I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you love impatiens, you’ll need to consider some good substitutes.
Why? Because what loves this colorful annual bedding plant (Impatiens walleriana) is the fungus, downy mildew. It’s so serious that I’ve received a second letter from my local nursery, Sloat Garden Center, explaining the situation and suggesting alternative shade plants. Here’s what they had to say:
Over the last five years, downy mildew has infected impatiens across the United States, with severe outbreaks throughout California in the summer of 2013. Unbeknownst to the growers, diseased impatiens were shipped throughout the industry. We made the decision to stop selling them for the rest of this past summer and fall.
The problem is that there’s no cure for the disease, and single and double varieties of impatiens are affected, as are mini-impatiens, Fusion & Butterfly impatiens. The forecast for when we’ll see the return of impatiens, healthy impatiens, is unknown. Some nurseries may still sell this plant. If they do, they should include a sign like: “Buy at your own risk.”
About the Fungus
If impatiens are infected, they may appear stunted or look like they need a good drink of water.
You can learn more about disease and its symptoms here.
The silver lining here may be that the particular pathogen that causes downy mildew in Impatiens walleriana, called Plasmopara obducens, is very host specific. So, basically you won’t have to worry about the disease spreading to other nearby or faraway shade plants; be they annuals, perennials, etc. But if you do bring into your garden infected impatiens you risk infecting your soil, so it’s a vicious cycle regarding impatiens. In the end, best idea is to get creative with other plant choices.
I know this is hard. You’re not alone if you feel like impatiens are/were the perfect easy plant to mass in shady areas. The colors are/were great: white, purple, magenta, pink, lavender, salmon. New Guinea impatiens are a nice alternative. There are so many more. What’s nice about the New Guinea impatiens is that you can look to buy it in jumbo packs and carry on with easy mass planting (if you like 🙂 as you might have before with regular impatiens.
Here’s a list of some good impatiens alternatives:
- Sutera (previously called Bacopa)
- New Guinea Impatiens
And, remember, there are PLENTY more fantastic choices and substitutes.
The bright flowers you loved from impatiens can be enjoyed with the many different New Guinea impatiens. Sutera, (formerly Bacopa) offers an excellent trailing groundcover for part shade and they’re available in white, pale blue, and lavendar.
p.s: What are your some of your favorite shade garden plants and alternatives? I’d love to know! Like this post? Stay in Touch – Sign up for our weekly blog updates 🙂