From the employee-owners of Gardener's Supply

If Not Impatiens, What? Shady Solutions

New Guinea impatiens

This combination features New Guinea impatiens, a type of impatiens that is not affected by the disease. Featured plants: Infinity White New Guinea impatiens, variegated sweet flag (Acorus gramineus), white licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare) and Green spice heuchera. Photos: Courtesy of Proven Winners

Have you heard about the new disease that’s wiping out impatiens across the country? Known as “impatiens downy mildew,” it can wipe out a drift of these summer annuals in short order.

We experienced it last year, and learned more about it from Sally Roth in her recent blog post. After sharing the post it on our Facebook page, everyone seems to be asking, what now?

We turned to Rick Schoellhorn, the former director of new products for Proven Winners. Rick was responsible for the evaluation of all plants being considered for the Proven Winners line. Here’s what he told us:

5 Annuals to Plant Instead of Impatiens

Pineapple coleus adds bright color to shady sites.

Impatiens downy mildew (Plasmopara obducens) has become a problem across the United States, killing annual impatiens (also known as busy lizzie, or touch-me-not). The symptoms of the disease are white fuzzy patches under the leaves, followed by leaf drop and slow death for the plant. What can you do? Select other plants to take the place of impatiens in your yard until this disease relaxes its hold on American gardens. Like every epidemic, it is likely to come and go. It’s possible that you will never see it in your yard, but if you do, here are five great options for replacing impatiens in your shade gardens this summer:

New Guinea Impatiens: The simplest substitution, and not susceptible to downy mildew. New Guineas are Impatiens hawkeri; the varieties affected by the disease are Impatiens walleriana. Although New Guinea impatiens won’t thrive in deep shade, they do fine in part shade and full sun.

Add color with foliage: Coleus can be used in mass plantings or to highlight other shade flowers. The ColorBlaze series is easy to grow.



Torenia: The series of Catalina and Summer Wave Torenia make great part-shade color and mix well with other shade annuals. In hanging baskets, they add a trailing component as well as constant color through the summer. They can also be used in mass plantings, as shown in the photo below.

Oxalis instead of impatiens

Oxalis can be used in containers or in garden beds.

Oxalis: Trouble-free and easy to grow, these clovers make wonderful shade plantings in both containers and the landscape. Dark foliage and small white flowers provide season-long color. Tolerant of full shade.

Begonias!: Begonias are available as bedding types and tuberous types, such as the Nonstop series and the Illumination series. They will thrive in full-shade and part-sun gardens and planters.

Torenia and coleus

Blue-flowered torenia combines with a chartreuse coleus to mark the edge of this shady bed

Angel wing begonias

Red-flowered angel wing begonias mix with coleus in this shady border.


  1. Susan
    June 7, 2013    

    I did plant disease-free impatiens along my drive as I have for a number of years, just because everyone like the color pop against the ivy. Not much else has ever grown there. Last year they died quickly, but so far they are looking very healthy!
    I have always had hundred of “volunteer” plant that grow from seed, and those also died last year. So far this year, there are a few seedlings – hoping for the best. Otherwise, it’s begonias and hostas.

  2. Adele Shearer
    July 22, 2013    

    I too have been crushed this summer with my impatiens…I always have a bag of them hanging on my railing outside and they are beautiful till the end of Oct beginning of November or first frost which ever comes first…well I had to throw them out already because of flowers dropping and stems long and scraggly, also lost the ones in my flower bed and most containers…it is just soooo sad… Thanks for sharing…now I know it’s nothing I did to them personally…

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