F. (4 C.) in order to produce blooms the following year. Read on for more information about peony cold tolerance.

Caring for Peonies in Winter

Peonies love cold weather, and they don’t need much protection. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure your plant remains healthy throughout the winter. 

  • Cut peonies nearly to the ground after the leaves turn yellow in fall. Be careful not to remove any of the reddish or pink buds also known as “eyes,” as the eyes, found near ground level, are the beginnings of next year’s stems (don’t worry, the eyes won’t freeze). 
  • Don’t worry too much if you forget to cut your peony down in fall. The plant will die back and regrow, and you can tidy it up in spring. Be sure to rake up debris around the plant. Don’t compost the trimmings, as they may invite fungal disease. 
  • Mulching peonies in winter really isn’t necessary, although an inch or two (2.5-5 cm.) of straw or shredded bark is a good idea for the plant’s first winter or if you live in a far northern climate. Don’t forget to remove the remaining mulch in spring.

Tree Peony Cold Tolerance

Tree peonies aren’t quite as tough as shrubs. If you live in a cold climate, wrapping the plant with burlap in late fall will protect the stems. Don’t cut tree peonies to the ground. Although, if this happens, there should be no long-term damage and the plant will soon rebound.

Mary H. Dyer

A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.