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"Downy Mildew" Fungus A Death Sentence For Impatiens

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- You probably have impatiens planted in your garden.

The flowers thrive in the shade and are easy to maintain. So why are so many people losing their favorite flowers this year?

"If you have a big bed of impatiens, and one gets it, they're all going to get it," says Doug Oster, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's garden guru. "The leaves will start to fall off, you'll see a little bit of white spores underneath the leaves, and then the plant will just collapse. It will be like it just wilts away."

The fungus is called "downy mildew," and it's a certain death sentence for the shade-loving favorite.

"At this point, if this plant has the disease, get rid of it," Oster says. "Don't leave it in the garden - pull it, bag it, burn it or bury it."

While many have been impacted by downy mildew this year, it's not something new.

"The fungus was here, but we didn't have the right weather conditions," Oster adds. "This year was the perfect storm for downy mildew, and I know I lost most of my impatiens and I heard from readers that were just wiped out."

After you bag, burn or bury your dead and dying plants, you must remember where they were planted for next year.

"For next season, we want to spray an organic fungicide on this before we see signs of damage," says Oster. "And that's kind of the hard thing about doing this. If we know a plant is going to get a fungal issue, we've got to spray it beforehand. It's much more effective to use the fungicide before we see the signs of damage."

While there are new varieties of impatiens that will not be susceptible to downy mildew, there are other options for your flower beds that will freshen things up just fine.

"We have to start thinking about some other plants to throw in the shade, like begonias and other shade lovers that might work for you and next year," Oster adds. "If the weather's different, we might not have quite a problem; and if we do treat with the fungicide, we might be okay now that we know about this being so prolific."

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