Shade Gardening: Alternatives to Impatiens with Annuals and Perennials

Looking for alternatives to Impatiens for your shade gardens this year? Here are some annual and perennial options!

The weather has warmed up and for many of us this means it's time to stock up on our annual Impatiens for all the shady parts of our garden and porches. However, you may have been hearing about the potential this year for Impatiens to contract the downy mildew disease and are stumped because they have always been your "go to" annual.  Here at our Garden Center, Cravens Nursery and Pottery, they have been one of our biggest sellers for years, and we have been offering them for only 97¢ each.  Although the supply is smaller this year, we have stocked up on disease-free plants and are still able to offer them to those of you who have not noticed any problems in your soil last year and still want to plant Impatiens.  We also are supplying and offering New Guinea Impatiens, which are bred from a different species and are resistant to the disease.

However, sometimes it's good to be forced to change.  There are so many annuals and perennials that you may have  passed by because you have focusedonly on what you know, or what you find at the "big box" stores. This year can be your opportunity to explore and think of other shade options by wandering through the shade section of garden nurseries like Cravens.  It can also be overwhelming, and we often have inquiries here for alternatiives to Impatiens, so I am offering up some suggestions for those of you ready to experiment and change it up this year:

If you are intent on annuals, New Guinea Impatiens  also offer color and thrive in shady areas.  These are usually the more expensive relative of the Impatiens, but this year Cravens is also offering them at the 97¢ price point, while supplies last.  New Guinea Impatiens  have the added benefit of faring well in sun as well as shade.  They have a slightly less quantity of flowers, but their leaf forms are more interesting than the basic Impatiens.  Begonias also work well in part shade and offer both interesting foliage and bright colored flowers.  Other bright-flowered annuals that tolerate shade include Torenia (multiple blooms all the way to Fall),  Viola, and Fuchsia, a perennial often grown as an annual that has lovely hanging lantern-like flowers which makes it great for hanging baskets.

Many shady annuals are known for their bright and interesting foliage as well as their flowers, and if you want to try to experiment with something other than flowers, we love the Coleus family.  These plants come in a variety of sizes and shapes, with vibrant colors and a large array of textures; they can be upright or trailing, and they make wonderful arrangements for both pots and window boxes.  Coleus also have the added advantage of being very easy to propagate by cuttings and replanting.  Other annuals known for their foliage are the Rex Begonia, and Caladium,  with large, exotic leaves in various colors from salmon to chartreuse.  Add some fun to your shady area with the polka-dot plant with its purple-green leaves that are speckled in bright pinks and whites.

But why stop at annuals?  There are many great perennials that thrive in the shade and also offer bright colored flowers, and you only need to plant them once!  The Hardy Begonia, for example is a tuberous plant with heart-shaped leaves and sprays of pink flowers that remain from mid-summer through frost.  Leopard's Bane gives you bright yellow flowers in the Spring, and the Fernleaf Bleeding Heart provides interest after the pink, heart-shaped blooms are finished, with fine fern-like foliage.  Woodland Phlox offers violet blue flowers in part to full shade that are fragrant and hardy, and Lamium, often used as a groundcover, provides consistent small pink or lavender flowers and silver-infused foliage that rebloom throughout the season.  Some other spring blooming perennials are Bletilla or Ground Orchid, Brunnera - the Jack Frost variety was the Perennial of the Year for 2012 -  and the shade-loving Epimedium grandiflorum or "Bishop's Hat" which has dainty pink flowers and foliage that turns bronze in the fall.  Pulmonaria provides both flower and leaf interest, Helleborus are exotic and proflific, and if you're partial to  Native Plants, try the Dwarf Wild Columbine "Little Lanterns" which blooms for a long time with showy red and yellow flowers.  If you're concerned about deer, Astilbe also provide lots of color, bloom for a long period and are not liked by deer which means more blooms for you to enjoy!

The options go on and on.  Here at Cravens Nursery, we can help steer you to the right variety for your needs, so consider a  Spring bloom, a Summer bloom and a Fall bloom and fill in that shady area with something new this year!



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