Do you remember Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)? It used to be my number one plant for filling containers all over the shady Back Garden, providing bountiful and vibrant color from May to September. Starting around 2011, though, the scourge of Impatiens Downy Mildew (IDM), caused gardeners everywhere to turn their backs on the stricken plants.


While visiting the Gardens at Ball on the grounds of Ball Horticultural in suburban Chicago, Judy and I were very excited to learn about Beacon Impatiens. Beacon varieties are highly resistant to IDM, as demonstrated by their generous use in the beds, baskets, and containers all around us. (I’ll write another post about what else we saw, but for us this was the highlight).

Impatiens infected with IDM to left. Beacon Impatiens to right. Photo from

As I learned to my horror years ago, IDM will devastate plantings of Impatiens in a very short time. Plants just wither away to nothing. However, through a selective breeding program carried out in Illinois and the Netherlands, breeders have developed varieties that thrive as older cultivars shrivel. Tests in gardens around the world confirmed the results.


Beacon Impatiens should be generally available this coming spring. There are varieties in half a dozen colors, including white, which is my favorite.



Impatiens used to be so commonly planted that some people got snooty about them. However, I won’t be embarrassed about my affection for this plant. It provides a lot of color easily and (I’ll go ahead and say it) cheaply. Plus, it’s popular with hummingbirds, especially the red ones.

I, for one, look forward to reintroducing this plant into my shady garden. How about you?

Oh, and one more thing! I keep forgetting to mention this. I am now on Instagram as jasonkay3490. Most days I post pictures of flowers, gardens, pollinators, and related stuff. One of these days I’ll figure out how to put a follow button on this blog.

33 Comments on “Good News for Shady Gardens”

  1. I’ve always liked impatiens, but never could get them to grow. They’d just wilt away after a few weeks. This may be the explanation, and I’d be more than happy to give them a try on my shady balcony. I’ll keep an eye out for them.

  2. Just when I really got into impatiens, the dreaded virus hit. UGH. I’m so happy to read your post! I’m already looking forward to next years shade garden. No more trying to figure out what will put on a show like the impatiens did! Thank you for the news!

  3. I like Impatiens, but they don’t like our dry summers. I am a big fan of growing common things. I just put in a bunch of Shasta daisies, which suffer from the same snootiness. My English MIL used to think calling me “common” was an insult, little did she know I cherished it every time she said it.

  4. I’m with you – I think they’re great! I didn’t know about the IDM scourge, although I had wondered why I didn’t see them as much as I used to. Glad to hear there are tougher alternatives – I don’t buy a lot of annuals, but when I do, Impatiens is almost always part of the haul.

  5. You know, we got some impatiens at work. I was very surprised to see them. I did not pick them up, but the guy who got them did not now why I thought they were such a big deal, and mentioned that there were plenty in the nursery! I still don’t know what variety they are. They look just like old fashioned impatiens to me.

  6. I planted some Impatiens this year that aren’t the new ones. They seem to be performing OK, but I haven’t planted as many during the past few years, for just this reason. It will be nice to have more options. I also really like New Guinea Impatiens. And both work well in containers with colorful varieties of Coleus.

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