Impatiens flower poses big risk of soil-killing disease - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Impatiens flower poses big risk of soil-killing disease, experts say

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

What is likely the most popular type of flower in Nashville yards could actually be poisoning the very grounds where it is planted.

There is new concern about a type of sickness the shade-loving impatiens flower spreads in the soil.

University of Tennessee plant pathologist Alan Windham, Ph. D, discovered the first-known Tennessee case of downy mildew disease in Green Hills last year.

"It spreads rapidly, and often it spreads so fast you don't know it's there until you see the damage and it's too late to do anything about it. It knocks the leaves off other plants until you're left only with stems. It's pretty drastic when you see the symptoms," Windham said.

When it comes to full-sun flowers, there are many lovely choices available at garden nurseries such as Moore & Moore Garden Center on Highway 100.

But when it comes to bright flowers that grow in the shade, the impatiens was king.

"It's easy. It has a lot of flowers on one individual plant, and it comes in hot, tropical flowers. It can take the heat and humidity, so in July and August it loves the heat. So, that's why people have fallen in love with it," said Robyn Brown, with Moore & Moore Garden Center.

However, people are going to have to fall out of love fast if they want to save their soil and other plants as nationwide production of impatiens will be reduced up to 75 percent.

Experts say the downy mildew can remain in affected soil, and even move airborne to destroy healthy plants.

"It might be a good year to sit on the sidelines and just see what happens," Windham said.

Brown recommends several alternatives for your garden, such as begonias, caladiums, coleus and the wishbone flower.

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