Could someone please tell me what to do with the foliage of peonies after flowering. They look tattier as the year progresses and as far as I can see people just leave them until late winter to cut back before the new shoots come up. What is the reason for this? Are they left for winter protection? Would it be detrimental to the plant to cut them off in Autumn?
I usually cut them off before winter sets in and get a great display so don't think protection is needed. I do it then so they have more time to compost as they do take a while to break down in the heap.
The foliage is feeding the tubers/crown below the surface. I wait until its all dead then cut back.
I remember a similar discussion from last year when I was taken to task for saying that I cut back mine after flowering. I leave most of the leaves to feed the tubers but neaten the shape so that plants growing around them get more light and aitr and the chance to flourish. To be honest, I sometimes wonder if they are worth the garden space, they are over so quickly and are so messy after flowering.
Thanks everyone for your responses - all very helpful.