Let's get creative about replacing Impatiens

rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7August 7, 2012

Since the situation with Downy Mildew is so terrible, it's high time for us to get serious about coming up with plants that will light up the shadier spots in our gardens. I know that many of us plant impatiens in big, colorful containers for our porches and patios, too. I, for one, am NOT (no way) willing to do without some gorgeous color.

Let's put our heads together, do some research, and come up with some creative alternatives.

Ummm...you go first. I can't think of anything right now. ;-)

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

begonia were interchangeable with impatiens.. back in the day ...

both the bulb.. the plain.. and the foo foo ones ...


    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 6:39PM
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ornata(London UK (8/9?))

I second Begonia. They have lots of great qualities, and not all of them have the big, blowsy blooms or droopy stems. They also have the distinct advantage (from my point of view) of being totally resistant to slugs and snails!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 8:49AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I can think of plenty of foliage plants, but for flowers, besides Begonia...

If it's not too hot where you are, Fuchsia.

I don't really know of any plants that can take the place of Impatiens when one considers they bloom from frost till frost, and how big they can get, and the ability to grow in almost total shade, but these would be the next-best that I can think of.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:09AM
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Carolinaflowerlover NC Zone 7b

I just bought some clearance impatiens seeds for the spring. Should I not use them? Is the downy mildew only coming from already-grown plants?

Torenia is definitely very pretty, though may be hard to find right now. I am having good luck with Pentas in partial sun/partial shade (they do NOT like my full sun). Begonias, to me, seem just about unstoppable.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 12:06PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I became sort of 'begonia fatigued' at one point, but I may have to learn to love them again. At least they are an option that will bloom long into the fall, even laugh at light frosts. Or least, the Begonia semperflorens-cultorum cultivars do. Purple, you grow quite a few begonias, don't you?

Now that a heat loving Torenia is doing well in the market, I might just try those. They are very pretty, aren't they? 'Summer Wave' series sounds promising.

I know that I'll be using a lot more colorful foliage plants than in the past. I'm crazy over some of the coleus I've seen, for example. And alternanthera can be so pretty. I think that Pink Polka Dot plant would do well in the light shade.

Carolina, if you had problems with impatiens in your garden this season, then downy mildew is present in your soil. It doesn't make any difference if you buy your plants or grow your own.

I'm already thinking about NEXT year, lol, Carolina. Aren't you?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 2:35PM
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doubleAmom(SWPA 5/6)

I've not had any trouble with my impatiens. They're growing and flowering happily in my shade garden.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 3:09PM
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Carolinaflowerlover NC Zone 7b

I have never grown impatiens, so I have no idea...I haven't kept up with what is going on with them. I'm not sure if it is worth it. I have no desire to get any mildew. Maybe I should return them, or throw them down in the backyard. :)

Oh yeah, I'm planning next year! I have a HUGE batch of clearance seeds (17 cents) from Dollar General that may or may not work, but I'm about to chart them and make my third drawing for next year's garden. (Actually, I can plant some of those seeds now.) Planning is part of the fun, right?! :)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 7:47PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Planning is a BIG part of the fun for me. I remember, as a child, sitting around the kitchen table with my Dad after the supper dishes had been all put away, watching him thumb through the seed catalogs and jotting things down on his note pad.

In Central NYS, the planning part was done while there was still snow on the ground. I'm very much like that today, long after my Dad is gone, but still waiting for the catalogs to come in.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:57PM
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We did the same thing in Western NY Rhizo--back 50 years ago when cozy nights inside the house beat going out to shovel the latest snowfall!!

'Farmers' everywhere still peruse the current season's results (or lack thereof!) and don't repeat the 'mistakes' the next, if they can help it. Patience and time are admirable qualities that are under-appreciated today, IMHO. We've been re-programmed to want 'instant results' for beauty that sometimes takes years to develop.

I'll get off my soapbox now and go watch the grass grow :~> 'Bug'

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 8:41AM
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Carolinaflowerlover NC Zone 7b

I am guilty of wanting the instant results this year-my first year of gardening. However, I have gotten a bit bored with the selection of already-grown plants, so I am determined to have fun with seeds next year. I am glad to hear that it is normal to be constantly changing things. Maybe this will finally teach me patience. :)

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 5:17PM
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Impatiens will only survive in full shade here in Houston, so it's hard to find a substitute. I'm going to save seed from my 3 baskets of them for next year. I've had them come up on their own, though, from the previous year's plants.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 5:33PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I'm still begonia fatigued... but I do like the dragon wing types even though it's nothing close to the color range of inpatients.

I've pretty much stopped the impatient planting around here, mostly because I'm too lazy to keep up with watering, but every now and then a few find their way into a container planting. Coleus have become my main filler... but still nothing close to the color range of impatients.

Has anyone grown achimenes (hot water plant)? I think it's more of a pot plant than bedding, and likes warmer temps... but it does have a nicer range of colors and sorta similar blooms.

Here is a link that might be useful: achimenes

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 7:59PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I have one bed that is under wooden lattice all day long so gets only very lightly filtered sun. It is one of my favorite beds, mostly perennials, mostly foliage plants. Oxalis triangularis is a purple leaved oxalis (tuber? rhizome? something like that) that looks wonderful all summer long in my MS heat. As a bonus it blooms in the spring too. It looks best planted in clumps and is a great companion to Japanese painted ferns.

This year I planted Rustic Red coleus in this bed, repeating it throughout the border. They are spectacular. The leaves are edged in a band of bright chartreuse green and the centers are scarlet red. The colors have stayed deep and rich in the shade. I will definitely use this strategy again.

I would second the motion for torenias. The ones that Proven Winners sells are not the old Clown series. Their colors are rich and fade proof. They don't do well in total shade, but any sun more than that and they do well. In addition, they make great trailers in pots.

In my heat, the only begonias I have ever had any luck with are the cocktail series with the colored leaves. They are fine. They lend themselves to formal plantings as they mound neatly into uniform shapes. Not my favorites, but vastly better than impatiens.

One year I had Angel Wing Begonias. They were spectacular in full sun. Never tried them in shade. In cooler mountain areas the tuberous begonias are gorgeous, but here, they are literally over done toast in no time.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 9:15PM
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I have had great luck with the Proven Winners torenias in containers--huge and full of flowers--tho no comparison to the color blast of impatiens. I've never grown them in the ground.

Another shade lover I like is browallia, tho I have only seen it in purple or white. I did get a Proven Winners trailing browallia a couple of years ago that I really liked. However, the purple "disappears" at a distance. Up close, they are very pretty.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 6:19PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

kato, that achimenes looks intriguing.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 10:58PM
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I started using them this year when pots of flowers failed to flourish. I'm doing a ton more next year and also going to plant them where I lost my huge impatient bed.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 6:48PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Very pretty! I doubt you'll find too many disagreeing with you about coleus. There are so many striking colors and forms available these days. Have you seen the Hort Couture line of coleus, Under The Sea?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 6:29AM
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Rhizo, our local nursery had 2 colors left when I bought the above coleus about a month ago. I liked the shape of the foliage but the only 2 colors were rust and....rust-ish so I didn't get any but am anxious to do this much earlier next year. I live in a big city so have a good selection but am still going to try Rosy Dawn next spring for those really unusual ones. I think they carry the Under The Sea also.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:09AM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

Perilla Magilla Purple and Perilla Magilla Vanilla have done well for me in bright shade this summer. Snails and slugs really do a number on Coleus here, but they won't touch the Perilla. I've got the Magilla Purple interplanted with Plectranthus argentatus, and the contrasting silver and purple is just stunning. Both the Perilla and the Plectranthus practically root themselves, so they are easy to over-winter where not hardy.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 2:07PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Susan, I think that you are the second person to mention that Perilla seems to be slug resistant. That's worthy of making a note about, people!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:28PM
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A few years ago, I planted annual vinca where it got dappled shade most of the day and only a couple hours of full sun very late in the day and it still bloomed pretty good. It's more drought tolerant than impatiens which is a big plus for me. I don't remember what variety I had. I've planted vinca on the west side of my house many times and some varieties bloom better than others.
I've seen trial results on them but don't know if anyone has ever tested different varieties for shade tolerance. They should.
Annual vinca looks a lot like impatiens from a distance.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 6:43AM
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I'll try the annual vinca and begonias and increase my coleus plantings. I'm with rhizo on boycotting impatiens for a couple of years until they get it right, altho mine did fairly well this year considering I haven't changed out my pot soils for a very long time. We're having some chilly nights up here so I'm beginning to dump out some of my pots already.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 3:49PM
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Boycotting impatiens until "they" get it right? Who exactly is "they"? The growers? The breeders of impatiens? Downy Mildew is not a man-made disease, and it is having a DEVASTATING impact on the horticulture industry. It has been present for years, affecting impatiens sporadically throughout the country, but NEVER in the severity we are seeing now. The plant breeders have been working hard on developing genetic lines that are resistant to this disease, and the horticultural chemical companies are trying to come up with "cocktails" of treatment regimes that are effective. This disease devastated the impatien crop in Europe last year, and this was the first year we saw any severe outbreaks of it in the U.S. The plant breeders, wholesalers, retailers are all adjusting their plans for the 2013 growing season to offer alternatives for impatiens. Some good suggestions have been made here, and unfortunately, the selection of shade tolerant genera is pretty sparse - there isn't an easy solution, there isn't a single item class that will give you the growth habit and color selection of impatiens.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 12:46PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yes, this has pretty much been discussed in this and other forums. "They" are all of the above.

Boycott is not the right term for what patann means...which is (if I may, patann), that it makes no sense to keep buying plants that may be doomed. I'd like to see their production quantities be reduced and the availability at the retail level be markedly limited, temporarily. I would also like to know that the public is being educated about this situation so that they can stop throwing their good money away on plants at high risk.

That is the motive behind this thread.....finding creative and reasonably acceptable alternatives for our shady gardens and containers. We all look forward to seeing new "resistant " cultivars to hit the market. Chemical cocktails aren't the answer.

In the meantime, I'll stop implementing impatiens and won't recommend their use.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 10:07PM
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Container shade plants on my deck that do well:
browallia (my favorite. I start from seed easily)
caladiums (tubers) (gorgeous!)
annual vinca

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 12:57PM
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I do blame commercial nurseries that sold millions of impatiens plants this spring knowing about this disease. Total the money spent by unknowing comsumers and it is many millions of dollars out of our pockets. Add in the hours of labor in planting, watering, fertilizing, mulching...it makes me fume.

All of my impatiens--except one plot of New Guinea impatiens--are dead. The last to go were those in containers. It is a shocking sight.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 3:43PM
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rhizo_1 wrote: At least they are an option that will bloom long into the fall, even laugh at light frosts. Or least, the Begonia semperflorens-cultorum cultivars do

This is my first season replacing many of my impatiens with wax begonias, especially as a border plant. I like them very much. Comparing them to impatiens I like them as they are more compact, better foliage, much more water conserving, and able to take some frost BUT I do wonder how much shade can they take and still thrive? (For heavy shade locations in my garden I still went with impatiens and now many are falling victim to the 'blight'...so I am thinking ahead to next year).

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 3:32PM
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    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 1:26PM
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I'm afraid annual vinca would not succeed under trees. They are full-sun-lovers and like long hot summers.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 2:38PM
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runswithscissors(MT 4/5)

Last year I went shopping at one of our large nurseries and they had impatiens on the bench. They were young and healthy looking. I asked the manager if they had seen any of the infamous downy mildew problems with their impatiens. She looked me squarely in the eye and didn't even flinch...."What downey mildew problems?"

I set my shopping cart to the side and walked out.

It made me angry, not because she was trying to sell me her impatiens, which to me looked very healthy, but because she wouldn't even acknowledge the problem plaguing the industry. Many gardeners depend on nursery-people to answer questions and to impart information.

Anyway, I like the New Guineas as my replacement plant, and Hypoestes (Pink Polka Dot Plant) comes in pink and white and grows super easy from seed. Tradescantia (Wandering Jew) is marvelous, too.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 2:10PM
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Last year I grew Impatiens from seed and had no problems with disease. I am planning on sowing some more soon for spring. This one was an Impreza Pink Spash.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 3:02PM
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new guinea impatiens not afflicted by mildew.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:51PM
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I've tended to have spider mites pretty bad on NG impatiens. But it has been long time since I grew any. Has anyone planted Balsam? I used to plant it a long time ago, they tend to reseed their selves and throw seeds willy-nilly, but to me they are similar to impatiens, maybe a little taller.

Here is a link that might be useful: Burpee Seeds for old fashioned flowers

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:08AM
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My favorite greenhouse man talked about impatiens at our club meeting. He thinks the cold temps we had this winter will be a help in stamping out the impatiens disease.I wish I'd taken notes on all he said because I can't remember it. One thing I do remember is that you could plant them in the same pot or bed & they wouldn't catch the disease from the old soil.He is planning on offering impatiens as always.I didn't have any disease & most in the town where his greenhouse is didn't have it either.
Rose Iowa

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 3:24PM
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Balsam doesn't have the full shade capabilities that impatiens have.

I wouldn't rule out a chemical cocktail if it were "harmless" like hydrogen peroxide, and if it worked. A lot of us are drinking a chemical cocktail of chlorine and fluorides. It's our tap water. Maybe we should be concerned about those fluorides. Maybe some tap water has enough chlorine and fluorides to kill the Downy Mildew. Maybe not.

Mandolls and others don't seem to have the Downy Mildew problem. Apparently it isn't in their soil yet. I don't have any shady areas that need landscaping, but if I did, l would use Impatiens until I had the problem. I wouldn't stop using them just because the problem is widespread elsewhere.

The sellers of Impatiens probably should mention the possibility of the problem, just for "truth in advertising". Although truth in advertising, particularly TV advertising, has become a joke.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 1:26PM
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rhizo, what is your opinion about the impatiens downy mildew problem now? any good news for this year?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 8:54PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

715 rose, your favorite greenhouse man is a wealth of terrible misinformation about Impatiens Downy Mildew. Shame on him.

Cold temperatures won't do anything to curtail the spread of this disease. The spores can remain dormant in the soil for years!

The onus of the prevention of this disease rests on the shoulders of the growers. They can either stop production, adopt some of the rigorous sanitation and housekeeping practices and/or use some of the new fungicides on the market to control the disease.

Sales of I. walleriana are way down in the past couple of years (seeds and plants), which is a great thing! That means that consumers are educating themselves. Reports of disease incidents are down, too.

There aren't any new resistant hybrids out there yet, but don't forget 'Sunpatiens ', which comes pretty close to the appearance of their fragile cousins (or half siblings). They can tolerate a fair amount of shade.

The new fungicides will probably be left in the hands of the commercial producers, rightfully so. Diseases become resistant to fungicides very quickly, much like human pathogens have due to inappropriate widespread use of antibiotics. Deadly superbugs are the result of that.

We need to remember that the spores can travel long distances in the wind and rain, and by animals and insects. We still need to be creative about finding other sources of color for our gardens and containers as often as possible. Those of us whose communities haven't seen this disease as yet need to be prepared. Seeds and plants purchased from your favorite vendors are likely to be the source of introduction one of these days.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:07AM
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