New Guinea Impatiens are resistant to downy mildew. (Chris Brown / Proven Winners)
If you use bedding impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) to color up your garden, you might be thinking about replacements, because many garden centers will not be selling these popular bedding plants this year.
The dreaded disease impatiens downy mildew swept through Metro Detroit last summer, devastating plantings throughout the area. Sadly, the spores of this deadly disease overwinter in soil, so if you or your neighbor's impatiens died last year, there is a good chance they will perish again this summer.
So Bordines, English Gardens, Farmer John's, Plymouth Nursery and Wiegand's will not be selling Impatiens walleriana this season. And I don't blame them.
Great garden centers such as these pride themselves in selling top quality plant material, and when a plant fails, they stand behind it. Homeowners get cranky when plants die and tend to blame the folks who sold them, regardless of the reason. In the case of this new disease, the killing spores are in the soil and the air, and once infected, a healthy plant will be dead in a matter of days.
However, the bodacious New Guinea Impatiens and Sunpatiens are resistant to the disease and can safely be planted in containers and the landscape.
Consider this an opportunity to replace the same old-same old with new, exciting and colorful plant combos.
This season, fabulous foliage plants will share the spotlight with flowers, and there are lots to choose from. Coleus now comes in an endless variety of sizes and colors. Hypoestes, the perky polka dot plant your grandmother grew as houseplant, makes a super garden sparkler and made a bright and shining edging plant in my daughter's shade garden. It comes with pink and green splotched leaves, predominately pink even when viewed from a distance. Red with green and fresh green and white leafed varieties are an option.
The sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) comes in sparkling chartreuse, elegant deep purple and chic and trendy brown. Used as a container spiller, it makes an eye-catching ground cover in well-drained soil in a full sun or part shade garden.
Over the next several weeks, I will be offering you other combinations of plants to replace bedding impatiens. If you have ideas to share, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will be the keynote speaker at the daylong Huron County Master Gardener's Spring into Gardening Expo on March 23 in Bad Axe. Learn my secrets to "Successful Gardening in an Ever-Changing Climate." Tickets are $60, lunch and garden expo included. For information, call Marie at (989) 859-1294.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. You can read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.