Preparing your peonies to survive winter is a simple task whether the plants are freshly placed in the bed or have been thriving there for years. Long-lived peonies require minimum maintenance when compared to other popular bedding flowers. They also require cold winter temperatures in order to bloom the following spring so there's no need to dig them up and store them for the winter. Prepare the beds to protect them from the winter elements and from disease to ensure bright blooms in spring.
Allow the leaves to die back naturally in autumn. Remove all the dead, yellowed leaves and cut the stems down to a height of 3 inches with garden pruners.
Dispose of and destroy the spent stems and leaves; do not leave them in the bed or add them to a compost pile. This practice prevents disease from attacking the peony bed.
Remove any organic mulch that was laid on the bed in the spring. Destroy the mulch to eliminate pests and disease.
Remove any weeds that are still growing in the bed. Take care not to disturb the peony tubers and roots beneath the soil surface when you are weeding.
Apply 2 to 4 inches of straw mulch over the cleaned beds. This stabilizes the peony bed's winter temperature and preserves moisture through the cold months.