Sunday 14 August 2011

The end of busy Lizzies as we know them?

Is it the end of fabulous displays of busy Lizzies like these?
I've been doing a lot of question time roadshows across the country recently, and one question that regularly comes up is: "What's wrong with my busy Lizzies - they're all dying?"

The answer, sadly, is a disfiguring disease that is killing busy Lizzies (impatiens) all over the UK. Impatiens downy mildew is a relatively new disease. It was first discovered in the UK in 2003, but there was never a real problem with it until a couple of years ago. But this year it has run riot in gardens - probably encouraged by the cool, damp summer weather - killing off plants wherever it appears.

Unfortunately, the disease is proving 'difficult to control' on the nurseries growing and supplying the plants, with even approved professional fungicides proving ineffective. This could indicate either the presence of a new 'aggressive' form of the disease or that the pathogen has developed resistance to the fungicides.

For us gardeners, there are no approved fungicides for its control - so there's nothing we can do once it strikes in our gardens.

All this means that it could be the end of the busy Lizzie as we know it - the end of all those massed bedding displays and 'ball baskets'. If the plant nurseries can't control it on their plants - then they won't be growing them, as they don't want to dispatch diseased plants - and if we have no approved fungicides to use at home, once it appears on our plants that's it.

There is one possible ray of hope. The Sunpatiens varieties seem to be resistant to the disease. These plants are bigger and more robust than your common or garden busy Lizzie and it may be this that provides the resistance. They are a hybrid of Impatiens walleriana (regular busy Lizzies) and Impatiens hawkeri (New Guinea impatiens). If you look at the plants, you can see some of each of their parents in them. The flower size is somewhere between both and the leaves are slightly thicker than normal impatiens. So, let's hope these offer some


  1. I have lost every single busy lizzy this year and I've had hundreds. It will be such a disaster if we lose this lovely summer bedding plant. It is such a good summer long hardworking little plant and I for one will really miss it and hope that a control of this disease will soon be found.

  2. Margaret
    I couldn't agree more. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

  3. Beautiful flowers, let's hope its not the end of them!

  4. Most growers are going to grow busy Lizzies from seed, rather than from cuttings, as the latter seem to be more prone to the disease. But have gardeners now lost confidence in growing them?

  5. Let's hope a cure is found asap as my baskets and pouches rely heavily on busy lizzie and they are such a versatile little plant - lots of colour - makes the heart proud!
    Sally of Bristol

  6. Ian, concerned Busy Lizzy fan.24 May 2012 at 15:16

    Myself and my wife went to our local B&Q
    on our annual trek to pick up our bedding
    plants for the season, and noticed there was
    distinct lack of Busy Lizzies.
    Having thought we were in between deliveries
    i noticed then, by the checkout a small notice
    explaining about the lack of Busy's, and Impatiens
    downy mildew, Is there anywhere i can get them, or are all suppliers affected.

  7. What happened you have disappeared? Hope you are well

  8. Hi there - is this blog still active?

    Gary -