The Q&A Archives: Peony Disease?

Question: Last spring a peony plant came up in the garden of our new house. It seemed healthy. But it just as it started to develop buds the leaves wilted and began to turn brown. Eventually the top of each branch wilted, turned brown and curled up. The plant did produce new growth throughout the summer, but it did the same thing. Does the plant have a disease? Can I do anything to save the plant or do I need to dig it up and plant a new peony elsewhere?

Answer: Peonies are funny birds -- exasperatingly tempermental if given the wrong conditions or planted just a teeny bit improperly but extraordinarily vigorous, floriferous, durable, and long-lived in the right situation. Insufficient blooms or buds not opening can be caused by several factors: 1) Bud blast, a physiological disease caused by dry conditions during formation, a lack of potassium in the soil, root-knot nematodes, or plants being set in the ground a little too deeply ( eyes set no more than 1-2 inches below the surface). 2) Insufficiently cold winter. Peony lovers who live in the south or west almost always suffer this fate. 3) Or simply too much shade (less than 6 hours per day) or not enough water.

I suspect that wilting foliage is an indication of not enough water. If you can correct the growing conditions, your peony should provide lots of lovely blooms in your new garden.

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