can expect to find impatiens in short supply this year.
fast-spreading disease is threatening the favorite
flower, prompting some area garden centers to cut back
on supplies or forgo selling the plants altogether.
disease, impatiens downy mildew, is caused by a
fungus-like organism. The disease stunts the plants’
growth, causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop, and
eventually causes the plants to collapse.
was first seen on bedding impatiens in the United
Kingdom in 2003 and in the United States in 2010. In
Northeast Ohio, dry conditions kept the disease at bay
for most of last summer, until late-August rainfalls
created the moist conditions it needed to flourish.
Suddenly customers were calling garden centers,
wondering what had happened to their impatiens.
spores of the disease-causing organism are easily spread
by wind or splashing water, and they live in the soil on
infected plant debris — possibly for as long as five
years, said Jim Chatfield, a horticulture educator with
the Ohio State University Extension. That means
impatiens could become infected from soil where diseased
plants once grew, or from infected impatiens in a
a plant is infected, it can’t be saved. And a plant
can be infected long before it shows any symptoms of the
troubles garden center owner Lisa Graf.
said her family’s business, Graf Growers Garden Center
in Copley, Ohio, decided not to sell impatiens this
was a gut-wrenching decision," she said. Impatiens
are the top-selling annual flower in the United States,
and Graf said they’re a big source of income for the
said the garden center considered offering the flowers
and posting signs warning customers to plant at their
own risk. But after long consideration, the operators
decided they didn’t want to set their customers up for
goal has always been for our customers to be successful
gardeners," Graf said. Some buy multiple flats of
impatiens, and those customers would lose a significant
investment if the plants died, she said. "We just
didn’t feel good about that."
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Constantine Jr. of Constantine’s Garden Center in
Richfield, Ohio, reached the same conclusion. He said he’ll
post signs educating customers about the disease and
pointing them to alternatives, but "I just can’t
sell them (impatiens) with a clear conscience," he
Garden Centers, a Northeast Ohio chain, expects word of
the disease to reduce demand for impatiens and is
cutting its supply by about 25 percent, said Noelle
Akin, the company’s director of communications and
said the company grows its own impatiens and has not had
any sign of the disease in its greenhouses, although she
added quickly, "I’m knocking on wood here."
Nurseries in Norton, Ohio, is also cutting back on the
quantity of impatiens it offers and pointing consumers
to alternatives, but owner Tom Dayton said he’s
recommending the use of fungicide for those who insist
on planting the popular annuals.
need to drench the impatiens with fungicide when they
plant them and then reapply regularly, he said. That’s
why he’s telling his customers to use the product only
if they’re committed to keeping up with the
you are a hit-or-skip kind of person, you might as well
not plant impatiens," he said.
who insist on impatiens might want to buy them early,
said Adam Yakuvik, store manager of Canton Road Garden
Center in Springfield Township, Ohio.
the garden center intends to sells the flowers, Yakuvik
said the seven or eight growers that supply his store
are producing fewer this year. If customers wait until
Memorial Day, "they may be scrounging," he
downy mildew affects primarily bedding impatiens, both
single- and double-flowered types. It also affects
native impatiens known as jewelweed, but the extent of
the problem among those wildflowers isn’t clear,
disease does not affect New Guinea impatiens or
Sunpatiens. Nor does it affect other types of plants,
such as cucumbers or basil. While a number of plants are
susceptible to diseases commonly called downy mildew,
Chatfield said, those diseases are different from the
one infecting impatiens.
one is sure what the future will hold for impatiens.
Because the disease is fairly new to the United States,
researchers are scrambling to find solutions.
hopes that with good sanitation and management in
greenhouses that grow the flowers, impatiens could
rebound. But for the near term, at least, masses of
impatiens blooms will probably become an uncommon sight.
Lisa Graf, that reality has been tough to accept.
could identify the stages of grief. I went through them
all," she said — even welling up when she saw a
photo of a garden filled with impatiens.
was just the reality that we would never have that
blanket of color."