Filling the Gap
If you have depended on Impatiens for your shady areas for years, you probably have gotten a rude awakening one day and looked at dead and dying plants littering your flowering beds.
If you haven’t heard by now, the common Impatien, Impatien walleriana, is in trouble. Lots of shade gardeners are bemoaning this right now, and wonder what should they plant instead!!?? So don’t throw up your hands and give up gardening. Pest and diseases have been around a long time and I have a great suggestion for an alternative, that is vastly better than the common Impatien – SunPatiens from Sakata Seed.
Downy Mildew is the Culprit
First, a little background. I found out about “massive death by mildew” when I visited a client three summers ago who gardens in the shade, and took a look at all her wilting, disgusting Impatiens, and was at a loss to explain their demise. After calling around to different help desks at county and state offices for gardeners, I found out that Impatiens are taking a direct hit from Impatiens Downy Mildew (Plasmopara obducens), a new disease that has recently has reared its ugly head in the states, and has killed off masses of Impatiens throughout the U.S. It started as long ago as 1942, with only sporadic outbreaks, but really starting getting going in 2004. In 2011, widespread kill-offs of Impatiens were reported and things aren’t expected to get any better.
Leaving Downy Mildew Behind
This is a relatively new disease that only targets the common Impatien (Impatien walleriana), not the other Impatiens (Impatien hawkeri)like the New Guinea, Big Bounce or the best of the lot- SunPatien. Sunpatien has been around for 10 years now and I find that people still don’t know about this great choice. A husky vigorous plant, SunPatien is way more interesting and attractive than the garden variety Impatien that you used to see planted in masses for color in the shade.
SunPatien Compact Neon Pink, image from Sakata
SunPatien Compact Fire, image from Sakata
If you experienced Downy Mildew in your Impatien plantings in previous years, then this year watch out! The pathogen overwinters handily and can persist for years. Here are the things to look for:
Yellowish or pale-green foliage
Downward curling of the leaves
White to light-gray fuzz on the undersides of the leaves. There are excellent images on the web if you search for “Impatiens Downy Mildew”
Emerging, new leaves that are smaller than normal and discolored
Flower buds that either fail to form or abort before opening
Sounds like a horror story for any gardener who relies on Impatiens for color in the shade. And there are a lot of gardeners who plant them exclusively, hauling home flats and flats of these colorful shade annuals. Try SunPatiens instead. You will be glad that you tried them!
Here are some attributes of SunPatiens:
Flowers up to 3 inches across
Easy to grow
Thrives under heat, humidity, rain or shine
Thrives in sun or shade
Blooms nonstop, spring through frost
Downy mildew resistant!
Three Types of SunPatiens
Compact – The Compact series is bred for smaller containers and has excellent branching for a dense, bushy plant. Available in 10 colors. Great for containers. Grows 12 to 24″ tall and wide.
Spreading or Mounding – Spreading SunPatiens have a mounding habit and are suited for basket and in the landscape where fast coverage is needed. Available in 5 colors. Can spread from 20″ to 36″.
Vigorous – Need fast growing coverage? Then Vigorous SunPatiens are the way to go. These plants cover a lot of ground quickly and provide outstanding performance where massive color is essential. Can get up to 42″ wide and tall. This is a strong growing plant.
Available only in plant form, SunPatiens are a cross of several species that produces larger, better branched plants with bigger blooms and a much longer season of bloom. Able to thrive in full shade to nearly full sun, it is ideal for gardens that have high shade or dappled sunlight. For more information, go to Sakata SunPatiens.
Where To Buy?
SunPatiens are available at most local nurseries. For my area here in Maryland, I recommend Blooming Hill Nursery at 18700 Frederick Rd in Parkton at 410-357-0225 and Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, Maryland. The owner has a wide selection of various varieties. Be sure to wait until danger of frost is over to plant them out.