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"Downy Mildew" Hits Eastern Iowa Impatiens

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - As the spread of a parasite that kills impatiens hit the East Coast and other parts of the nation in 2012, it appears Eastern Iowa now also has pockets of infected soil.

"If they see impatiens that are starting to wilt and the leaves are curling and starting to turn a little bit yellow, then you flip the leaf over and look and you may see some of this white, powdery, may be grey but that's the spore of the disease," said Shirley Peckosh of Peck's Flower and Garden Shop in Cedar Rapids. "If you see that, that is an issue, that means it's downy mildew."

This comes after such a hot and dry stretch throughout the Upper Midwest, pushing record highs and sending homeowners and others to twist the knobs on their sprinklers.

"We shouldn't have had this thing spread like this except we've been watering because it's so hot," said Peckosh. "Impatiens are typically planted in the shade, not as much air movement, they stay cooler, damper, wetter, longer. That's exactly what this downy mildew loves."

One Cedar Rapids homeowner showed us the pictures of the flower bed where, last year and at the start of spring, more than 400 pink impatiens were thriving. Now, in these final weeks of the season, the beds are bare with infested soil that is ruined for years.

Becki Lynch, Linn County Master Gardener, said that, once a flower bed gets the parasite within, it's time to plant something else.

"That stays in the bed for a number of years so do not place impatiens back in that bed for the next year," said Lynch. "It spreads very quickly throughout the entire impatiens."

Peckosh recognizes the paradox of the extreme heat and dry weather this September.

"Maybe it's our watering practices cause this but it's important for us to flip our leaf over and see because you will see - not on every single leaf - but you will see some of that white spore," said Peckosh.

Since the impatiens are an annual flower, Peckosh wants people to realize the trees are in need of the moisture at this stage in the season.

"We have got to get the water to the trees, the shrubs, the perennial flowers," said Peckosh. "The annual flowers are going to die once it freezes."

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