I was going to include a discussion of impatiens walleriana many and varied names in my previous blog. However I came to the conclusion that I should likely dedicate an entire article to this beautiful, popular and generally easy care flower which I think has maybe gotten a worse rap than it actually deserved. A classic example of the adage ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’.
We at Horlings Plants are growers who have chosen to gamble by continuing to grow impatiens and have brought to you healthy plants for the last few years now. Until we actually contract downy mildew (which we hope we never will) we will continue to provide you with healthy stock that if you choose you can grow in your home garden.
Basically in a nutshell impatiens downy mildew is a water mold that loves cool and damp weather. In fact, the mold requires those conditions before it can wreak havoc on our non-infected healthy little friends. If infected you would notice the impatien leaves dropping off the stem and ultimately the entire plant would soften and rot. However realistically, because you’re not going to buy impatiens until the weather warms up you would likely only have to watch out for a mildew problem in the late summer and fall when the weather starts to cool off and the rains begin. The biggest no no for planting impatiens in your garden would be if your plants succumbed to downy mildew in the previous year. Then there would be a good chance the mold spores overwintered in your garden soil and/or plant debris and would contaminate your little baby transplants. Or if your neighbour had a downy mildew problem, air currents have been known to carry the spores over the fence!
2011 was the year of infamy for the impatien demise from downy mildew. 2012 and 2013 outbreaks were still occurring but in subsequent years the incidence of disease has been decreasing. Of course part of that is simply because quantities of impatiens have not been planted in the landscape as had been but it also appears that preventative measures including healthier plant stock is contributing to the rebound of successful impatien plantings.
So where is this all going…hopefully we’re out of the woods with regard to the epidemic mildew problem. Of course your impatiens will need good circulation and good drainage as they always have but at least when you go to choose whether or not to purchase your transplants you will be a little better informed and not bound by heresay . PS: Nobody really knows….
Now the fun part, why are impatiens referred to as ‘busy-lizzies’. This is their common name in the UK because of course in the UK they continue to bloom ‘busily’ for most of the year. Their Latin name ‘impatien’ speaks to how they fling the seeds from their pods. Called ‘Sultanna’ honouring the Sultan of Zanzibar (the impatien flower is native to the tropics of Zanzibar, East Africa).’ Walleriana’ named after Horace Waller the British missionary who passed them on to a British naturalist who introduced them to England. ‘Lizzy’ because she was the seed enthusiast friend of Horace….I really am not sure. This is trivia I picked up in researching and it seems everyone has a different story. ‘Touch- me-not’ or ‘snapweed’ because it’s expected the ripe seed pod will explode once touched. And finally the impatien plant is commonly called ‘patient Lucy’ in the States…and sorry to say, I have no idea why.