Classic Mobile

Alternatives To Impatiens


Michigan State University Floriculture

Potential Problems With Impatiens Plantings

Did you have problems with your garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) last year in your landscape, hanging baskets, or containers? If they had leaf yellowing, followed by leaf curling and then leaf dropping (Figure 1), they may have been infected by a pathogen called Impatiens Downy Mildew (Plasmopara obducens).

Figure 1. A container of garden impatiens that have been infected with impatiens downy mildew. Notice the leaf yellowing, leaf curling, and finally leaf dropping.

In humid conditions, you may have seen a fuzzy white coating on the underside of leaves (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The underside of an impatiens leaf infected with impatiens downy mildew. Notice the fuzzy white coating.

It is important to note that this particular pathogen, while it is called a downy mildew, is NOT the same downy mildew that affects vegetables or other ornamental plants. This particular pathogen only infects Impatiens walleriana plants. It does NOT infect New Guinea impatiens either.

This fungus-like pathogen can overwinter in the soil and if garden impatiens that had the disease in 2012 are planted again in the same location this coming spring, these new plants may get the same disease again. You may therefore want to consider alternative shade loving annual plants to provide color and texture to your landscape beds or containers, such as those below.

Below are possible substitutes for seed impatiens. Many of these do not tolerate much direct sunlight, so be sure to read the labels for appropriate placement in the landscape.

Shade Loving Colorful Plants


Alpinia zerumbet. Shell ginger. It is used for its interesting foliage and prefers part-shade. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State University.

Alternanthera species. Joseph's Coat. It is used for its colorful foliage and has many color options. Shown here is a 'black' variety but colors also include two tones of green, yellow, and white, among others. Photo credit: Erik Runkle, Michigan State University.

Begonia rex hybrids. Rex begonia or painted begonia. It is used for its colorful foliage and can include tones of red, green, and silver. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State University

Begonia x hiemalis. Hiemalis begonia or Rieger begonia. This comes in a variety of flower colors including red, pink, yellow, and white. Flowers are large and showy. Photo credit: Michigan State University Trial Gardens.

Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum. Wax begonia or bedding begonia or fibrous-rooted begonia. Comes in a wide range of flower colors with green or dark purpe leaves. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Begonia x tuberhybrida. Tuberous begonia. These plants are generally quite large with showy flowers, but flowering of some varieties stops during the long days of summer. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Browallia speciosa. Browallia. Usually has white or shades of blue or purple flowers. Does not do well during periods of cool weather. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Caladium bicolor. Angel-wings. It is used for its colorful foliage. Leaves are often very large and do best in warm climates. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Gardens.


Dichondra argentea. Dichondra. It is used for its foliage and performs best in partial shade as a groundcover, in a container, or in a hanging basket. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Fuchsia x hybrida. Fuchsia. Some are best used in containers or hanging baskets but upright varieties can do well in the landscape. Flowers can be solid or a bicolor red, purple, pink, or white, among others. Photo credit: Michigan State University Trial Gardens.

Heliotropium arborescens. Heliotrope. Is best used in partial shade with moist but not wet soils. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Hypoestes phyllostachya. Polka dot plant. It is used for its colorful, mottled foliage with pink, red, or white. Plants can tolerate high light and can be trimmed in the garden if desired. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Impatiens hawkeri. New Guinea impatiens. Have larger flowers and leaves than garden impatiens, but to not grow as quickly. Photo credit: Erik Runkle, Michigan State University.

Ipomea batatas. Sweet potato vine. It is best used in partial shade and is used for its colorful foliage, which has many variations. Very easy to grow and can be somewhat aggressive. Photo credit: Michigan State University Trial Gardens.

Iresine herbstii. Iresine or bloodleaf. Prefers partial shade and is used for its colorful foliage. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State University.

Lobelia species. Lobelia or cardinal flower. Prefers partial, not full shade. Spreading varieties have blue, pink, or white flowers whereas upright varieties often have red or white flowers. Photo credit: Michigan State University Trial Gardens.

Lobularia maritima. Alyssum or sweet alyssum. Prefers partial shade but most varieties do not tolerate the heat of summer. Photo credit: Michigan State University Trial Gardens.

Oxalis species. Oxalis or shamrock or wood sorrel. Easy to grow but most varieties can be invasive because of self seeding. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State University.

Pelargonium peltatum. Ivy geranium. Prefers partial shade and is best used in containers or hanging baskets. All but a few recently introduced varieties do not tolerate high temperatures. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Perilla frutescens. Perilla. Is used for its colorful foliage and comes in a variety of colors. Tolerates the heat well. Photo credit: Michigan State University Trial Gardens.

Plectranthus species. Plectranthus or Swedish ivy. It is used for its colorful foliage and prefers partial shade. Some newer varieties are grown more for their colorful flowers. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Salvia farinacea. Mealycup sage. This plant prefers partial, not full shade and tolerates poor soils and some drought. Flower colors are available in blue, purple, lavender, and white. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Salvia splendens. Salvia or scarlet sage. This plant prefers partial, not full shade and usually has red, pink, or white flowers. Photo credit: Kristin Getter, Michigan State University.

Solenostemon scutellarioides. Coleus. It is used for its colorful foliage, and comes in many different colors. Can tolerate full sun to deep shade. Photo credit: Michigan State University Trial Gardens.

Torenia fournieri. Wishbone flower. Performs best in partial, not deep shade. Comes in a range of single and multi-colored flowers with shades of blue, purple, and yellow, among others. Photo credit: Michigan State University Trial Gardens.

Copyright © 2013, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University. This page was last edited January 2, 2013. Please send your comments to Dr. Kristin Getter getterk@msu.edu.

MSU is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer. Michigan State University Extension programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or veteran status. Issued in furtherance of MSU Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thomas G. Coon, Director, MSU Extension, East Lansing, MI 48824. This information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those not mentioned.