Why are my peony leaves wilting and buds dying before opening?

Why are my peony leaves wilting and buds dying before opening?

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Following on from my guide on what was eating my peony leaves, peony leaves wilting and the buds dying is usually the result of an infestation of pests but it can be caused by fungal disease or lack of water. The latter is easy to resolve with a better watering schedule. Peonies like moist but well drained soil so be sure to water more frequently during dry spells and consider adding a layer of mulch to try ad help maintain moisture in the soil.

If you have been looking after your peonies properly and water regularly then here are what I think the most common pests and diseases to check your peony plant for from my past experiences as a gardener of over 20 years.

For more detailed information about these pests and diseases and what to do about them, please read my Peony pests and diseases to watch out for article.

Blight on peonies

Blight on peonies that cause black spots on leaves

Blight is a disease with various varieties.  The most common culprit is peony wilt also known as botrytis blight. It affects young shoots in the springs and buds later on in the growing season. Look out also for bacterial blight. I have found that one of the easiest ways to help identify it is by looking for spotting on the leaves of the peony plant.

And if your peony is turning leathery and a dark brown or black colour, it probably has Phyotphthora blight. Another common blight is Southern blight known popularly as crown rot. The crown of the plant is the top part of the root ball. Crown rot appears as very water-soaked stems at the base.

Root rot

Wilting peony caused by root rot

Similar to crown rot, the roots become waterlogged. The plant turns yellow, wilts and dies.


Like blight, I have found that there are several kinds of viruses that can affect peony plants. The stems and leaves become mottled and the leaves curl up and wilt. The big takeaway here is to look out for those mottled leaves as it’s usually a big giveaway.

Verticillium wilt

The shoots of your plant wilt if they have this disease and they generally get yellow brownish leaves with black spotting forming on the leaves.

Scale insects

Scale insects like to attack peonies

Scale insects cause the leaves to turn yellow, wilt and drop off. They’re difficult to see and you need to use a magnifying glass to do so unless you got really good ideas. Spraying them can sometimes be effective but they have a waxy later that seems to repel the spray so usually need a couple of applications of bug killer.


thrips that attach peonies and can cause leaves to wilt and buds to drop

This very small brownish insects eat holes in the flower petals and leaves. leaves lose their color and wilt and wither away. If you can catch them in action you can usually spray them with a pesticide but often I always find I only notice the damage afterwards once they have moved on

You can also help prevent pests from attacking peonies by providing winter care that reduced pests that overwinter.

Bud blast

Bud blast is where the buds on your peony develop but fail to open and subsequently die. While it can be caused by disease the most usual issues are environmental factors, such as amount of sun and transplanting. This is good news in that these issues can be overcome with little planning. For more information on this, please see Why are my peonies not flowering?

To learn more about pests and diseases that attack peonies please read my guide here which also shows you how to treat them.

Peony ring placed around plant early on to support long stems and large flowers in the summer

If you found this helpful don’t forget to stake those peony stems as they can become top heavy and consider using flower rings as I have in the picture above.

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