Every year I have planted impatiens around my front yard dogwood tree.  Not this year.

Getty Images/Photodisc

It's a "Wright" of spring in front of my house.  In late May I purchase a flat of impatiens.  We plant them around the dogwood.  Give them a shot of Miracle-Gro.  During the evening spray the plants with a little water, and, in a few weeks they grow into large colorful balls of flowers.

Last year that didn't happen.  At best they were scrawny and, for the most part, colorless.  My impatiens were so pathetic I pulled them out in July.

I just found out why this happened.

It's a mold called Plasmopara obducens.  This fungal disease originated in Europe several years ago and during the past couple of years has spread to the U.S.  Commercial growers say this mold has reared it's ugly head in 36 states including New Jersey.

Infected plants are easy to spot.  The mold appears as a white coating on the underside of the leaves.  The plants become wilted and yellow.  That's exactly how my impatiens looked last year.  When those symptoms appear, pull out the plants.

For quite a while greenhouses were using fungicides to control the mold.  The situation, now, is pretty much out of hand.  Just so you know, there are no over the counter fungicides available to save these flowers.

This disease is so rampant that many nurseries and retailers are not selling the most common impatiens called "impatiens walleriana."  This mold thrives in cool, damp conditions.

Home Depot and Lowes are selling impatiens.  The retailers are said to be warning and educating customers of the risks.

There are other types of impatiens that are fine.  New Guinea and Fanfare impatiens are safe from the mold.  Begonias are another alternative.

I'm sure informed salespeople at our local garden centers will point us in the "Wright" direction as we decide what we're going to plant.