General gardening topics

Why are my Peony leaves wilting and buds dying before opening

Last updated on May 5th, 2022

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Peony wilt caused by Botrytis paeoniae

If you have problems with your Peony leaves, you’ve noticed they’re wilting and the buds are dying prior to opening up to display the stunning flowers they are well known for, it’s most likely Peony wilt. This is a fungal infection caused by a disease called Botrytis paeoniae.

This is an infection that targets the leaves and stems of Peonies. It’s a fungal infection that’s very closely related to grey mould. You generally see the disease in spring or the beginning of summer and you’ll notice that the shoots of your herbaceous peonies start to wilt and turn brown for no reason. The only treatment you have is to remove any affected leaves and stems and destroy them by burning them.

Peony bowl of beauty

What is peony wilt? And how can you help prevent it

Peony wilt forms black structures in the tissue that it kills and when that tissue falls to the soil, the dead tissue and the fungal structures remain in the soil until spring, at which point they germinate and release airborne spores that subsequently affect leaves and stems in wet conditions. This is why it is so important to make sure any dead or dying tissue is removed from your soil every year to help prevent this disease.

What are the symptoms?

You might notice a handful of symptoms, starting with irregular patches of dead brown tissue on the leaves. These patches can spread if there are very wet conditions, which is why it can be an issue in the UK and in the end, causes the leaves to collapse and turn brown.

The fungus can attack the leaves and the flower stems and leave behind patches of infection that eventually causes the leaves or the flower buds to collapse and die. This is often when gardeners notice the issue.

On the flowers themselves, the infection takes place just below the bud so the flower bud ends up hanging down and then never opening.

What can I do to prevent it?

Unfortunately, there are no chemical controls that you can use to completely prevent or stop Peony wilt. That is why it is so important to take notice of the problem as soon as it manifests because this will prevent the risk of it spreading elsewhere.

The most important thing is to remove any infected material immediately and get rid of it. This fungal infection travels with airborne spores so if you leave it on the plant and even a slight wind blows, it can move the spores from one part of the plant to another, or even to another part of your garden.

You don’t want the leaves to simply drop to the ground because the spores will contaminate the soil. The first infections in the spring and early summer actually start from spores that are released from germinating fungus. Given the right growing conditions, you can reduce this risk and prevent airborne spores from reaching more plants.

To sum up, you need to remove affected parts of the plants and clear all debris from around the plant and dispose of it to prevent it from resting on the ground over winter until spring.

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