Peonies forum: Babies wilting in the sun

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Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
May 19, 2017 10:05 AM CST
Hi everyone,

I live in zone 5b and planted my first bare root peonies last fall. They've been coming up and I'm overjoyed to see them--one even has a bud!

Yesterday, we had record-breaking heat of over 90 F. I kept a close eye on my peony babies and when they wilted (and they did!), I gave them a nice drink of cool water being careful not to water at the base of the stems. They perked up over the next couple of hours. Then, the short heatwave ended with a thunder storm. This morning, my babies looked perky and lovely.

Today, the heat is a more manageable 70+, but I just checked on my babies again and, even though the soil is still moist (but no puddling--drainage is good), they are starting to wilt again. They are in direct, full sun (they're supposed to be, right?). I'm concerned. I'm reluctant to water them as the soil is moist, but they look like they're having a difficult time. The one that's wilting the most is Garden Treasure. Second in line is Bowl of Beauty. The third is Henry Bockstoce.

Should I maybe dig in some compost? I haven't yet, mostly because I don't know how. Should it be literally dug in to a depth of 2 inches? Should I stay away from the main stalk? Will this help with the wilting? Or should I put back the mulch I cleared about a month ago?

Thanks for any and all help.
AKA Joey.
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
May 19, 2017 11:36 AM CST
You're right not to add more water, as long as the soil is damp they don't need it. I assume that the soil they went in was good-not straight clay or super sandy? They probably are just a bit heat stressed, should perk up as the sun starts to set. Even though they went in last fall they are still getting established and will wilt earlier than ones in place for years. If you think they're wilting too much you can shade them a bit during the hottest part of the day but slight wilting from the heat won't hurt them as long as you see them recovering when it cools off and they're not drying out completely.
LizB
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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joannakat
May 19, 2017 12:09 PM CST
Thank you @LizinElizabeth, I put some ice around the base--not much, just enough to drip cool drops over the course of an hour or so. It seems to help.

The soil is nice not too sandy, not clay. But water does drain through rather quickly. Do you think digging in some compost would be helpful? If so, how would you do it?
Thank You! again!
AKA Joey.
Toronto, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Peonies Roses Clematis Native Plants and Wildflowers Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Bee Lover
Cat Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: Canadian Permaculture Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Jasmin
May 19, 2017 2:11 PM CST
Joanna,

One of my tree peonies planted last fall wilted a bit yesterday and the day before yesterday because we had two really hot days. However, she recovered during the night. Not a big deal. Just normal reaction.

You can perhaps shade your peonies a bit if you think that it is absolutely necessary. However, if they recover of their own during the night, it is probably not necessary.
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."~Albert Einstein
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
May 19, 2017 3:01 PM CST
My guess is peonies that wilt under 70° sunlight have either no or very poor feeder roots. July or August after weeks without rain can cause wilting. Mulching heavily around the peony for a couple of feet should solve the problem after one good watering. Vendors have been known to put a root retarding chemical on potted plants to reduce root binding. Always thoroughly wash the roots of potted plants before planting them.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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joannakat
May 19, 2017 7:28 PM CST
Well, it was supposed to be in the 70s today, but it turned out that it was up closer to 90 so it makes sense that they wilted. They enjoyed the ice cubes though and were strong and upright by the time I got home, around 8 p.m.

So far, no one has said anything about compost. I read that peonies don't need to be fertilized, but that you should dig in about two inches of compost in the spring, which would probably hold more moisture in the soil, and which I didn't do.

I just don't understand what that means. Does that mean to put about two inches deep of compost around the plant, and then dig it in? Or does it mean to put some compost around the plant and dig it in to a depth of 2 inches? Or does it mean both? Any advice? Shrug!
AKA Joey.
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
May 19, 2017 9:06 PM CST
I've never added compost to an existing peony so can't answer that question, sorry. I've used BulbTone and Azomite the last couple of years and have seen much better growth and first year blooms, that's all I can testify to!
LizB
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Peonies Lilies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing
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CarolineScott
May 20, 2017 7:52 AM CST
My Baby TPs are wilting in the sun too.
They were just planted last week.
They spring back when the sun moves on.

Question for anyone? Would there be any point in trying rooting hormones on new peonies? either TPs or herbaceous?
Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
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Mieko2
May 20, 2017 3:43 PM CST
I wouldn't dig any compost in; you may disturb the new roots just put out by this newly planted root division.
You may want to put some 4 inches out from the crown, but if you properly prepared the planting hole it really isn't needed.
LG -I have a little garden in which to walk and immensity in which to dream.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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joannakat
May 20, 2017 3:59 PM CST
Thank You!
AKA Joey.
Name: Yan H
Westminster, MD (Zone 6b)
Garden Photography Peonies
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huang049
May 21, 2017 12:13 AM CST
CarolineScott said:My Baby TPs are wilting in the sun too.
They were just planted last week.
They spring back when the sun moves on.

Question for anyone? Would there be any point in trying rooting hormones on new peonies? either TPs or herbaceous?


Caroline, I use it on all bare root plants, it helps to lower the transplant shock to the plants.
Name: Yan H
Westminster, MD (Zone 6b)
Garden Photography Peonies
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huang049
May 21, 2017 8:28 AM CST

[Last edited by huang049 - May 21, 2017 8:35 AM (+)]
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Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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joannakat
May 27, 2017 2:31 PM CST
A bit of an update for you all.

It has rained here the past two days, gently, but almost nonstop. It's in the low 60s today. Mid morning, I noticed my baby peonies are wilting again. Confused

So I called to speak with someone over at Hollingsworth Peonies (shout out to them, they are wonderful! http://www.hollingsworthpeonie...). I sent them pictures too.

The kind and concerned man explained that there could be a few reasons why this is happening.

1. Ground squirrels (notoriously known as chipmunks, grrrrrr....). Well I used to love them, but it's all over now. Or any other burrowing creature. He explained that if they tunnel under plants that are trying to establish their root system, they create a substantial air gap. This causes the roots to be unable to access moisture in that area. A possibility....

2. If the soil does not hold enough moisture for the plant. He instructed me to squeeze a small handful of the soil and when I open my hand, see if it holds its shape, or if it falls apart. If it falls apart, it needs more organic material so that it will hold moisture better. If it holds its shape, it should be okay. If it's soggy and puddling, it needs better drainage and/or less watering. Mine holds its shape, but crumbles easily and seems a bit sandy. A possibility.... We talked about the soil I used there and he explained that some of the things mixed into my soil hold a lot of air and that could also cause a bit of inaccessibility. Mixing compost into the soil might help.

3. Raised beds. Mine are! Evidently, raised beds require more watering than normal beds, who knew? He suggested more frequent watering. Just gave my wilted babies a bit of a drink and they perked right up.

He also explained (which someone already mentioned) that the first year plant does not really have a fully established root system yet and so might have some trouble accessing moisture where there isn't much. I'll keep a close eye on them and update as time goes by.

He also gave me a great tip for "drip irrigation" without a system! Take any plastic bottle and fill it with water, then freeze it. When needed, remove the cap and bury the open end of the bottle in the soil near the plant that needs it. As the ice defrosts, it will slowly drip water into the ground! Then, when it's empty, refill and refreeze! Love it! Wish I could give him an acorn!

He also reminded me of something you all already know: First year, sleep. Second year, creep. Third year, leap. Baby steps!

Thumb of 2017-05-27/joannakat/9e8abf Thumb of 2017-05-27/joannakat/a44958 Thumb of 2017-05-27/joannakat/8a7b5e

AKA Joey.
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
May 27, 2017 4:39 PM CST
Have always gotten very good advice and great roots from Hollingsworths; original and new owners equally.
LizB
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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joannakat
May 27, 2017 4:46 PM CST
LizinElizabeth said:Have always gotten very good advice and great roots from Hollingsworths; original and new owners equally.


You know, the guy on the phone and his partner actually sat and discussed the pictures I sent them to see if they could figure out what the problem was. Who does that? Good caring people, that's who.
AKA Joey.
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Adeniums Sempervivums
Salvias Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Garden Art Plumerias Bookworm Hibiscus
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plantmanager
May 27, 2017 5:00 PM CST
You should write a review for our green pages.
Handcrafted Coastal Inspired Art SeaMosaics!
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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joannakat
May 27, 2017 5:14 PM CST
plantmanager said:You should write a review for our green pages.


I think I did a while back, but I'll double check. They certainly deserve a great one! Lovey dubby
AKA Joey.
Toronto, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Peonies Roses Clematis Native Plants and Wildflowers Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Bee Lover
Cat Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: Canadian Permaculture Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Jasmin
May 27, 2017 6:14 PM CST
Joanna, have they started wilting immediately after the rain or later? Was the soil around them really dry when you noticed they have started wilting? Do they recover overnight?
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."~Albert Einstein
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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joannakat
May 27, 2017 6:33 PM CST
Jasmin said:Joanna, have they started wilting immediately after the rain or later? Was the soil around them really dry when you noticed they have started wilting? Do they recover overnight?


Jasmin, the soil was as I described, that is, feels cool and moist to the touch, and holds its shape when squeezed, but crumbles easily and doesn't release any droplets of moisture when I squeeze it in my hand. Seems sandy to me.

They're fine and happy during and after rain. They wilt in the sun the day after a rain, even when it's cool. I don't know if they would recover overnight if I didn't water them because I can't not give them water when they look like that. The first time, I put ice around the radius of the root system (i.e., not up against the plant stalks, but a few inches out) and today, I gave them each about 1 cup of water and they perked right up. They're fine right now too (almost dark out). The first time it happened, there was a record-breaking heat wave, but today, it was only in the 60s. It's 66 F now.

Mean anything to you?
AKA Joey.
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
May 27, 2017 8:36 PM CST
I'd give them some shade, even just a patio chair over them. That constant wilting can't be good for them.
LizB

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