Peonies provide large blooms atop tall stems that are attractive in the garden and well-suited to cut flower arrangements. These long-lived perennials produce several buds on each stem. The terminal bud, which sits at the tip of the stem, produces the largest blossom. The side, or lateral, buds produce smaller blossoms. Control the top-heaviness of the peonies while also ensuring each stem produces the fullest flower possible by selectively removing some of the buds in a process called disbudding.
Inspect each stem for lateral buds in late spring before the plants begin to bloom. Remove the buds when they are approximately the size of a pea, as small buds are difficult to remove and large buds leave a scar at removal.
Hold the stem in one hand just beneath the bud you are removing. Push the bud to the side with your thumb, using a rolling motion, until the bud pops off.
Repeat the process for each lateral bud on each stem, leaving just the terminal bud in place. All buds may not develop at the same pace, so disbud over the course of a week or two as the buds reach the proper size for removal.