Are Your Peony Plants Dying Back Early This Year? Not to worry.Your peony plants may be showing signs of color changes that are normally seen later, as we move into fall. There may be entire stems that have dried up and turned brown. You wonder what’s going on. It’s only mid-August.

While it could be wind or other damage, it’s likely the weather. It has been drier and/or warmer in many areas of the country this summer than in previous summers. Driving through town, I see lots of shrubs and plants with the top portion scorched with a sunburn. 

Large portions of the U.S. have experienced either record heat in 2015 or are enduring some of the driest summers on record. Not only have we had the hottest summer on record in 23 years, here in Oregon; but, we had an unusually early spring, with some peonies blooming 2-3 weeks earlier than normal. Should they be expected to grow three weeks longer before they go into their fall dormancy stage? I doubt it. I think they are right on time to start changing leaf color and entering dormancy. While most of our peony plants are still flush with green foliage, some of the early varieties are ‘going through the change’.

There are non-scientific statistics, too; the woman over age 50 statistic. Mine. You know what I’m talking about if polyester and other unnatural fabrics are BANNED, at least during the spring, summer and fall. A few years back, I started to allow myself to wear knee length Capri pants during the summer – it became a must. No matter if I wore them the entire summer, I still had the palest skin. My legs don’t tan. Well, imagine my shock when a month ago, I decided to switch from mid-calve to knee length capris.  After wearing them for a few days (to the grocery store, the bank, etc.)  I discovered I had a distinct tan line mid-way between my ankle and knee. I could just hear my girls’ dismay ‘You went out in public like THAT?’ The point is, everything is getting a different level of color this summer.

When it comes to peonies, they generally ‘die back’ in the same sequence they bloomed: with the early blooming varieties being first to go dormant, followed by mid-season varieties; and, finally the late blooming peony varieties.  Sometimes we see variation in the sequence, just as we occasionally see in the bloom sequence.

You can simply cut down the stems and leaves a bit earlier this season if your plants have lost their luster early.The roots are healthy and will grow new stems and flowers next spring. A good drink of water may be refreshing for your peony plants now, if they have had a dry summer. While they are rather drought tolerant as mature plants, this is warmer and drier than ‘usual’. If you plant bare root peonies this fall, keep in mind they may need a bit more water as they establish. Water them in at planting and keep them slightly moist until the fall rains come.

For more information on summer weather in the U.S. check out some comparisons on weather.com which states “Last July, many areas of the eastern half of the country saw cool conditions, which are probably a distant memory after enduring this summer's heat. A few areas also went from a top 10 wettest July in 2014 to placing in the top 10 for driest July this year. Parts of the West saw an even hotter July this year and Southern California set rainfall records.”  Click here for more information from weather.com.

 

 

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