Q&A: How can I germinate peony seeds to make new plants?

I have some wonderful peonies that came with my home. This year one patch -- I have three of them -- has these funny looking pods where the blooms were. Each one has what looks like tiny seeds. How do I treat them? I assume they are seeds for more peonies. Are they planted in the fall or in the spring?

Thanks and I enjoy your gardening newsletter so much.

Carolyn, here's what the American Peony Society outlines as the way to do it:

1) Soak the seed in water for several days, changing water once or twice a day. This step hydrates the seed, and may help remove germination inhibitors. Discard any seeds that are mushy or become moldy.

2) Place the soaked seeds in a plastic bag with barely moist vermiculite or peat moss, and close tightly.

3) Incubate the seeds by placing the bag in a warm area, preferably 80 to 90 F. It is important that the seeds be exposed to this relatively high temperature. If held at room temperature, incubation will take much longer, and will not be as uniform. Thus it is important to find a spot with the right temperature, and verify it with a thermometer. Places I have successfully used include on top of a hot water heater, and above grow light fixtures.

Inspect the seeds every two weeks to check for the proper level of moisture in the bags, and check the condition of the seeds. You will probably not see any changes in the seed during the incubation period. The length of the incubation period will depend on the temperature, but normally three months is s....

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