Visions of plump, juicy peaches dance in your head as you tend your fruit trees in the early days of spring; you’re already dreaming of peach pie, ice cream, or fruit plucked warm off the tree.  But your daydreams might be squelched by seeing instead, blistered, bumpy, puckered, twisted leaves – not exactly what you’re expecting on your peach tree as it leafs out. 

If you’re seeing malformed, thickened, often pink to reddish green leaves along with healthy foliage, you likely have peach leaf curl, a disease caused by a fungus. The sadly deformed and discolored leaves turn brown and die, producing powdery gray spores. When the weather turns cool and fall rains begin, the spores germinate and produce new ones that increase in number, eventually forming a film on the tree’s surface. Splashing water from irrigation or rain spread the spores to new leaves.  Once the distorted leaves drop, if the tree is otherwise healthy, it will produce another set of leaves.  If the weather is dry and warm (79º to 87ºF), the new foliage should be without disease. 

Prevention is best – select peach varieties that have some resistance to the disease. Currently available resistant peach varieties include ‘Frost,’ ‘Indian Free,’ ‘Muir,’ and ‘Q-1-8’. 

Keep trees healthy and vigorous, provide adequate water to reduce drought stress, and thin fruit to help reduce demands on the tree. Along with good garden sanitation – removing diseased leaves, twigs and branches from the garden, these measures go a long way in protecting against infection. Here’s more detailed information on managing this disease.  

Don’t let those forlorn looking leaves deter you; the scrumptious golden orbs of summer are worth the little extra effort that may be needed to keep your peach or nectarine tree healthy and productive! 

Visit our Plant Problems page for more information about managing disease.

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