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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.
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Going Beyond Impatiens for the Shade

Posted by Candice Hart - Diseases

Have you noticed less Garden Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), being sold in local garden centers this year? If so, this is due to a recent disease outbreak on impatiens called Downy Mildew of Impatiens (Plasmopara obducens).

In 2011, the U of I Plant Clinic began receiving reports that downy mildew was a problem in landscapes in the Chicago area. The disease has continued to spread to other areas of Illinois at this point.

This particular downy mildew affects all varieties of Impatiens walleriana, your traditional garden impatiens. With downy mildew, gardeners will notice leaves curling downward on newer growth. Soon, white to light-gray fuzz may show on leaf undersides. New leaves may appear as stunted or discolored (yellow or pale green). Unfortunately, this disease can infect very quickly and cause complete leaf defoliation or plant collapse to occur.

The U of I Plant Clinic recommends that gardeners who find downy mildew should remove all of the diseased plant material to avoid further infection in the garden or in neighbors' gardens. However, it may be difficult to rid the planting area of this disease because the pathogen can remain in the soil.

So what should a gardener do? This doesn't mean gardeners can never plant impatiens again. But gardeners can look at this as an opportunity to diversify the garden and plant some alternative shade annuals. Below is a list of great shade annual alternatives to try in your garden this year:

  • Begonias (Begonia sp.): Rex Begonia - Begonia rex-cultorum, Wax Begonia - Begonia x semperflorens, Tuberose Begonia - Begonia tuberhybrida, and Angel Wing Begonia - Begonia coccinea, are all great foliage or flowering plants for the part shade to shade.
  • Fuchsia (Fuchsia x hybrid): Nice blooms of reds, pinks, lavenders for the part shade. Great in hanging baskets.
  • Bloodleaf (Iresine herbstii): Shiny foliage plants with bright pink or lime green accents for the part shade to shade.
  • New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri): This species of impatiens is resistant to downy mildew. It features large flowers on vigorous plants in many colors for the part shade to shade.
  • Coleus (Solenostemon scutellariodes): Great, vigorous foliage plants for the shade to part shade with lots of colors and patterns. Some varieties available for sun as well.
  • Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens): Beautiful, fragrant, purple flowers best used in partial shade with moist, but not wet soils.
  • Sweet potato vine (Ipomea batatas): Vining plant with various colors and shapes great for the part shade.
  • Salvia (Salvia splendens): Various colored flowers best for the part shade.
  • Browallia (Browallia speciosa): Older reliable annual for abundant flowering. Best in part shade.

Check out the University of Illinois Extension website, Beyond Impatiens and Petunias for more information on shade alternatives:

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