Peony blight botrytis.....help!

Asked May 10, 2018, 6:03 PM EDT

I have 5 peony plants placed fairly close together in the same flower bed. For the past 3 summers, they have suffered from blight botrytis. The leaves will get so "burned" looking that you can hardly see any green on them. Should I treat the plants and the soil, and if so, how? Or should I dig them out entirely, and then treat the soil somehow for extra precaution? I'd love to save them if possible. If I do the latter and plant something new, I worry any remaining blight in the soil will affect the new plants. Side note: I realize I should always remove all the fallen leaves from these infected plants, but it's so hard to do so with all the Creeping Myrtle in the same flower bed. (image is not of my plant but it is what mine look like).

Genesee County Michigan disease issues peony perennials

3 Responses

Hello!

Thank you for using the eXtension Ask an Expert service. Resources are linked directly to relevant words and phrases.

My first question is how did you determine that your peonies are suffering from Botrytis blight? Fuzzy, gray fungal spores, evident after the plants have been moistened, are a distinguishing trait of Botrytis blight. Since the problem was severe, it should have been possible to see this gray, fuzzy fungal growth on the plants after rain or overhead watering or in days with high humidity.

Generally, recommendations for control differ based on the specific disease and pathogen.

Botrytis blight can begin early in the growing season, even as new shoots are just starting to come out, so you can start looking for it now.

The best place to start with prevention of plant disease is with good cultural practices. How is the sunlight and drainage in the area where the peonies are planted? Peonies prefer full sun and good drainage. Also, good plant spacing and airflow are helpful in deterring fungal foliar disease. You did say that the plants are placed fairly close together; that could aggravate the disease issue. Watering early in the day and only at the base of the plant are also helpful in preventing foliar disease.

You are correct that fallen, diseased leaves from these plants should ideally be collected and discarded of in the trash. In fact, to help prevent disease, peonies can be cut down to the ground in the fall. All diseased plant tissue, including stems, should be bagged and disposed of in the trash, not the compost pile, where the pathogen MIGHT survive to infect other plants. Also, when plants are dry, remove dead flowers and diseased plant parts throughout the season. Remember to sanitize pruning tools with a 10% bleach solution or 70% rubbing alcohol before using the tools on healthy plants!

Botrytis blight can be caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, which causes disease on many plants. In this case, it could also be caused by Botrytis paeoniae, which only infects peonies.

There are fungicides that can help protect your plants from Botrytis blight. You need to look for a product that says on the label that it can be used on the specific type of plant, peony, and the specific disease, for instance, Botrytis blight. There should be products with the active ingredient “Mancozeb” or some type of copper that are labeled for use on peony against Botrytis blight. In terms of where to apply the fungicide, read and follow all label directions! I don’t think it is necessary to dig out the peonies before treatment, but follow the directions above all. Fungicides should be applied to protect against Botrytis blight early in the season.

I would suggest reading the articles below, especially the ones from the University of Minnesota and Cornell University.

Disases of peony from University of Minnesota Extension

Botrytis Blight of Peony: Botrytis paeonia from Cornell University


Peony problems from University of Illinois Extension


Please let me know if you have further questions!

Best,

Irene

Hello Irene. Thank you for your detailed response. I will try to answer some of your questions. I don't know for sure that my peonies suffer from botrytis blight. I am only assuming they do because when I Google burned, blotchy peony leaves, botrytis blight is the content that is associated with/attached to photo results that match the appearance of my peonies. However, I have not seen fuzzy gray fungal spores on these plants. Perhaps they suffer from a different disease. The garden gets late morning/early afternoon sun (maybe 4-5 hrs of full sun) and the drainage seems fine. The plants are about 12 inches off the ground now, and I don't see evidence of blight or any other issue. They grow well to start, but around the time the flower buds start to grow, the leaves begin to look like the image I previously attached -like they were torched. I will read the articles you attached and follow your advice regarding maintenance. Thank you again for your insight. Christine

Hello Christine,
Sounds good. I don't know if you know about the MSU Plant and Pest Diagnostic Services on the MSU campus in East Lansing. If the symptoms on the peonies return this year, you can send in photos and mail a plant sample to the diagnostic lab on campus, but it is $20 for an official diagnosis. Here is the website: https://pestid.msu.edu/ . You can also always use Ask an Expert again and send us photos of your personal plants. "Scouting" or looking for plant problems in your landscape throughout the season, and trying to catch things early, is a good idea!
That might not be the ideal amount of sunlight, but I guess that's what you've got for now. Conditions are rarely ideal. :-P Just think about reducing leaf wetness, as I said before. Also, I think I would continue to monitor the disease issue before moving the plants, and potentially their disease, elsewhere. Good luck. :)
Regards, Irene