Growers protecting popular plant against mildew

Growers are protecting against a mildew that knocked out impatiens plants the past two years.

Many people are heading outside to garden, but when it comes to your flower beds, there may be some concerns for impatiens.

A devastating mildew attacked the flowers in 2012, and in 2013, many greenhouses didn't want to take the risk of growing them again.

So far this season, there have been no cases reported of downy mildew in Michigan, according to Mary Hausbeck, an MSU professor.

Hausbeck said that's because the state has taken extra precautions in the past year.

â??In 2012, the downy mildew on impatiens was devastating,â?? said Eric VanThomme, manager at Plant Masters in Suttons Bay. â??A lot of people lost their beds. It came without warning. Much of Traverse City had issues with it. It went from home to home to home.â??

Michigan greenhouse growers have been proactive, fighting against the downy mildew attacking the undersides of impatiens leaves.

â??Once impatiens are infected with it they can die within a week,â?? said VanThomme.

â??Last year we were kind of stingy on ordering impatiens because we just weren't sure,â?? said Melissa Blumerick from Pine Hill Village Gardens in Traverse City. â??I think it takes about ten years for the pathogen to get out of the area.â??

â??I just use them in pots,â?? said Nicolle Girard of Traverse City. â??I haven't put them in my soil. Now I'm really glad I only use them in my pots. I'll probably be looking into [downy mildew].â??

Plant Mastersâ?? growers are following the Michigan State University Extension's recommendations, applying a fungicide that can provide weeks of protection.

So far this year, things are looking up.

â??I would hate to lose impatiens altogether because there's just no replacement for them,â?? said VanThomme.

Impatiens thrive in cool dark areas, making them a popular choice for many shoppers.

â??I do almost every year because I have a lot of shady places at my house,â?? said Rachel Peplinski of Suttons Bay.

Even with the added protections, florists are up front with their clients when it comes to the mildew.

â??We are warning people, especially those folks that are planting several flats because it can be very expensive,â?? said VanThomme.

There are other options when it comes to shade-loving plants.

â??You have fuchsias and begonias and New Guinea impatiens in the area. Those plants will be unaffected by the disease,â?? said VanThomme. He said keeping your plants fertilized and healthy could help them fight off the infection in the first place.

If you have questions regarding the downy mildew, you can call the MSU Extension Gardening Hotline at 888-678-3464.