Bitain’s biggest garden retailer is to stop selling the nation’s favourite bedding plant.

Impatiens walleriana

B&Q, which has 357 stores, pulled the plug on busy Lizzies (Impatiens walleriana) after impatiens downy mildew struck in 2011.

B&Q usually sells 20 million busy Lizzies a year, making it the UK’s biggest retailer of the hanging basket favourite.

The firm warned of a “chronic shortfall of busy Lizzies at garden centres” this year – but said it took the decision to allow growers to control the virus.

B&Q has ordered growers to ramp-up stock of geraniums, begonias, petunias and marigolds to plug gaps that will be left on its shelves.

Horticulture buyer Joclyn Silezin said: “With the future of busy Lizzies under threat, we’ve had to take drastic measures to find replacements for the nation’s favourite plant.”

Alan Titchmarsh, who is B&Q’s gardening ambassador, added: “Hopefully, by taking this step, the industry can take time to understand and control the problem.”

TOP-SELLING PRODUCT

Seed and young plant giant Thompson & Morgan (T&M) has also withdrawn Impatiens walleriana despite selling 9.2million busy Lizzies in 2011, generating £1million.

T&M managing director Paul Hansord said: “Busy Lizzies were our top-selling product, so pulling them was a very difficult decision. But our customers put a lot of effort into growing plants and they don’t want to buy stuff that doesn’t perform.”

Last July, Paul warned the UK busy Lizzie market could be “wiped out within five years” unless urgent action was taken.

He summed up: “Last year was the first time we’ve had impatiens downy mildew at our trial grounds. I first saw it in July and it took just 10 days to devastate our trials.”

T&M is urging gardeners to switch to begonias and New Guinea impatiens which so far have resisted downy mildew.