Say no, no, no to zombie impatiens

Sale sign for impatiens

Buyer beware.

I dropped into one of my favourite grocery store pop-up garden centres yesterday and was very surprised to see impatiens for sale. They’ve always been a popular plant, for sure, and a terrific problem solver in past years if you wanted lots of cheap ‘n’ cheerful colour in shady areas of your garden. But they’re doomed. If you see them for sale, back away. They’re the zombies of the flower world right now.

The problem is that they are plagued with downy mildew which makes the plants drop their leaves and flowers practically overnight. The disease is wide spread in Canada, to the point that reputable garden centres in Ontario, Quebec and parts of B.C. won’t carry the plants.

If your impatiens suddenly collapsed last year, you’ll probably have the same problem again this year, too. That’s because the pathogen can stay in the ground over winter, ready to wreak havoc again this spring.

Shelves of impatiens

Downy mildew attacks Impatiens walleriana, also known as common Impatiens.

Earlier, I posted some alternatives to impatiens for a shade garden that are all about sexy leaves. Seriously.

But if colour is more your thing, here are some more options that are terrific for filling in a shady area.

Begonias: Try double-flowered begonias in a part-shade area. A mass planting of them will look like a carpet of roses.

Lamium: Try Orchid Frost for its lovely pink flowers blooming through summer.

Woodland Phlox: This phlox is a wildflower native to North America. Small purple flowers light up shady areas each spring.

Happy planting!

2 thoughts on “Say no, no, no to zombie impatiens

    • Exactly! You can get some great bargains at garden centres just because the retailers want to get rid of plants that are busting out of their pots and it’s expensive to maintain them at their best. But some unscrupulous retailers also want to sell plants that are unhealthy just because they know they are popular plants and will sell quickly to unwary gardeners.


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