Why you should NOT be planting Impatiens this year…

Apr 15, 2013

In case no one has told you, you shoult not be planting standard Impatiens this year...even if you find them at a garden center or, heaven forbid a big box store. Why? Because there's a devastating fungal disease that has been a problem globally  for Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) for the past several years and it's now got a strong foothold in The U.S. Downy mildew, or Impatiens downy mildew has decimated this shade garden favorite...and there's no cure. The more folks keep planting them right now, the faster the problem will progress.

What to look for? First, look for stunted growth, pale light green leaves, leaf and flower drop and then eventual stem collapse. The disease spreads quickly so infected plants must be removed and distroyed. Don't compost these plants as you'll most likely not be able to destroy the pathogen in home compost. Also, the organism produces spores that can persist in the soil...so if you have it this year, you should not be planting Impatiens in the same bed next year.

Last year, suppliers were still stating they felt they could produce a clean supply, but honestly the disease just has too strong a foothold on the species at this point. It's already been spotted in Texas.

Is this a bummer? Yep. BUT, there are a ton of other beautiful plants you can use in your shady garden. Currently, the disease does not effect New Guinea Impatiens or SunPatiens. Personally,  I'll be happy to see Dallasites be forced to try something new!

New guinea comboIf you have shade and needs some color, give some of these shade performers a try:

• Lemon Lollipop
• Coleus
• Crossandra
• Angel and Rex Begonias
• Farfugium
• Browallia
• Jatropha
• Abutilon
• Lamium
• Heuchera
• Brunfelsia
• New Guinea Impatiens
• SunPatiens
• Ferns
• Hellebore
• Tiarella
• Upright Fuchsia
• "indoor" Tropicals are great for shade containers

There are 5 comments for this entry

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Apr 16, 2013
11:31 am

Oh NO! This weekend we spent several hours planting 2 flats, with a third yet to go in the ground. Is it okay to watch and wait to see if the mildew appears? Or should I go ahead and rip them out before they can root in? (I also realized what I thought was full shade gets morning light until nearly noon, so I don’t expect the impatiens to last the summer.)

Leslie Halleck
Apr 17, 2013
3:18 pm

Hi Kathleen -, Well, if you already have them planted, I hate to have you rip up your garden. Just be aware of the signs and symptoms as I described them. As soon as you see it, if you do, remove the plants immediately.  If you want to make sure the disease doesn’t get a foothold in your soil, you may want to go ahead and remove them.

Aug 27, 2013
6:51 pm

I also have a problem growing Impatience.  I have pulled out some but not all.  After reading your article I will pull all out to-morrow.  Do I need to do anything with the soil if I want to grow something else next year.
Thanks much

Leslie Halleck
Oct 09, 2013
8:38 am

Hi Ron,
You should be fine if you’re planting things other than Impatiens. But adding some organic compost and perhaps some horticultural cornmeal would be good. Also, look into Actinovate. It’s an organic product (beneficial microbes) that help plants fend off fungal diseases. You can apply his in the soil!

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Oct 08, 2014
12:02 am

I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it
up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later on. All
the best

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