by Connie Oswald Stofko
Gardeners who are looking for colorful flowers for the shade have a promising alternative to impatiens called ‘Bounce’.
A few years ago, downy mildew began killing impatiens walleriana, the regular old impatiens that shade gardeners depended on for decades. Ever since then, gardeners have been looking for alternatives. See some alternatives to impatiens here.
I know it’s confusing, but one of those alternatives that we’ll be talking about has a similar-sounding name, New Guinea impatiens.
‘Bounce’ looks like New Guinea impatiens, said Mark Yadon of Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses in Williamsville.
An advantage of ‘Bounce’ over New Guinea impatiens is that ‘Bounce’ has “more flower power,” Yadon said. When he trialed it last year, “it bloomed like crazy.”
Of course, the advantage of ‘Bounce’ over impatiens walleriana or regular impatiens is that ‘Bounce’ definitely isn’t susceptible to downy mildew, said Margery Daughtrey, senior extension associate in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Cornell University. She co-wrote a fact sheet on impatiens and downy mildew.
‘Bounce’ is a cross between different species of plant. It seems apparent that one of those species is New Guinea impatiens, and it’s conceivable that ‘Bounce’ has some impatiens walleriana in it, Daughtrey said, but no one seems to know exactly what the cross is.
A disadvantage of ‘Bounce’ is that it will be more expensive to use than impatiens walleriana. Even though one ‘Bounce’ plant will cover the same area that needed three or four impatiens walleriana plants to cover, ‘Bounce’ will still cost more to cover that area.
“Sadly, there’s nothing like impatiens for the money,” said Jill Kisker, grower at Lockwood’s Greenhouses in Hamburg.
In addition to ‘Bounce’, Kisker also recommends New Guinea impatiens (Lockwood’s is carrying ‘Divine’ and ‘Sonic’). Another choice is SunPatiens, which can take sun as well as shade.
Mike Weber Greenhouses will also carry New Guinea impatiens and SunPatiens.
Where to get impatiens walleriana
Despite the fact that downy mildew is killing impatiens walleriana and your plants could be dead by August (or earlier), many gardeners still want impatiens.
Tip: Whenever you want to know where to get specific plants, contact the garden centers directly. You can click on any of our ads or see a list of businesses in our Gardening Directory.
Neither Mischler’s or Goodman’s will carry as many impatiens as they did in the past. If you buy impatiens, expect to receive education about the risks at both shops, either through signage or a face-to-face discussion.
Yadon of Mischler’s agonized over the decision of whether to sell impatiens at all this year.
“I don’t want to get a bad reputation for plants not performing well,” he said. “I want to have confidence that the plants I sell will last through the growing season, and I can’t have confidence with those plants.”
While impatiens lasted until August last year, that doesn’t mean they will do as well this year, he noted. A wet July could mean an earlier demise.
On the other hand, after hearing the risks, some gardeners are still comfortable using impatiens.
“We grow a lot of plants with known diseases,” noted Daughtrey of Cornell.
If impatiens last until August, that’s fine for many people since, even in the past, impatiens were typically killed by frost in September anyway.
And by August, many gardeners “are ready to move on to mums anyway,” said said Ray Crawley, store manager at Goodman’s Farm Market.
Some of his customers have been able to grow impatiens in hanging baskets after having trouble with them in a garden bed, Crawley said.
As Daughtrey said in our article last year, keeping the leaves dry and allowing air circulation may keep the disease at bay longer. Planting impatiens in containers and setting them on a porch or other area with a roof where they are shielded from rain may help. When you water plants in containers, you tend to water the soil rather than spray the leaves, which can be beneficial. In addition, impatiens in a hanging basket may benefit from better air circulation. Get more tips on caring for impatiens here.
UPDATE May 16, 2015: To find out more about this disease, read the blog post, “Is it safe to plant impatiens?,” by Margery Daughtrey of Cornell.