|K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Newsletter||
Peony foliage is attractive when healthy but powdery mildew and leaf blotch has made many plants look a little bedraggled this year. Therefore, gardeners may want to cut them back now. Peonies are essentially dormant by now even though leaves may still be green. Therefore, removing the foliage now will not harm the plants. Cut leaves off close to the ground and compost or discard. Mulch often contains plant debris which can carry diseases over to the following year so it should be discarded as well. Replace with fresh mulch. (Ward Upham)
The weather this summer has resulted in many peonies catching the "measles" and/or powdery mildew.
Measles: Measles is a disease, also known as red spot, that causes distinct, reddish-purple spots on the upper leaf surfaces. These spots often coalesce and become large, reddish purple blotches on the upper leaf surfaces but are a light brown color when viewed from the underside of the leaves. The spots on stems will merge and form streaks that are reddish brown.
Powdery Mildew: Plants infected with powdery mildew look like they have been dusted with flour and can lead to death of the leaves. This disease is more rare in Kansas than Measles but does show up in wet, humid summers.
Sanitation is the best control for both these diseases. Remove all diseased tissue, including stems, at the end of the growing season. Actually, the foliage can be removed in mid-August with no harm to the plants as the plants will be essentially dormant. Foliage that has already died should be removed now.
Mulch that contains plant debris should also be discarded and then replaced with fresh mulch. Reducing the source of the inoculum will reduce the chances of another severe outbreak next year. (Ward Upham)
Ward Upham runs the Horticulture Response Center in the Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources at Kansas State University. Other contributors include K-State Extension Specialists.