A fungus is to blame for the increasing number of dead or dying impatiens plants — one of the most popular late-summer flowering plants — in Halifax this year, say plant experts.

As summer ebbs away, the colourful impatiens’ blossoms are noticeably absent this year from some Halifax area gardens.

Charlene Regan, the garden centre manager at Halifax Seed said she saw her first impatiens patient three weeks ago.

“And that was my first experience personally seeing what’s called downy mildew which is a fungus that affects common impatiens,” said Regan.

“Even if you just touch the leaves, you’ll see the white spores pop off the leaves.”

downy-mildew-impatiens

The fungus has shown up sporadically since early 2000 in isolated areas of the U.S. but has been widespread in Europe since 2003 – this year it's all over Ontario. (CBC)

The fungus has shown up sporadically since early 2000 in isolated areas of the U.S. but has been widespread in Europe since 2003. It’s all over Ontario this year, according to Ontario Greenhouse floriculture specialist Wayne Brown.

This is the first year the plant disease has been found in Halifax.

“For the last 30 years, I’ve planted impatiens in this area and usually they last until October but this year they’re gone,” said Marlene Umlah, describing the brown stalks in front of her home.

Umlah said her neighbours plants are suffering from the same affliction.

To prevent spreading the disease, plant experts say infected plants must either be burned or buried quite deeply, greater than 50 centimetres. Composting the plants does not kill the fungus and may aid in spreading the fungal spores.

“Even our cold winters here won’t kill this particular fungus,” said Regan.

Suppliers say it’s too soon to predict whether the fungus can be nipped in the bud, but hopefully something can be done to protect the best-selling annual plant next year.