Impatient with Impatiens? Time to Explore Other Options

Many gardeners have come to cherish the summer-long color of flowering impatiens, long a staple of home gardens. But with a stubborn fungus threatening this popular annual, what options do gardeners have?

C4 Coleus
Published May 24, 2013 7:02 PM
2 min read

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C4 ColeusMany gardeners have come to cherish the summer-long color of flowering impatiens, long a staple of home gardens. But with a stubborn fungus threatening this popular annual, what options do gardeners have?

 

By Chris Cohan

 

C4 ColeusMany gardeners have come to cherish the summer-long color of flowering impatiens, long a staple of home gardens. But with a stubborn fungus threatening this popular annual, what options do gardeners have?

 

John Garrity, Rye horticulturist, says, “Good riddance to landscape linoleum. While I enjoyed planting impatiens, they became overused. This blight is actually a boon for gardeners. It opens up new planting opportunities.”

 

There are hearty, colorful alternatives to impatiens. Easy-to-grow, shade-tolerant, and fungus-resistant plants include New Guinea impatiens, SunPatiens, Begonias, Caladium, and Coleus. These substitutes provide a wider range of colors and textures that were lacking with the garden-variety impatiens.

 

Downy mildew is the fungus striking impatiens. Many garden centers aren’t carrying it this year. Garden scientists are working to control and ultimately eradicate the fungus, which is transmitted by soil, wind, and water and can live for up to ten years in soil. It thrives in humid conditions and has been prolific in our area.

 

The fungus was first detected in the U.S. in 2004 and is now found in 33 states. Horticulture is an $11.6 billion industry, according to the Department of Agriculture, with nursery plants and annual flowers such as impatiens, marigolds, and geraniums accounting for more than half that amount.

 

Garrity’s favorite impatiens alternatives are:

 

SumPatiens: This robust, heat–loving impatiens thrives in full sun or part shade and delivers continuous color from spring through frost. Whether used in baskets, window boxes, patio pots, or in the landscape, these beauties offer massive flower power, low-maintenance care, and flourish almost anywhere.

 

The thicker petals and tough foliage are less prone to disease and their strong, sturdy stems tolerate cold temperatures, rain, and adverse weather conditions.

 

New Guinea Impatiens: This is a close relative to the affected variety, but upright with a variety of leaf color to contrast flower.

 

Coleus: It’s planted for its leaves, which come in a kaleidoscope variety of patterns and colors. Flowers are modest. Pinch plants to stimulate bushiness. In fall, take cuttings and put in a glass of water on windowsill, where they will grow easily.

 

Wax Begonia: This great bedding and shade-loving plant has white and pink to red flowers like impatiens.

 

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