The Q&A Archives: Impatiens died on sunny windowsill

Question: I usually overwinter cuttings from my impatiens plants on my sunny windowsill. This past winter, despite proper care and no apparent insect problems, the leaves slowly dried up and died. What happened? Mrs. Floyd Poland Rio, WV

Answer: The problem may be due to a soilborne fungus such as Rhizoctonia or Pythium, says Jim Alston, research director at Park Seed Company in Greenwood, South Carolina. Fungal diseases prefer cool, moist conditions, such as those found in a plant on a windowsill. To discourage these diseases, clean your knife with a 1% bleach solution between cuttings, use a soilless potting mix, put the cuttings in a sunny, warm window where soil temperatures don't get below 65oF and don't overwater. It's best to allowimpatiens to almost wilt before watering, says Alston. Wait until the leaf color pales and the leaves become flaccid. Overfertilization can also cause slow leaf dieback. I'd suggest fertilizing using a water soluble complete mix such as Peter's or Hyponex at 1/4 the recommended rate, says Alston. Since natural light levels are low in winter, overfertilization can cause leggy growth and weak plants.

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