Peony Diseases

Although peonies are generally hardy, several peony diseases can injure or destroy your plants. If you grow many peonies, your chances of infection are greater-most home landscapes will encounter few problems. Proper placement and care of your peony will also greatly reduce the chances that your plant will encounter diseases.

Preventing Peony Diseases

Preventing infection of your peony plants is the easiest way to keep them healthy. Here are some things you can do to limit your risks:

  • Site placement. Peonies require full sun and good air circulation to thrive. Pick a spot that receives even sun and avoid planting peonies too close to adjacent plants.
  • Drainage. The adage, "A fifty dollar hole for a five dollar plant," certainly applies to peonies. Make sure to dig your peony planting hole at least 12" to 16" deep and amend the existing soil with organic material to improve drainage. A well cared for peony can live for fifty years, so take time to give yours a good home.
  • Watering. Many peony diseases are the result of improper watering. Try to water your peonies before mid-day and always water your peonies at the base of the plant, never from above.
  • Cleanup. After the first hard frost, cut your peonies back to the ground. Add well-composted organic material as mulch around the crown of the plant. Dispose of all plant material properly and DO NOT compost peony cuttings.

An Overview Of Peony Diseases

  • Botrytis Blight - A common peony disease, Botrytis Blight attacks the buds, stems and leaves of peony plants. Plants can be infected any time during the growing season, but are particularly vulnerable during cloudy, wet weather. Symptoms include brown and black discoloration and fuzzy, gray-brown growth around infected areas. Remove infected plant material immediately. Fungicide applications early in the growing season can be an effective preventative.
  • Phytophthora Blight - Although this fungal infection can appear similar to Botrytis, Phytophthora won't cause fuzzy mold growth. Infected plant material may appear leathery. If this infection occurs in the peony's crown, wet rot will kill the plant. Infected plants should be lifted and the surrounding soil removed. Consider moving healthy plants to a new location.
  • Leaf Blotch and Stem Spots - Leaf Blotch infections appear as small red areas that merge into large, dark gray lesions Remove infected plant material immediately. It is important to cut infected plants to the ground in the fall and destroy (not compost) infected plant material.
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