Expert Advice

Downy Mildew on Impatiens: A 2014 Update

Posted on January 18, 2014

Tree with white impatiens flowers blooming around its base.

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If your impatiens were affected by downy mildew in 2012-2013, you are not alone. Gardeners throughout the country shared your experience. We’ve created the Q&A below to shed some light on the disease and explain what everyone can do to have a more successful garden next season.

 What is it?
Downy mildew is a devastating disease that can spread by air and by the ‘splashing’ of spores due to rain and overhead watering. It is prevalent across the country and can come from any number of places.
Downy mildew growing on an impatient leaf.
Downy Mildew
What are the symptoms?
Early symptoms include yellowing or stippling of the leaves or a white, downy-like color on the underside of the leaves as well as stunting of growth. Advanced symptoms include a grayish, fuzzy substance on leaves and stems. Leaf and flower drop will eventually result in bare, leafless stems.
How did I get it?
Downy mildew is a water mold. The disease spreads most commonly when the foliage stays wet for extended periods of time and there are cool night temperatures and moist conditions. Therefore areas of deep shade, beds that receive overhead watering and densely planted beds are more highly susceptible to downy mildew. The impatiens you purchased at Hicks Nurseries were healthy, but that does not inhibit them from contracting the disease from the soil or the environment.
What do I do now?

Once the disease is identified remove all of the plants and plant debris (leaves, flowers, etc.) from soil and containers. Spores can overwinter in the plant debris so the removal is imperative to help limit future spread. It is not recommended to plant impatiens in that location for several years. Chemical treatments are not recommended as most are ineffective.

Tree with dead impatiens that were killed by downy mildew.
Impatiens infected with downy mildew.
Tree with white impatiens blooming around its base.
Impatiens before downy mildew appears.
What about New Guinea Impatiens?
Downy mildew only affects impatiens walleriana. New Guinea impatiens have proven to be highly tolerant to the disease.
What else can I plant?
There are many other beautiful flowering plants that thrive in shade. Take a look at our handout “Great Annuals to Replace Impatiens” for additional information.
What next?
We at Hicks Nurseries are working hard to react to this disease. We have expanded our annual selections to provide you with a plethora of alternatives to impatiens. If you were lucky enough to avoid downy mildew this year and plan to plant impatiens again next year we will have them available for sale. It is imperative that you plant the impatiens a healthy distance apart, avoiding overcrowding and overhead watering.

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  1. Shelley says:

    Any word on impatients for the 2014 season?
    I live in the mid-Atlantic.

    • Hicks Nurseries says:

      Hi Shelley, we are still offering the same advice as we did in 2013 – plant impatiens at your own risk. For more information about the disease click here. To learn which annuals to plant instead of impatiens, click here.

  2. Mona Hanson says:

    What are the alternatives? My yard gets very little sun. I have a lot of shade plants but I still like the color that I have gotten with the many impatiens I have enjoyed for years. Thanks for any suggestions.

  3. Janine Shelide says:

    Hi,I am inquiring about the Sunpatiens” flower.Is their any word on this annual flower suffering the same fate as its sister flower the beautiful Impatiens?

    • Karen Musgrave says:

      Hi Janine, SunPatiens are not susceptible to impatiens downy mildew – only standard garden impatiens (I. walleriana). Thanks for the question!

  4. Lynne Baldwin says:

    Are we going into the third year of this mildew virus this year? I was told after three years, it should be gone. Would you suggest planting Impatiens this year or use alternatives, like I did last spring/summer? I live in Upstate NY, right below the Adirondacks.

    • Karen Musgrave says:

      Hi Lynne, There is still no cure for downy mildew. We would suggest you continue to plant alternatives. Click here for our list of suggested replacements.

  5. Helen says:

    Last year I planted wave petunias. That was a total bust. I’m so disappointed that the mildew is still an issue

    • Karen Musgrave says:

      Hi Helen, Petunias are really meant for full sun areas. If you are looking for plants to replace impatiens try begonias, new guinea impatiens or coleus. These plants thrive in the same conditions as impatiens. For a complete list of our suggested alternatives click here.

  6. BEVERLY DIAMOND says:

    I use planters along the rail of my deck. -which of your recommended plants would look best in my long narrow planters.
    ps I miss my impatiens)…

    • Hicks Nurseries says:

      Hi Beverly, if you are looking for plants that will grow well in part sun to shade, try coleus, sweet potato vine (trailing plant), lobelia, rieger begonias or even polka dot plants would look beautiful. For a complete list of our favorite alternatives to impatiens click here.

  7. Mathew Tedesco says:

    Do you currently have Impatients for sale?

    • Karen Musgrave says:

      Hi Mathew, we decided to NOT sell impatiens this year. There are many other plants you can use instead of impatiens. Take a look at our suggestions here.

  8. Ken says:

    We live in |Southern Ontario, and we had the problems with impatients in 2012 we did not plant any impatients last year, but we had problems with our hostas and astilbes dying or not growing very well in 2013. The affected plants surrounded the areas where the impatients were. Could the disease have affected the soil in this area? is there anything we can do to prevent this from affecting any other plants?

    thanks

    Ken

    • Karen Musgrave says:

      Hi Ken, no, Impatiens Downy Mildew only affects impatiens walleriana. You may have another type of mildew or fungus problem on your hosta and astilbe. Our suggestion would be to bring some leaves from the hosta and astilbe to your local nursery for a diagnosis. If you were closer we’d tell you to come to Hicks, but I bet that would be quite a trip from Ontario! Thanks.

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