Many times when you purchase peonies from the grocery store, they aren’t opened up yet and you wonder if they ever will. No worries. Here’s how to get peonies to bloom.

how to get peonies to bloom

When I posted the big peony word debate of 2019 (you can see it here) the response was incredible.

I talked about peonies and how to say the word and how to decorate with them and how to add them to your living room and watch them bloom.

And the number one question you all e-mailed me?

The number one thing that you asked about my peonies and the living room?

How to get peonies to bloom.

Who knew?

I had just gone to Trader Joe’s and purchased peonies and in the pictures (you can see them here) they hadn’t opened up yet. My peony blooms were just buds. You all asked me how to get those to open up and did they ever open up and did my peonies ever bloom.

And most of them did.

Most of them opened up on their own and looked amazing and super bloomy.

But a few? They never opened up–not even a little. They just stayed a bud for their entire life.

So yesterday I went on my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s and when I checked out I told them my peony woes. I explained that every time I would buy peonies and most of them opened up, but I had a few that didn’t.

And they smiled. And gave me the BEST TIP EVER to get your peonies to open up.

Here’s how to get peonies to bloom straight from the Trader Joe’s check-out line.

How to Get Peonies to Bloom

1. Look at bud

Here’s a close-up of the bud.

See how tight it is.

This is how most peonies show up at a grocery store near you.

This is how some of my peonies looked after a week in my home.

2. Sometimes they open up on their own

The buds are encased in leaves that hold them tightly together.

Most of the time, these leaves loosen on their own.

But sometimes you have to help nature just a little.

3. Insert upside down in warm water

Start by trimming the peonies to the length you want.

Remove excess leaves.

Then insert them in warm water upside down for about 30 minutes.

how to get peonies to bloom flower petals

3. How to Get Peonies to Bloom: Pull back leaves

  • Then? After the peonies sat in the warm water, I helped the process along by pulling just back the leaves
  • I could literally see the bud open up before my eyes.
  • It reminded me of one of those comforters that are air-packed and when you let a little of the air out, the entire comforter expands.
  • That’s exactly what happens when you pull back the outer layer of leaves.

This is the same bud about 5 seconds after I pulled it out of the water and pulled back the leaves.

how to get peonies to bloom flower

4. Fluff petals

And here’s the peony completely opened up.

All those flower petals held together by an outer band of leaves.

Isn’t nature amazing?

how to get peonies to bloom summer

how to get peonies to bloom

Before you put the peony blooms into a vase, you also want to make sure you cut the stems at a sharp angle.

And make sure your water is tepid, not cold so you don’t shock them.

Flowers (just like me) don’t want to jump into a cold pool.

Here are my peonies in full bloom on my dining room table.

They are opened up and ready to summer.

Thank you Trader Joe’s for your super-smart check-out people.

And your “everything but the bagel seasoning blend.”

They are brilliant.

Just like you.

PS Just in case you were wondering? Peonies are philosophers, too.

PPS Here are some other beautiful gardening ideas.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Jennifer Jennifer

    This is crazy and good to know. I"ve purchased at least one bunch of peonies from Trader Joe's that never ever opened, not even one. I was really disappointed and assumed they'd sold me faulty flowers. Thanks!

  2. Image for Karen Mary Karen Mary

    As a long-time peony lover, how did I not know this? Now that I no longer have myriad peonies in my garden (due to a recent move to a new, peony-bereft yard), I'll be picking some up at Trader Joe's and hopefully the farmers' market. Thanks for the tip KariAnne!

  3. Image for Tori Tori

    They give the best advice! My favorite tip for making tulips last came from my TJ’s cashier too - add an ice cube or two to your arrangement every day. Who knew? 😯🤷‍♀️ Using this technique has given me up to two weeks of beautiful tulips! Trader Joe’s employees are not only friendly and helpful, they’re knowledgeable about their products too. Love to shop there (especially for flowers)! These peonies are gorgeous! 🌸

  4. Image for Dianne Miley Dianne Miley

    Brilliant! When you last wrote about peonies at Trader Joe's, I went right over there to buy some. No peonies! Everyone else must have read your column and beat me to it!!!! (Or maybe my Trader Joe's doesn't carry them.) But yours are BEAUTIFUL! Back in Ohio, my grandmother gave me peonies and I grew them and they were gorgeous. I've read that they don't grow in South Carolina. So I'll have to try Trader Joe's again. :)

    1. Image for Deb in Oklahoma Deb in Oklahoma

      Dianne-- Check with your local County Extension agent (Clemson University should have a bunch throughout the state). The Extension office should be able to help with best peony varieties for your part of SC, along with growing suggestions. Those agents are awesome. Go get you some peonies, girl!


    LOL! That trick works on all kinds of flowers. Nothing says spring like pe-a-knees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Image for Jane Jane

    Thanks for this tip! I have three peony bushes and never had the buds open once cut. They are such a special flower that here in Missouri bloom just before Mother's Day. I generally get to cut one or two vase-fuls before a storm will sweep in and batter the plants. Now I'm glad to know I can try cutting buds, too. Meanwhile, my world was rocked this spring when I ordered a couple of dahlias from Swan Island and the instructions say to initially put cut stems in VERY HOT water, like 160-180 degrees. Who knew?

  7. Image for Flowergirl Flowergirl

    I'm a florist. We regularly use peonies in bridal bouquets. You can control how much they open by controlling the temperatures they are exposed to once they are cut. Have some that are slow bloomers? Place them in a warm, sunny spot until they begin to open. Once they reach the bloom stage you're trying to achieve move them as close to the air conditioning as possible. By doing so you prolong the bloom life. You can also force a bloom to close by putting it in the fridge.

  8. Image for Jillian Jillian

    So pretty! I have 5 peony bushes and just this week filled a big basket on the island...and some of them did not open, good to know. The rose bushes began blooming too, so I scattered in some of them, looks gorgeous. SO...a question about the dining chairs there. Is there a link that talks about them? I have finally decided to replace our DR chairs this summer and would like slipcovered ones in order to change out the covers sometimes. Do you like yours? Where to find? Thanks.

  9. Image for Beth Y Beth Y

    That is just an awesome tip! Thanks! I have several prolific peony bushes. I know this is bizarre, but my Papaw always told me the ants help open them. The ants are always on them that is for sure. Lol!! Nothing better than homegrown peonies. They are one of the most beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers I grow in my garden!

  10. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Thanks for the great tip! I’ve heard that you should cut peonies when they are still in the bud, but soft like a marshmallow, if you want to avoid the ants. But I’ve always worried that if I cut them too soon, they wouldn’t bloom. I’ll have to try your tip next year!

  11. Image for Darlene Darlene

    The reason that ants are on your home grown peonies is that they won’t open without them. The ants probably do something similar to what you suggested. I was always told no ants no blooms on peonies, and so far it has proved true. I always check mine to see if the ants are there.

  12. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    WOW - whoda thunkit???? Thanks for sharing, KA - that is a realloy GREAT tip!!! My trees have gotten so tall and full that my peony is no longer getting enough sun - so I got a few huge pie size blooms and about a dozen that stayed little tight balls - I wonder if I would've forced the leaves open with them still on the bush if that would work? I am just sick about it - but I think I need to move it and I don't have a perfect spot for it anymore. Sigh. Dang. Have a fabo weekend. Hugs.

  13. Image for Linda Chauvin Linda Chauvin

    We must be soul mates!! I purchased some pea uh knees a week Trader Joe’s in New Orleans. They are my favorite flower since my teen years in Indiana. Anywho, I had been enjoying them for 5 days when all of a sudden I hear a thud. It seemed to come from the peonies but all the flowers were still there, or so I thought. I got up to on investigate and guess wha I discovered... the interior of the flower had fallen on the table and the little cup of petals was still on the stem. So....your info was a week too late for me ☹️☹️. But I will know what to do next time. THANKS!! Yours is the only blog I read consistently 🤗🤗

  14. Image for Rev. Suzanne Taylor Rev. Suzanne Taylor

    Peonies are one of my favorite flowers. I have a white peony with magenta inside that's mild whirling fragrant. Knowing this trick will extend how long I can inhale their sweet fragrance. Thank You, KariAnne and Trader Joe's!

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