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April 9, 2013

Hello Spring and info about Impatiens Downy Mildew

Hello spring?  I was reviewing my posts from a year ago and about this time I posted about the weather and how my magnolia had been damaged by the hard frosts we had been getting.  April 14th, 2012

Well this year is quite different (more normal) and we are a long way off from seeing any flowering shrubs or even tulips for that matter!  We still have snow on the ground and I got excited that the snow had melted enough that I could see some mulch on the retaining wall!  

Impatiens Downy Mildew-
I just read an article in an April 2013 publication of Michigan Gardener.   It talked of a new disease that is spreading across the country called 
"Impatiens downy mildew"  
I can't find the article on their web page just yet so I will quote bits and pieces 
from the article.  
"It showed up in California in 2004 and limited area of the south in 2009.  Here in Michigan in 2012, impatiens that were thriving one week were defoliated and nearly dead a week later.  
Regular seed grown impatiens are the victims of this rampant disease.  In the early phase, the leaves yellow and curl.  If you turn the leaves over you will clearly see the downy mildew (white powdery spores) on the underside.  In the late phase, plants completely defoliate within a couple weeks.  
The disease produced spores that can move in the air and overwinter in the soil.  Even if you didn't have downy mildew last year, it is very likely that you will have it this year.
Growers can apply specialized fungicides that will protect impatiens for up to 6 weeks, but there is no cure once the plants are infected.  It is impractical for the home gardener to try treating the disease since these chemicals need to be applied frequently by a certified applicator.
Many commercial growers have chosen not to offer regular or double impatiens this season.  The good news is that we have so many great alternatives, including New Guinea Impatiens that can perform beautifully where we used 
to grow regular impatiens."

If you have followed me you know I use impatiens 
around my garden near the fountain.
I have full shade here and I don't know what I'm going to use.  The only sun that shines here is in the morning and it's more of a dapple of sun.  
Some of the suggestions the article calls off are the New Guinea Impatiens, Divine New Guinea, SunPatiens, Nicotiana (tobacco plant), 
Nierembergia (cup flower), and Fuchsia.
I know some of these require a bit of sun which I really don't have.   
I had never even heard of this mildew problem until I read this article and I'm bummed out about it.  I love how the impatiens fill out and they offer a continuous bloom.  They are also cost effective compared to buying plants like the New Guinea impatiens.  
I hate to think that if I planted impatiens that they could die off on me and I'd loose my color for the season.  Call me selfish, but my window of gardening is short and I cherish it.
The only other plant I can think of (that won't cost a fortune) that provide a full amount of color and can take shade is Coleus.  It's not as pretty as the impatiens and does require some tending to keep a nice shape.  

Have any of you ever had this problem?  Any suggestions for shade loving annuals are welcome!  
I haven't spoken to any of my favorite garden center people yet, but I intend to.  I want to see if they are on alert about this and if they are planning any alternatives.


  1. Hi Liz, I heard about this problem with impatiens last summer. How about begonias? They love shade and last a long time, well into the fall. Also geranium and dusty miller, look beautiful together and love shade. xo

  2. Bonjour,
    Non je n'ai jamais eu ce souci avec mes impatiences... j'ai également planté sous mes sous-bois des plants d'airelles...
    gros bisous

  3. Our impatiens died last year. This was no fun because no one at the garden centres were saying anything about the problems until the punters had bought the plants.

  4. I'm glad you passed this information on, Liz. I usually plant loads of impatiens in our front yard, too. I never even think to look at the bottom of the container for mildew! I would be heartbroken AND mad if I put all that work into plantings that just died off a week later!!! I'll see what we have at the garden center this year and go from there. I won't be doing the planting myself, so it will be EXTRA important that I choose well so that Ramon doesn't waste his time out there. I love coleus, but you're so right about having to pinch it all the time. Maybe the New Guineas will be the answer. We'll see. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. Hi Liz,
    It was nice to have you come for a visit. I love the double impatiens and plant them every year in one of my beautiful window box size planter. This is not good news. But, I will look for the mildew and ask the nursery if we have that problem. I can't wait to hear what the answer is..well myabe I can wait. How about filling up the shaded area with some beautiful hosta..there is so many kinds..this was great info to share..thanks so much!

  6. I have heard about the impatien problem but I do not plant them except for New Guinea variety...it is sad to think that this plant is in jeopardy.

  7. I did hear about this last summer but the impatiens that I had did ok ( Western PA ) if that is any help :)


Thank you for your comments! I don’t always get a chance to reply but I do read them!


Welcome to Home and Gardening With Liz. I have combined my previous blogs “Infuse With Liz” and “Sit With Me In My Garden” into this new blog. I love interior decorating and gardening. I enjoy redefining interior spaces by moving things around and reusing decorative items already found in the home. I also enjoy creating tablescapes and an occasional crafting project. I'm so pleased you've stopped by. I invite you to follow me and I do hope you will keep coming back! Liz
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