Monday, March 11, 2013

Made for the Shade---Alternatives for Impatiens

Impatiens has been the go-to plant for many of our shade gardens for years.

 So, it is with regret that we announce that Valley View Farms will not grow or sell Impatiens walleriana in 2013. The impatiens in the United States have been affected with a disease called Downey Mildew. While impatiens has been our number one seller in our plant department for years, we are not comfortable selling a plant that had severe problems in our customers' gardens last year. We will be offering alternatives and plenty of advice on what to plant in shade. We urge you to trust us and take some time from planting what we call 'regular' impatiens, until we are once again sure that the plant is free of disease.
We are sure that there are questions. We will answer some that have been asked already this season.

My impatiens did have issues last year. How do I know that it was Downey Mildew?

Here are some before and after photos of impatiens in beds affected by the disease.

 It really took off when we had some cool, wet nights in late spring and early summer. Areas impacted the hardest were in deep shade, planted densely in low spots. We visited some of our customers' gardens in midsummer to view their gardens. One of them had been planted with 300 plants, only to have them die  in mid-summer.

Impatiens planted in containers seemed to hold out a little longer but most had succombed to the disease eventually.

Is there a way to prevent Downey Mildew from infectng plants? I hate to give up on impatiens.

Not really. There is a spray available to growers that will prevent the disease for a few weeks. The chemical is not available to consumers, so any additional prevention is tough.

I have noticed that many shopping centers, malls and other corporate accounts use impatiens. Will they have to switch to alternative plants as well?

Yes. We've spoken to some of the large landscape companies. They will be planting alternate crops like begonias, caladiums and New Guinea impatiens in 2013.

Okay, so what else will work in my garden?

There are scores of alternative plants. In a way, having this challenge will get many gardeners to experiment with some new things. As one of our friends with Ball Seed, the largest horticultural company in the world, said, "Let's add some drama to the shade garden." The sky's the limit on other plants to consider for shade.
Our greenhouse staff visits regional trial gardens to view and evaluate plants that would do well in gardens in our area. Pictured below are pots of New Guinea Impatiens growing in shade. They were beautiful!

And, here are some other plants that will do well in part-shade to shady areas.

Begonia Baby Wing
Begonia Dragon Wing

Wax leaf Begonias
Bonfire Begonias

Begonia heimalis ---VVF grows over 10 colors!


Caladium---7 varieties grown by VVF, bulbs offered through our garden shop

Coleus Wizard Series

Coleus Sunloving (They like shade too!)

Dichondra Silver Falls




New Guinea Impatiens

Fanfare Impatiens


Lots of other annuals will do well with 4 or more hours of sun. Allow our staff to show you the many choices available for your gardens and potted plants.

And, our perennial sales area is also a great place to find plenty of foliage and color for shade. Take a look at hostas, ferns,

 heucheras, hellebores, dicentra, brunnera, mertensias, astilbes and an entire aisle dedicated to shade perennials.

Tropical plants can add real drama to the garden as well. Look for shade-grown hibiscus, mandevilla, peace lilies, palm trees, ferns, crotons, and a all sorts of other plants to add to containers and garden beds.

We know that impatiens have been our go-to shade plant for years. We also know that, as a company, you've come to trust us. We are united with you to find alternatives to impatiens for shady gardens. We hope to see impatiens back in a few years, but we think that taking some time off from our favorite annual might be the best way to fight Impatiens Downey Mildew.

Maybe, in a few years, our grower, John, will be growing impatiens again for Valley View Farms and our gardening customers.


  1. Wow what a lovely and beautiful flowers.I wonder I could have a garden like this where I can plant all colors of Torenia species that mentioned above.

    1. The Torenia flowers are beautiful. They do require some deadheading to keep them nice through the summer. We did not picture some of the vegetative Torenia that are wonderful performers in the shade garden. We did very well with Torenia Yellow Moon last year.

  2. the only shaded variety offered at my local walmart garden center were the Impatiens are you saying they could die in a month or so?

    1. If they are the Impatiens walleriana, regular garden impatiens, there is a good chance that they will get Downey Mildew. We have decided as a company not to offer them at all this year. Consider New Guinea Impatiens or any of the aforementioned plants for shade. Stop in our store for a look at some beautiful alternatives.