The Q&A Archives: Peonies have Black Stems and Buds

Question: I have peony bushes with stems and foliage that are black and when the bud develops it also turns black and falls off. It is not freezing.

Answer: Peonies are subject to a number of diseases and a wet spring encourages problems. The symptoms sound like a fungal disease. Fungus can overwinter in the soil and attack plant parts as they emerge. It might be best to remove and destroy the affected plants and put new peonies in a different location. However, before doing that, you might also want to take a sample to your County Extension to identify exactly what is affecting your plant: 136 6th St., Steamboat Springs, 879-0825.

The best method of limiting disease from year to year is to cut off, remove and destroy all peony foliage every fall after frost. You may also wish to cut off, remove and destroy all the blackened plant parts now; dip your tool into a disinfectant 1 part household bleach and 1 part water solution as you cut to avoid spreading any disease to uninfected parts. Thanks for writing.

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