Meadows Farms Nurseries Won’t Sell Impatiens This Year Because of Disease Outbreak

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Thanks to their shady nature and multiple varieties and colors, impatiens are a popular summertime addition to gardens and flower beds. And while usually easy to grow, gardeners are finding a new disease is wreaking havoc on these plants.

We want our customers to be successful in their gardening efforts and do not feel we can sell impatiens in good conscience at this time.

Thanks to their shady nature and multiple varieties and colors, impatiens are a popular summertime addition to gardens and flower beds. And while usually easy to grow, gardeners are finding a new disease is wreaking havoc on these plants.

Impatiens downy mildew (IDM) is a destructive foliar disease that affects common garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) that can cause complete defoliation or plant collapse. There have been sporadic reports of this disease in U.S. greenhouses since 2004, but regional outbreaks of this disease were first seen in landscape beds and container plantings in North America in 2011. The 2011 outbreak affected only a few states.

In 2012 a new cycle of this disease spread throughout the East Coast during the spring and summer and, by October 2012, impatiens downy mildew was confirmed in landscape beds and greenhouses in 32 states and Washington, D.C.

Jay Meadows, president of Meadows Farms Nurseries and Landscape, along with his team of buyers, has decided not to sell impatiens this spring.

“We are concerned that even if we were able to bring in unaffected impatiens, there will be downy mildew throughout the region, and our customers will be affected,” he said. “While impatiens generate significant revenue in the spring, we want our customers to be successful in their gardening efforts and do not feel we can sell impatiens in good conscience at this time.

“We hope other garden centers and nursery supply companies will refrain from the temptation to sell impatiens,” Meadows added. “While we understand the need for nursery and garden centers to bring in the sales from impatiens in the spring, we feel they are doing their customers an injustice by selling this product until this very serious disease is under control.”

Meadows Farms Nurseries and Landscape has created a list of substitute plants to replace impatiens for area gardeners.

  •     Part Shade: Ageratum, Alyssum, Begonias Wax, Dahlia, Dianthus, Lobelia, Nicotiana, Petunia, Salvia, Snapdragon, Verbena, Alternanthera, Antirrhinum (Snapdragons), Begonia tuberous (non-stop, Rex), Ipomoea (Sweet Potato Vine), Osteospermum, Perilla, Sun Coleus, Torenia, Vinca Vine.
  •     Full shade: Coleus, Dusty Miller, Hypoestes, Browallia, Caladiums, Grass Fiber Optic, New Guinea Impatiens, SunPatiens (New Guinea).
  •     Perennial substitutes: (part shade) Ajuga, Aquilegia, Astilbe, Dicentra, Heuchera & Heucherella, Oxalis, Viola and (full shade) Aralia Sun King, Fern, Heuchera & Heucherella, Hosta, Lysimachia, Polemonium, Polygonataum.

Impatiens downy mildew is a sporangia (sac-like structures filled with zoospores) that are produced on the underside of infected leaves and are easily dislodged and spread short distances by water splash and longer distances by air currents (up to 100 miles). All cultivars of Impatiens walleriana and hybrids (seed-raised impatiens and vegetative grown premium impatiens) are susceptible including Fusion, Fiesta, and Patchwork.

New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), including Fanfare, Divine, Celebration, Celebrette and Sunpatiens have a very high resistance to impatiens downy mildew and have shown no symptoms of this disease in the landscape.

Gardeners who do plant impatiens should look for early symptoms of light green or yellowing of the leaves or a white downy-like fungal growth on the undersides of the leaves. More advanced symptoms include stunted plant height and leaf size, leaf and flower drop and infected stems that cause the plant to become soft and collapse.

Once a plant has been infected there is no cure. There are preventative fungicides that can be applied by licensed professionals while the plant material is being grown at the greenhouses. These fungicides have proved affective preventing the disease for short periods of time. Unfortunately at this time there are no home sprays for the general public to use to prevent impatiens downy mildew.

When impatiens die from downy mildew, those plants will leave behind survival spores that will overwinter in the soil. Meadows Farms Nurseries recommends gardeners do not re-plant impatiens in a bed where impatiens downy mildew was found. Plants with impatiens downy mildew should be bagged and disposed of in the trash; do not compost infected plants.

About Meadows Farms Inc.
Meadows Farms Inc. is one of the largest independently owned nursery and garden centers in the country, with 22 retail locations employing more than 750 employees and a landscape facility housing 39 designers and sending out more than 70 crews a day. A nursery growing operation, cattle company, and a 27-hole public golf course are also under the Meadows Farms umbrella. For more information, visit http://www.meadowsfarms.com.

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