Is it Safe to Plant Impatiens?

(Question)

Is it safe to plant impatiens this year?  I see they are back in the garden centres.

 

(Answer)

Many of the garden centres in the Greater Toronto area have discontinued carrying the popular annual Impatiens walleriana, also known as Busy Lizzy or Shade Impatiens.  This is due to the difficulty growers have experienced, all over North America in recent years, controlling outbreaks of Powdery Mildew. This fungal infection has plagued the industry and ravaged huge volumes of seedlings making it almost impossible to predict seedling success.

Even if you found a plant nursery, or garden centre, that sold Impatiens walleriana, you would be at risk of loosing your plants to this indiscriminate fungus.

Fortunately, garden centres and growers have worked together to find some lovely alternatives which grow in similar conditions and offer a beautiful floral display, even in quite shady conditions.

Technically, Impatiens are perennials which grow in countries with warm climates.  They can only tolerate temperatures as low as seven degrees celsius.  In Canada we treat them as annuals, planting seedlings in spring and enjoying them until the first frosts in autumn destroy them.  Here are some suitable alternatives that can also be planted as annuals after the last frosts of spring:

Fibrous Begonias, Tuberous Begonias and Doublet Begonias

New Guinea Impatiens- planters, hanging baskets and garden beds with light shade

Sunpatiens – a hybrid Impatiens which enjoys a variety of light conditions from sun to shade.  Several varieties are available – Compact, Spreading and Vigorous which grows the tallest.

Browallia speciosa, or Bush Violet, is another great alternative with flowers all summer, tolerates heat and shade and can trail in a hanging basket.