Downy mildew free Impatiens
Downy mildew free Impatiens has long been the bedding plant breeders holy grail!
That’s because Impatiens, which are often called Busy Lizzies, were the number one selling bedding plant worldwide! That was until a particularly virulent strain of downy mildew came along to spoil the party.
What went wrong?
In 2003 the Busy Lizzie began suffering from Impatiens Downy Mildew (Plasmopara obducens).
Steadily this worsened and spread until in 2011 it was no longer a viable plant to grow.
Prior to this disease infestation Impatiens were the most popular bedding plant by far. In fact UK production alone was reckoned to be worth around £40 million per annum! So this left a big hole in the bedding plant market and a fantastically reliable garden performer was no longer available.
Why was the old Impatiens such a star performer?
Impatiens walleriana varieties were as good in shade as in full sun.
They hugged the ground and covered it with a low mound of colours in a huge range of colours.
They didn’t set seed and so they just kept flowering. As a flower faded it fell off and was quickly replaced by another.
Alternative downy mildew free Impatiens
Initially gardeners turned to the New Guinea Impatiens but this had a very different growth habit. Unfortunately it was large and much leafier. It was less versatile in the garden. And it was also a much more expensive plant to buy!
Then a few years ago a new variety called ‘Divine’ appeared on the market for gardeners to grow.
I grew some myself and found them to be similar to the old ‘Accent’ Busy Lizzie but not quite as good.
They had good disease resistance but still had a hint of New Guinea blood in them.
Next came ‘Imara’ and that too was good. But to my mind this still had too many leaves and not enough flowers. I grew these last summer in the same way that I’ve grown the new Beacon strain.
‘Beacon’ downy mildew free Impatiens
Launched in 2019 the Beacon Impatiens look to be the real deal!
I have them growing in my garden this year and have been very impressed with their performance.
They look every bit as good as the old disease prone ‘Accent’ did before this virulent disease came into our gardens.
The colour range is good.
The leaves are healthy and small.
The growth habit is low and spreading.
I’ve grown some in a shallow pot where they were bound to come under some stress from uneven watering.
This might have triggered a collapse due to downy mildew but there is absolutely no sign of disease.
I’ve grown others in an old raised stone drinking trough which again provides less than ideal growing conditions.
These too are healthy.
Whilst I haven’t grown any myself in hanging baskets I’d be very surprised if they didn’t excel there too!
It’s probably too late to buy more Impatiens Beacon for this summer but keep an eye out for it at your local garden centre and nursery next spring.
I expect that young plug plants will be available from garden centres in their Kindergarden Plant range.