Container Garden Failure 2013 – SunPatiens

What SunPatiens Should Look Like

What SunPatiens Should Look Like

While most of the container plants did well this year, there was one that was an utter failure – SunPatiens. This plant has been touted a lot lately as a great plant for containers and beds. It’s more vigorous than New Guinea impatiens and it’s also resistant to the fungus that’s killing standard impatiens. According to the growers web site, these plants are free-flowering and can grow to 2′ tall and 3′ wide.

My SunPatiens Plant in the Process of Dying!

My SunPatiens Plant in the Process of Dying!

I decided to give the SunPatiens a try this year. The plant did well for about a month but then is started to turn brown. This discoloration continued until the plant was dead. I know these flowers can be great container plants; a local garden center has pots and pots of SunPatiens decorating their entryway.

So what went wrong?

I’m sure it has to do with watering. While SunPatiens can take full sun and even a little drought, the one thing they can’t tolerate is wet feet. If the soil stays moist for too long, they’ll develop fungal root rot caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani. If the rot has just started you might be able to stop it if the soil drys out but most of the time, once the plant has it, it’s a goner. Rhizoctonia solani is present everywhere so the only way to control it in the home garden is through proper cultural practices.

I think I know the two things that cause the death of my SunPatiens. The first is that I used MiracleGro potting mix. While this is a fine potting mix, it tends to be a little heavy and dense. I noticed that when I watered the SunPatiens pot that was filled with MiracleGro potting mix, the mix compacted a lot and didn’t seem to provide much aeration to the roots.

The other issue is that the pot I planted the SunPatiens in had a saucer attached. This isn’t a problem for most plants but the saucer meant that when I watered, the excess water couldn’t fully drain out of the pot; instead some of it sat in the saucer, making sure that the soil was saturated. In the case of SunPatiens, saturated soil equals fungal root rot.

While this plant was a total bust this year, I’ll try it again. Next year I’ll be sure to use the potting mix from Esbenshades that stays open and light all season long. Also, I’ll only use pots without saucers; that way the excess water can drain and not keep the soil too moist.

Now that I know what I did wrong, maybe I can correct it and grow some large and healthy SunPatiens in 2014!

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