LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
When I think of color for shaded areas in the landscape, my thoughts immediately go to impatiens. Impatiens have been the go-to annual bedding plant for decades to provide bright, beautiful flowers in partial to heavily shaded areas of the landscape. They perform well under trees and as bedding and border plants, and they even do well in containers.
Traditional impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) prefer evenly moist soils and benefit from regular application of water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks from spring through fall. Container-grown impatiens will need frequent watering as temperatures rise above 85 degrees.
Impatiens are profuse bloomers that have the added bonus of being self-cleaning, meaning you do not have to deadhead.
Impatiens in the past have been susceptible to a disease known as downy mildew, a type of water mold that causes symptoms such as white fuzzy growth on the leaf surface. This can lead to death of the plants. Improved varieties such as the Beacon series are more resistant to downy mildew. The Beacon impatiens series is a Louisiana Super Plant selection from spring 2021.
Beacon impatiens are available in seven different colors, including red, coral, orange, rose, salmon, violet and white. Plant these en masse for a dramatic look in the landscape or use as a border in landscape beds.
In 2017, Sakata Seed America changed the game with its commercial introduction of the SunPatiens — impatiens that can be grown in full sun. SunPatiens has become an award-winning series of flowering annuals for full sun during the warm season. It also was in 2017 that compact SunPatiens were named a Louisiana Super Plant.
The large, bright flowers of Sunpatiens on deep green foliage give a tropical look to the landscape. SunPatiens are an interspecific hybrid and resemble the New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) more than traditional impatiens. Some even have colorful, variegated foliage like those of New Guinea impatiens.
There are three series of SunPatiens based on growth habit. The Compact series is great as a border or container plant. Spreading cultivars work best as a ground cover or a spiller plant in containers and hanging baskets. The Vigorous cultivars are best for garden beds to fill in spaces quickly.
Flowers of all the Compact SunPatiens are large and showy and stand out from the dark green, glossy foliage. The 17 cultivars and colors are red, royal magenta, tropical rose, white improved, blush pink, coral pink, deep rose, electric orange, deep red, hot coral, hot pink, lilac, orange, orchid blush, pink candy, purple and rose glow. They are all designated Louisiana Super Plants.
Flowers are so large and profuse they cover the foliage completely, and plants stay in constant bloom from spring to fall, giving flower after flower throughout the entire growing season. These grow to about 18 to 24 inches in height and width with a compact, mounding growth habit.
SunPatiens, like the Beacon series of impatiens, are less susceptible to downy mildew, making them more reliable for the landscape. They prefer full sun and may become lanky in shaded areas with fewer flowers.
The Louisiana Super Plant program is an LSU AgCenter educational and marketing campaign that highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well throughout the state. Louisiana Super Plants have a proven record of accomplishment with many years of reliable performance in Louisiana landscapes or have gone through several years of university evaluations and observations.
Look for these plants at participating local nurseries. Louisiana Super Plants are university tested and industry approved.
SunPatiens are amazing landscape plants that provide profuse flower blooms from spring through fall. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Compact SunPatiens come in a variety of colors. LSU AgCenter file photo by Dan Gill
Beacon impatiens are the traditional, shade-loving impatiens that offer great color for shaded areas. Photo by Ashley Edwards/LSU AgCenter