UM Cross Country team preparing to cut peonies
UM Cross Country team cutting peonies
How low to cut peonies

Above, left to right: The University of Michigan Cross Country team prepares to give the peony garden its annual haircut. Center: Team members make short work of the peony gardens. Right: How low to cut peonies in the fall.

By Alyssa Abaloz
The peony garden got its fall trimming last weekend! With help from the University of Michigan Cross Country team, all beds were weeded, trimmed, and cleaned of debris. 
Peonies are a surprisingly low-maintenance plant. The most important thing to do in the fall is cut them back once they start to brown or after the first frost, around early to mid-October. We generally cut the peonies back to about 2 inches. “Two inches is best because it lets you see where the peonies are in the garden, so you can avoid stepping on and damaging next year’s shoots,” Peony Garden Fellow Sarah Gizzi says.
If you have any foliar fungal infections such as botrytis, burn or throw away the foliage instead of composting it. Botrytis can persist in your soil or compost and be spread to other areas of the garden. Consult your local ordinances before burning outside.
If you plan to mulch your peonies, this is a great time to do it since there is no aboveground growth to damage. Just remember to keep the mulch away from the crown of the plant where it can harbor fungus like botrytis that may damage your peony. “You can re-mulch if you’d like to, but it’s not necessary.” Gizzi added.
Huge thanks to the UM Cross Country team! They completed the peony garden’s fall care in only 45 minutes!