Peonies smell sweet, bloom ever so colorfully, and exist in over 6000 varieties. There’s no debating that they bring a lot to our gardens, so it’s no wonder that we love them so much. Hence, it can be pretty painful to find that something has been chomping away at them. But what, exactly?…
So, what is eating my peonies? Rabbits, beavers, and squirrels are the predominant animal predators of peonies, whilst insects like aphids, rose chafers, mites, beetles, and scales devour them too!
The truth is peonies are the beloved prey of many animals and insects alike.
Below, I walk through these culprits in further detail, as well as the measures that you can take to stop them and get your peonies thriving again.
What Is Eating My Peony Flowers?
Rabbits are highly attracted to certain varieties of peonies. Namely, tree peonies.
They’ll eat their petals, leaves, and even their roots if they can reach them!
So whilst they may be soft, fluffy, adorable little creatures, they’re certainly destructive and one to look out for.
Beavers, whilst less common, love peonies too!
They’ll eat every part of the plant and tend to be a fan of most varieties.
However, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to catch them in the act.
The reason is beavers are nocturnal and do most of their feasting inconspicuously during the night.
It’s no surprise that squirrels made the list.
These omnivores may be cute, but at the end of the day, they’re rodents, and they’ll eat most of the plants that they happen to come across.
Peonies almost always make the cut. In addition to eating them, they also threaten to dig them out of the ground.
Squirrels dig away to create safe hiding places for their winter food stash.
Peonies, amongst many other plants, are susceptible to winding up as collateral damage.
European rose chafers prey on flower blossoms.
Whilst rose blooms are their main victims, peonies are a worthy runner-up.
You’ll know they’ve been around by the distinctly large and distorted holes they leave behind all over the leaves of the peonies.
Aphids love a good peony. They’ll much too happily suck the sap out of the plant, in turn reducing its energy levels.
Their risk is really only significant when they’re out in large numbers.
Then, if they go undetected or undeterred, they’ll suck such a large quantity of the peonies’ life juice that the plant will become entirely devoid of energy and struggle to continue growing.
In fact, it will wilt, and its leaves will become discolored.
The Oystershell Scale is one of the most infamous peony pests around.
The tiny little things feed on the stems and leaves of peonies. If there are enough of them, their impact will be entirely evident.
We’re talking discolored leaves and missing blooms. When left to their own devices for too long, scales pose a fatal risk to our peonies.
Mites typically attack peony roots and often focus on the plants’ most vulnerable areas.
You can often see mites, which are small yet white/brown in color.
Beetles will eat holes in peonies, typically during the spring when the flowers are in full bloom.
They often go for the lighter flowers, and it’s clear when they are present by the small round holes they leave in the flowers.
How Do I Stop My Peonies From Being Eaten?
Fortunately, it is possible to keep our peonies intact.
Below, I’ve shared a bunch of measures that you can take, either preventatively or, if needed, as interventions, to keep your peonies pest free and healthy as can be!
Using Neem Oil
Neem oil is a gardener’s favorite, and it’s easy to understand why.
It’s completely natural and non-toxic whilst remaining no less of an effective insect terminator.
Simply apply it to the peony plant, and when roaming insects undoubtedly land on it, they’ll find themselves suffocated.
They’ll die, and your peonies won’t suffer any damage in the slightest.
With Water Pressure
We love environmentally friendly solutions, and water is another one of them! Water is the best way to remove aphids from your peonies.
A powerful water stream from your hose pipe will do the trick.
Simply hose those aphids away, and I’m sure plenty of other bugs (like ants) will fall off in the process too.
Repellent scents are a fantastic way to deter animals and insects alike from your peonies.
It’s their sweet smell that makes peonies so well-loved by animals.
So overriding their smell with much less desirable scents is a smart yet easy way to deter them from the area.
If rabbits and squirrels are your main worry, opt for cayenne pepper. If you’re dealing with insects, try citronella and eucalyptus.
Spraying these scents, or at least placing them in close proximity to your peonies, will surely ward the unwanted creatures away!
I also recommend surrounding your peonies with strategic plants, i.e., plants that animals and insects are repelled by.
Lavender and rosemary spring to mind.
As creatures pass by, they’ll be so repelled by the smells that they’ll forget about the peonies altogether.
You could also protect your peonies by installing a fence around their perimeter.
If it’s high enough, say, a few feet, rabbits, will leave them alone.
And it’s even better if your fence has an underground presence, too – this will keep our burrowing friends, the beavers, at bay.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The truth is, your hands may just be your best weapon!
At the very least, it won’t cost you anything!
If you’ve spotted rose chafers or any other beetle roaming around your peonies, simply put on a pair of gloves and pick them right off the plant.
To avoid their return, drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
How Do I Get My Peonies To Flower Again?
Peonies may appear to be delicate, but once they’ve been planted and have established themselves, they’re surprisingly low-maintenance plants.
However, as I’ve outlined above, they do become compromised when pests are on the scene.
Remove Unwelcome Animals/Insects
Therefore, the first step to ensuring that your peonies flower healthily is to remove any unwelcome animals and insects.
Optimize Growing Conditions
Next, it’s important that peonies are positioned in their optimal growing conditions.
They love full sun, well-drained soil, and good air circulation. Applying fertilizer twice a season wouldn’t hurt, either.
Prune Your Peonies
Finally, a little pruning goes a long way in promoting the overall health of your peonies.
They really don’t need much – just a few cuts during the Autumn months!
If you keep the above in mind, we’re sure your peonies will fare well!
You may want to check out my other guides while you are here: