The Q&A Archives: Rotting Impatiens

Question: Every year I grow my impatiens from seeds and plant them in various areas of the garden. I probably grow and plant 350 plants, and for approximately the last six years, various colors and varieties of impatiens have gone in the same places in my garden. Consistently certain areas develop what I call a "fungus". Some of the leaves of my impatiens will turn yellow or black, eventually fall off, and then the entire plant will die. Sometimes the entire plant will split and die from the base. I've been successful in "treating" the problem by a combination of removing diseased plants before the "fungus" spreads and treating the entire garden with weekly doses of a fungicide. My qestion is -- can I prevent this condition from happening in the first place? Is there something I can do to treat the soil? Do you think this is really a fungus or root rot? Whatever this condition is, it also has affected and killed some of my azleas and rhododendrons.

Answer: Unfortunately, impatiens are occasionally subject to a number of soil-borne problems when they are planted in the same beds year after year. The diseases that affect them include verticillium, pythium, and rhizoctonia root and stem rot. In some cases a viral infection can be spread by insects such as thrips, as well. As you might guess, controls begin with using sterilized soil, clean equipment, clean, healthy plants, and controlling insect pests. Your best bet is to take some samples to your County Agricultural Extension office (285-4630) for a more precise identification of the problem and the most up-to-date controls, particularly since it seems to be spreading beyond your bedding annuals. Best of luck to you!

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