Peonies forum: Yellow peony appears dead

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Wisconsin Dells, WI
Lespen
May 26, 2018 4:43 PM CST
4 years ago I received 2 yellow peony plants for Father's Day. The following spring I got 1 blossom from the two plants. The next spring I got a couple from each and last year about a half dozen. The plants looked healthy and I was prepared for a spectacular display this year. Instead they both appear dead. No buds or eyes, nothing at all. They are right next to the herbaceous peonys which look just fine and are about to bloom. Any ideas what could have happened? The winter was mild by our standards 50 miles North of Madison, WI.
Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan (Zone 5b)

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frankrichards16
May 27, 2018 4:33 PM CST
They are growing normally, but have no buds?
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Lespen
May 27, 2018 7:57 PM CST
Last year they grew normally and bloomed but this spring they appear dead with no sign of new growth.
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
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LizinElizabeth
May 27, 2018 7:59 PM CST
That's very weird, they certainly should be up and ready to bloom by now. I assume the 2 yellows were Itohs, probably Bartzellas? And were they potted when you received them? Planted in the spring?
LizB
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
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LizinElizabeth
May 27, 2018 8:00 PM CST
Probably the only way to know for sure is to dig them up and look at the roots but that's a sure admission that they're dead.
LizB
Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
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Mieko2
May 27, 2018 8:57 PM CST
Were they planted in a spot where water could have pooled over the winter? That is a sure way to kill one.
LG - My garden grows with love and a lot of hard work.
Name: Tracey
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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magnolialover
May 28, 2018 6:00 AM CST

Moderator

Living in your zone and area, I can say I have seen strange weather conditions and responses from peonies I feel, directly relate to those conditions. I have a few peonies that literally look as if they wilted and died back to the ground, after started their spring growth. Not just one peony, but at least seven. Not always the whole plant, but sections of the plant. And of course, all have bloomed reliably in the past. Clearly there was warm followed by cold and snow, followed by more cold, sleet, rain, warm, cold etc. You have lived through it too Lespen. It has been a terrible Spring. Some of these peonies were developing buds when these untoward weather conditions occurred, tried to recover when they were hit again.

What remains blooming has now been literally melted by 95 + degree heat on Memorial Day Weekend for days now. So, though I wish I could tell you it was something you did, I don't believe it to be true. It is highly likely that it is climate related. Give it another year.

By the way, welcome! I hope you are in the Wisconsin Peony Society. Lots of peony connoisseurs there.
Tracey
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Lespen
May 28, 2018 8:09 AM CST
Hi LizinElizabeth,
Thanks for your reply. Yes, Bartzella Itohs, came in pots and were replanted on Father's Day. After looking carefully for new growth, I did dig them up, hoping to be able to tell something from the root structure (although I'm certainly no expert). Comparing them to photos on line I would say they were "weaker" (not very scientific) looking than some but were not mushy and rotting. We have very sandy soil here but I have amended those beds with considerable compost and the soil looks beautiful and well drained so I don't think the problem is too wet conditions. Should I try to replant them and if so is there a preferred method of prepping the root stock?
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
May 28, 2018 8:31 AM CST
Can you provide a picture of the root that you dug up? Seems like some potted Bartzellas don't do as well as bareroot Bartzellas. And I think the reason is that potbound peony roots become all tangle and twisted into themselves and as a result they can either choke each other or don't grow big enough to produce flowers. If you can trim the roots so that they are spread out and then plant them into a large hole with the roots fan out with the eyes 2-4" below soil level, I think your Bartzellas will thrive. My sister in law had a potted Bartzella from Costco died on her within a season I believe because she did not trim and untangle the roots.

Regarding potted peonies, the best treatment of these peonies IMHO is to let them stay in their pots until late August. At this time, the peony should be pruned down to about 3-4" of stems. Let the peony sit for about 1-2 weeks to get ready for dormancy. Then the peony should be removed from the pot and the root be examined and trimmed off any roots that entangle each other as well as unhealthy roots such that once finished, you have a nice plant with a good root system of untangle roots ready to grow out new ones in all directions.
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Lespen
May 28, 2018 9:38 AM CST
Hi Magnolialover and Kousa,

Thanks for your replies. Magnolialover, I agree with you regarding the weather. It has been an awful spring and it just keeps going. Yesterday 96 degrees, today 68! I have attached a couple of photos for all to see. Any suggestions will help. It was heartbreaking to have this happen and if they can be saved it would be great. Thanks to all who have replied!
Thumb of 2018-05-28/Lespen/36dac2
Thumb of 2018-05-28/Lespen/4b51c9

Name: oscar
beamsville Ontario canada (Zone 6a)
Photo Contest Winner: 2017
ol434445
May 28, 2018 11:54 AM CST
First I would soak them in a bucket with a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide atabout 10 to 1 for a few hours see if they plump up
To me it seems they dried out
Whenever you show a picture of roots you should wash the soil away gives you a better view of what going on.
If they plump up you can plant them back
I would add something to retain moisture(maybe some clay)Good Luck.
[Last edited by ol434445 - May 28, 2018 11:57 AM (+)]
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Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
May 28, 2018 12:45 PM CST
I agree with Oscar. You should wash away the soil and examine the roots carefully. Cut away all that are rotted (soft, mushy), blackened, diseased and leave only those that are plump and healthy. Though this will set them back, Bartzellas are known to be very vigorous and will quickly grow new roots. I also agree with Oscar about amending the sandy soil with potting soil to better retain moisture. The roots esp the first pic looks really dry out. I also think that itohs benefit from additional watering after they begin growing in the spring. Wow, your sandy soil sounds ideal for growing fernleaf peonies.
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Lespen
May 29, 2018 5:52 AM CST
Thanks again everyone for your help! I'll give all your suggestions a try and we'll see what happens. Fingers crossed!

Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
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Oberon46
May 31, 2018 10:29 AM CST
I am no expert but I don't see any feeder roots. I have heard that if the root doesn't develop them, they will live off the storage root until it dies (basically cannibalizes it self). Just a thought
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Lespen
May 31, 2018 12:43 PM CST
Thanks Oberon46 for the input. I have been soaking the roots in water since yesterday upon the advice of ol434445 and unbelievably this morning there was a small green leaf coming from the main stem! I have hope again. Does anyone have advice regarding what to do now? I've read the roots should not be planted until fall. If so, how should they be prepared and stored? Thanks to all.

Name: Anya
Fairbanks, AK (Zone 3b)
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anyagoro
May 31, 2018 2:21 PM CST
Roots can be planted any time but in the fall they grow feeding roots. I would plant the roots as soon as possible in soil amended with peat moss, aged compost and potting soil and keep the spot moist during summer. Good luck!
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Lespen
May 31, 2018 2:37 PM CST
Thank you! I'll give it a try.
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 31, 2018 4:40 PM CST
You probably won't see much, maybe no growth for the rest of this season but hopefully they'll do much better next spring.
LizB

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