Thursday, February 16, 2012

I'm Not Ready to Board the Train Yet.....

I might be going out on a limb here, but I’m not sure I’m ready to jump on the “don’t use Impatiens anymore in Georgia” train just yet.    I’ve tried to be open-minded and read everything I can about the Downy Mildew issue that has overrun the Impatiens crops in other parts of the US.
Like many gardeners in Georgia, I use a lot of Impatiens (of several different varieties), largely because of the huge amount of shade gardening in this part of the country.  As a result, there is some panic spreading through the metro-Atlanta gardening community at the moment.
For my own gardens, I’ve taken the position that I’m going to plant Impatiens selectively and carefully this year.  This is my rationale:
  1. The issue of downy mildew has not been seen anywhere in Georgia yet.  It is very prevalent in Florida (where Impatiens are as common for winter planting as Violas and Pansies are in Georgia), and in some northern areas with cooler summers than we have in Georgia.  All of the research I’ve read finds that the downy mildew doesn’t stand up to the hot temperatures prevalent in Georgia.
  2. Many of the “big box” stores in metro-Atlanta get their annual flowers from Florida growers, so there is HUGE potential for this disease to enter the Atlanta market.  This ties into my commitment to be selective and careful this year.  I am only purchasing from growers I know well, who are not bringing plant (or seed) material in from Florida.  I am going to ask my clients not to purchase flowering material without checking with me first (and I am very lucky in this area to have a good relationship with those clients).
  3. The disease only impacts Impatiens walleriana, not New Guinea impatiens, so we’ll be using a lot more of those.
  4. I am going to plant in much more limited numbers (and in more separated areas) in the gardens, and we are committed to watching, checking, and being prepared to tear out Impatiens at the slightest sign of illness.
I’m clear that this position might not sit well with some in the gardening community in Georgia, but I’m just not ready to only plant succulents based upon the POSSIBILITY of Georgia having another drought year, either.

I’d love to hear from other gardeners who are experiencing this disease with Impatiens, and learn about how you’re handling this issue


  1. I'm not aware of problems up here (though, I din't plant any myself last year)... but I did come across a post yesterday that indicates they are having the same problem in the UK, so this sounds like it could be a fairly widespread problem. Good luck with your plans this year. Brenda

  2. We are not having any impatien disease problems here in Va. as well. At the store, all of ours come from local growers and not from Florida. The only issue may be exhaustion from blooming so much, but nothing a little fertilizer can fix.