– the Future Looked Grim

For over 50 years, Impatiens were the go-to flowering annual in the US. Why?

The plant was remarkably dependable, bringing exceptional floral color to shade and part shade conditions. Once the blooms began, we could count on non-stop flowering throughout the summer until frost in the fall. 

impatiens, popular, annual flower

Then in the 2013-14 seasons seemingly out of nowhere, the traditional impatiens (I. walleriana) were hit with Downy Mildew, a fungus many of us had not seen as a serious problem in the landscape. The disease is devastating; it can hit the plant quickly and cause wilt and structural collapse.

impatiens, popular annual
Some impatiens plants in this garden lost their leaves to downy mildew. (Purdue Department of Botany and Plant Pathology photo/Janna Beckerman)

Truly discouraging was that there were no known resistant Impatiens varieties available. For the most part, chemical means of control were expensive and not always effective. Sadly, like the infected plant, the market for them wilted as well. The fungus can overwinter in the soil. When gardeners thought that starting a new year might leave the disease in the past, new impatiens soon were infected by the fungus that resided in the garden soil. Desperate, gardeners explored other shade-tolerant plants including New Guinea Impatiens; which is resistant but a different species and not the same appearance (more on them in future postings). But the loss of traditional impatiens (I. walleriana) was the loss of a classic annual loved by gardeners throughout the country. Many of us had to remove Impatiens from our list of dependable shade-tolerant plants for over six years.

Patience Pays off: Impatiens Makes a Comeback

Long-awaited news of resistant varieties started coming in 2018. By the spring of 2020, there are two varieties of Impatiens (I. walleriana) to save the day- and shade for that matter.

impatiens, popular annual flower

Finally, a Beacon of hope                     

PanAmerican Seed brings us more than just hope in the Beacon Series Impatiens. Not only is their disease resistance a big hit, but Beacon has also achieved celebrity “star” status, an uncommon accolade in the botanical world. This year Beacon Impatiens were selected and dressed the runway for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. (for real: https://www.beaconimpatiens.com/)

Wow, talk about flower power! You will find Beacon Series available in six colors: bright red, violet shades, coral, orange and white. Now you can fill your baskets, window boxes, pots, and shade gardens with confidence, and by some respects, celebrity charm. The big winner in the Grammy Awards went to new artist Billie Eilish, undoubtedly considered wonderful by some. I missed the Grammys and reluctantly fail to follow alternative-electro-Indie-pop music, so her talents slipped by me. But as for the Beacon Impatiens, consider them a winner with gardeners, with or without the glamour.

Imara (i.e. strong) – Another New Resistant Variety 

Accomplished flower breeder Syngenta brings good news with Imara XDR. Like the Beacon series, the Imara variety shows strong resistance to the Downy Mildew fungus that brutalized this species of Impatiens for years. Imara Impatiens plants were subjected to field trials at Cornell University’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, and the results were promising. Count on a full summer of colors including purple, pink, white, orange, red and shades of salmon flowers. Though not recognized as quite the celebrity as the Beacon Series of Impatiens, the Imara deserves equal acclaim for its beauty and strength in disease resistance. 


-Rob McCartney, Horticulturist

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or for more info at:

rmccartney@greatlakeslabel.com

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