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8 Reasons Why Peony Leaves Are Curling (And How To Fix)

Ornamental plants are plentiful, and peonies hold a special spot among them. However, to enjoy peonies’ beauty, we must be vigilant for potential issues that could affect them.

Peonies can be quite sensitive to heat. High temperatures may hinder their growth and lead to curled leaves, as the plant tries to protect itself from too much heat.

This article also explores various reasons for leaf curl in peonies, offering a comprehensive look at each scenario.

1. Temperature Stress

Peony leaves curling

Peony leaves curling because of temperature stress

Peonies are quite tough and can thrive across most of the United States. They can endure very low temperatures during their dormant phase.

In spring, as peonies wake up and unfurl their leaves, they’re most vulnerable to temperature fluctuations. Spring often brings warm days but chilly nights, which can cause peony leaves to curl. This curling is the plant’s way of defending its delicate foliage from harm.

Solution

  1. Watering: Ensure your peony gets enough water, but avoid overwatering.
  2. Feeding: Apply a diluted liquid fertilizer. This gives your plant a gentle energy boost for recovery. Remember, just one application is enough.
  3. Shading: Provide some shade for your peony for a week or two. Shield it from the intense afternoon sun while allowing some morning sunlight. Once the leaves stop curling, you can remove the shade.

2. Drought Stress

Underwatered peony curling

Underwatered peony curling.

Peonies aren’t exactly drought-resistant, but they can handle short periods without water. However, prolonged drought can cause their leaves to curl and eventually get burnt at the edges.

This happens because peonies have shallow roots, making them sensitive to the topsoil’s dryness.

Solution

To keep your peonies healthy, regular watering is key. The best way to tell if they need water is to check the soil’s moisture. You can do this with your finger or a moisture meter. If the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water.

Make sure to water enough to dampen the soil around the plant, but not too much. Overwatering can cause water to sink too deep, beyond the reach of the peony’s roots.

3. Too Much Sun

Sun exposure can also lead to curling in peony leaves. When there’s too much sunlight, the plant attempts to protect its leaves by reducing their surface area, resulting in curling.

Different peony varieties react to sunlight differently. While some can handle more sun, others prefer less. Tree peonies are notably sun-tolerant, though they can also do well in partial shade.

Solution

  1. To prevent leaf curling due to excessive sun, it’s a good idea to ask the seller about the sun tolerance of the specific peony variety you’re interested in.
  2. If you already have a peony in your yard suffering from leaf issues, consider moving it to a spot where it gets around 6 hours of morning sun followed by afternoon shade.

4. Peony Leaf Blotch

Peony leaves curling because of disease

Peony leaves curling because of disease

Peony Leaf Blotch, often responsible for curling peony leaves, is caused by the fungus Graphiopsis chlorocephala (Cladosporium paeoniae). It’s a serious issue and can be challenging to treat.

The disease manifests as leaves curling from their edges towards the center, accompanied by black or brown-red spots. These spots can cover a significant area, from a quarter to half of the leaf. A reddish-brown, dry edge on the leaf is another common symptom, with the outer leaves usually being the most affected.

Solution

Prevention is key in managing this disease. Opt for peony varieties known for their resistance to this fungus’s spores.

Also, ensure your peony is planted with enough space around it for proper air circulation. Be mindful of your watering habits – neither over nor underwater the plant. Additionally, keep the area around the bush free from decaying plant debris.

If your peony does contract the disease, treat it with a fungicidal spray. Garden stores offer products like Banner MAXX, Terraguard SC, or Broadform, which are effective against this disease.

5. Pest Damage

Aphids are a common pest that can cause peony leaves to curl. They form colonies on the underside of the leaves, sucking out the sap and deforming the foliage. Look for small green insects on the leaf’s underside.

Another pest is the spider mite. If you notice fine cobwebs and curled leaves on your peony, it might be due to these mites. Check for tiny reddish bugs, which are very small.

Thrips are also tiny bugs that feed on the sap, leading to leaf curling and shriveling.

Solution

  1. To deal with aphids, you can either rinse them off with water or use Neem Oil.
  2. In case of mite infestation, an acaricide, a specialized product, is needed. It may require several applications to completely eradicate the mites.
  3. For controlling thrips, horticultural oil or insecticides can be effective.

6. Overwatering

Overwatering can cause several issues for peonies, including leaf curling. You might also see the leaves turning yellow or wilting. While peonies enjoy moist soil, excessive watering over time can damage their health.

Solution

The key is to water peonies moderately. Usually, one or two waterings per week are sufficient during dry periods. However, avoid watering them when it’s raining.

7. Transplant Shock

Peony leaves curling after transplanting

Peony leaves curling after transplanting

Transplant shock is a common experience for plants, including peonies, with leaf curling being one of its symptoms.

Solution

To minimize this stress, timing is crucial. The best times to transplant peonies are in early spring or early fall. Also, avoid sunny days for this task – either early morning or evening is ideal.

If you’ve transplanted your peony when its leaves were already open, provide some shade with garden netting for a few weeks.

The peony should eventually recover, but be prepared that it might not bloom this year. The leaves may stay somewhat deformed until fall, but by next year, you should see a fully healthy plant.

8. Nutrient deficiency

Peonies are sizeable plants that die back each winter and require a lot of energy to regrow in spring. Sometimes, they may not have enough energy left for flowering and seed formation, which can lead to leaf curling or drooping.

Solution

To help your peony thrive, it’s important to feed it properly. I recommend fertilizing peonies once a year, ideally in early spring. Using a slow-release fertilizer pelletizer is a good approach. A balanced mix of Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and Potassium, in equal parts, tends to work well for peonies.