Busy lizzies are back: UK's favourite bedding plant bred to beat disease

Busy lizzies are back: UK's favourite bedding plant bred to beat disease

Garden centre chain B&Q says it will sell six million this summer of a variety resistant to fatal airborne disease downy mildew.



It used to sell 20 million busy lizzies – scientific name Impatiens walleriana – each year and says it has been inundated with enquiries after an epidemic of downy mildew devastated gardens and nurseries across Britain in 2011 when a strain became resistant to fungicides.

The fungus spreads in our damp climate and first appears as a grey powder. Plants lose leaves, flowers and their lives within a few days.

Most retailers pulled the nation’s favourite plant from shelves and many gardeners switched to geraniums, begonias, petunias and marigolds and New Guinea Impatiens. Now Syngenta Flowers has bred a new variety called imara – strong and resilient in Swahili – in tribute to its East African origins.

Head of research and development Joost Kos says the hybrid of two different busy lizzies will survive all summer.

He said: “We extensively tested imara bizzie lizzies indoors and outdoors and have exposed it to the disease to ensure its resiliency.

“Imara is a new generation of busy lizzies that perform much better against the disease while also retaining the qualities that gardeners love such as continuous flowering, bright colours and easy care.

“We’re proud to be the first to deliver this innovation back to the market.”

B&Q has exclusive rights to sell the plants from £2.50.

Buyer Tim Clapp said: “Busy lizzies were the number one favourite plant in the UK and we are bringing them back.”

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