Peonies are large perennial flowers that come in a wide variety of colours, such as purple, scarlet, crimson, white, yellow, coral and black. Peonies thrive in cool climates and can reach heights of 20-to-36 inches. This lovely flower is susceptible to a fungal disease known as Verticillium Wilt that can affect its health and appearance.
Verticillium wilt is caused by the fungus Verticillum dahliae and Verticillium albo-atrum, which lives in the soil and often attacks plants under stress. Peonies are not the only plant affected by this fungal disease. Other plants affected by Verticillum wilt include tomato, strawberry, magnolia, maple, redbud, sumac and viburnum. Stone fruits such as peach and plum are also susceptible to this disease.
Verticillium wilt causes peonies to wilt, develop leaf curling and yellowing. Dieback may occur, as well as defoliation of the plant. Peonies with severe symptoms of Verticillium wilt may die as a result. Herbaceous plants such as peonies often exhibit symptoms of daytime wilting and nighttime recovery for several months before symptoms become more severe. Some plants wilt and die rapidly as a result of Verticillium wilt and some may take several years to die.
Some plants have a resistance to Verticillium wilt, including apple, mountain ash, crabapple, dogwood, hawthorn, honey locust, sycamore, poplar, willow, walnut, oaks, beech and birch. All monocots are resistant to this disease as well. While no plant is completely immune to this fungal disease, resistance makes it less likely to suffer from severe symptoms.
Verticillium wilt is a severe and damaging disease for which there is no chemical or cultural cure. Growing plants well adapted to the climate in which you live is one way to reduce disease. Plant disease resistant varieties if possible and avoid injury to plant roots. If your peonies exhibit symptoms of Verticillium wilt, water and fertilise them immediately. Apply fertilisers low in nitrogen and high in potassium for best results. Any plants or trees with Verticillium wilt should be removed completely. Avoid planting any other plants in the same area for several years after infection, recommends the University of Illinois Extension.
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