Help! What Can I Plant Besides Impatiens???? Some Alternatives

Common Impatiens

Common Impatiens

If you haven’t heard by now, common Impatiens, Impatien walleriana, are in trouble.  Lots of shade gardeners are bemoaning this right now, and wonder what should they plant instead!!??

Downy Mildew is the Culprit

First, a little background. I found out about this when I visited a client three summers ago who gardens in the shade, and took a look at all her wilting, disgusting impatiens, and was at a loss to explain their demise. After calling around to different help desks at county and state offices for gardeners, I found out that impatiens are taking a direct hit from Impatiens Downy Mildew (Plasmopara obducens), a new disease that has recently has reared its ugly head in the states, and has killed off masses of Impatiens throughout the U.S. It started as long ago as 1942, with only sporadic outbreaks, but really starting getting going in 2004. In 2011, widespread kill-offs of Impatiens were reported and things aren’t expected to get any better.

This is a relatively new disease that only targets the common Impatien, not the other Impatiens like the  New Guinea, Big Bounce or Sunpatien. Sunpatien and Big Bounce are new on the market in the last few years and are husky vigorous plants, unlike the common Impatien.

Big Bounce Impatiens are resistant

Big Bounce Impatiens are resistant

New sunpatien takes partial shade and the flowers are larger

New sunpatien takes partial shade and the flowers are larger

Symptoms

If you experienced it in your annual plantings last year, then this year watch out! The pathogen overwinters handily and can persist for years. Here are the things to look for:

  • Yellowish or pale-green foliage
  • Downward curling of the leaves
  • Distorted leaves
  • White to light-gray fuzz on the undersides of the leaves. There are excellent images on the web if you search for “Impatiens Downy Mildew.”
  • Emerging, new leaves that are smaller than normal and discolored.
  • Flower buds that either fail to form or abort before opening.
  • Stunted plants
Impatiens with Downy Mildew

Impatiens with Downy Mildew

Sounds like a horror story for any gardener who relies on Impatiens for color in the shade.  And there are a lot of gardeners who plant them exclusively. So, now is the time to look for alternatives until plant breeders come up with some resistant varieties and that could be a while. There are lots of beauties out there for the taking if you know what to look for.

Alternatives for Shade Color

1. Lobelias

There are newer varieties of the old standard Lobelia that are worth a try. Many people thinkk of Lobelias as early season performers that fizzle in our heat here in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.. The reason these new varieties are garnering such attention is that they are showing a new heat tolerance, blooming like superstars from spring through midsummer. Cooler regions of the country will find them blooming even longer. They are tolerant of shade. Try the Laguna Sky Blue cultivar.

Annual Lobelia

Annual Lobelia

Purple Lobelia with Begonias for shade windowbox

Purple Lobelia with Begonias for shade windowbox

2. Begonias-Foliage and/or Flowers

Begonias are a huge shade loving group and I use them either for their striking foliage or colorful large flowers or both.

Tuberous begonias are great for shade

Tuberous begonias are great for shade

Tuberous begonia

Tuberous begonia

Foliage

 I love this big-leaved heirloom begonia. It has a black palmate leaf with green marbling and appealing tufted edges. Begonia ‘Black Fancy’ is a rhizomatous heirloom variety. Of course, the flowers are insignificant, but the foliage is stunning!

Begonia 'Black Fancy'

Begonia ‘Black Fancy’

Fancy leaved begonia

Fancy leaved begonia

Flower–  Pretty new to the market, this begonia ‘Bonfire’ positively glows. Easy to take care of with filtered light, it looks good in hanging baskets as well as planted into borders.

Colorful shade container with tuberious begonias

Colorful shade container with tuberious begonias

Begonia bonfire

Begonia bonfire

Begonia bonfire with honeybush

Begonia bonfire with honeybush

3. Fuchsia-These have elegant two-toned hanging flowers for the shade.  They look good in pots and if you plant them in beds, be sure to water regularly. Fuchsia aren’t as easy to grow as Marigolds but are well worth the effort. Chillier temperatures and partial to full shade is required for the best performance of this beautiful plant so they do not do well in the south.

Fuchsia

Fuchsia

Fuschia

Fuchsia

Fuschia

Fuchsia

4. New Guinea Impatiens –The old standby New Guinea Impatiens are more tolerant of sunny conditions and are great for containers.  If you plant them in the ground, be sure to add plenty of compost, water regularly, and dead head to get rid of the ugly spent blossoms.

p_100674669

5. Torenia (Wishbone Flower)- This is an underused plant for the shade. Tough and colorful, Wishbone Flower comes in shades of pinks, blues, and violets. It is a ground hugging plant that when happy in the shade, will produce loads of colorful oddly shaped flowers-like a wish bone!

Torenia or Wishbone Flower in Violet

Torenia or Wishbone Flower in Violet

6. Scaveola (Fan Flower)- I found out by accident that this lovely blue mounding plant is tolerant of shade. I was desperate to get some color in a client’s shady border and threw some in and it grew wonderfully. There are also some varieties in pink and white, but I love the blue.

 

imagesCAI6ADK6

Scaveola or Fan Flower

7. Coleus –    This is not your grandmother’s coleus with a limited color palette. Breeders have been very busy making new varieties for sun and shade.  Take your pick and go for the colors that you like best!

Coleus with Sweet Potato Vine and Fuchsia

Coleus with Sweet Potato Vine and Fuchsia

coleus

coleus

 

8. Euphorbia Diamond Frost An annual euphorbia that resembles babys breath, Diamond Frost gives an airy light touch to shade plantings, whether in planting beds or containers.

Euphorbia Diamond Frost

Euphorbia Diamond Frost

 

9. Caladiums – These have been around for a long time but there are some really beautiful variations. Some have huge ruffled leaves, beautiful colors, and they brighten the shade with a rainbow of colors using just foliage.

Calaldiums in a shade container

Calaldiums in a shade container

Caladiums come in a wide range of colors

Caladiums come in a wide range of colors

10. Sweet Potato Vine-There are several colors of this vine – purple, tri-color, and lime green.  Try the lime green in a bed and it will cover the ground very quickly. One plant goes a long way in the sun or shade.

Sweet potato vine does well in shade or sun

Sweet potato vine does well in shade or sun

Sweet potato vine with Caladium

Sweet potato vine with Caladium

 11. Mona Lavender (Plectranthus)

Mona Lavender with a Colocasia

Mona Lavender with a Colocasia in the shade

Mona Lavender

Mona Lavender

 Mona Lavender or otherwise known as Swedish Ivy, has glossy, dark green foliage that set off the lavender tubular flowers like a charm. Flowering quite happily in the shade, you have to keep this plant on the moist side. The one called “Velvet Elvis” is a superior variety with larger flowers, a deeper green leaf, and a more compact habit.

About thegardendiaries

Claire Jones is a landscape and floral designer and owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. She designs and helps people to create their own personal outdoor oasis and loves to write about her gardening failures and successes.
This entry was posted in Container gardening, gardening, shade gardening and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Help! What Can I Plant Besides Impatiens???? Some Alternatives

  1. Oh my, I want the Sunpatiens. They look magical. I will have to see if we can get them here in BC. Garden centers are still selling the regular impatiens, groan. I am trying to grow Caladium but its a stubborn one to start.

    Like

  2. mjarz says:

    Impatiens were unavailable in the St. Louis area last year. This year I have seen them stocked in nurseries and have given them another go but you have provided several great options to consider for the shade garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a spot in back under a tree that gets the first shade of the day but some sun. I thought about hostas and it seems as though there is a mint or something like it growing back there now. I inherited the plants when I bought the trailer but have no idea what a lot of it is. Ground is very thick clay that I am amending gradually. You have a lot of good choices here but I think begonias would be too delicate for the area even though they are a favorite. They are all beautiful plants and the Pacific NW is quite wet until summer. We get no rain in the summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rose says:

    Thanks for all these great suggestions, and what gorgeous container combinations! I haven’t had any trouble with impatiens yet, but I know a lot of people who have. Our MG group grew the Big Bounce variety in the trial garden last year and was very impressed by it. I love lobelia, but have never had much luck with it–I’ll have to check out this new variety that can withstand our hot summers.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s