Shade gardening has evolved: how to succeed in the shade

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If you visited our stores last summer, you may have noticed that one of the most popular bedding plants we sell was missing: Impatiens.

Sloat Garden Center has chosen to remove single and double Impatiens from our shelves due to a rapidly spreading disease (which only affects impatiens) called Downy Mildew. Over the past several years, plantings of Impatiens throughout the Northeast, Midwest and Southern Canada have been decimated by Downy Mildew. California is the latest area infected and we feel it is our responsibility to remove them from our stores and bring in alternative choices for shade gardening.

The good news is that there are plentiful alternative plants! We carry a vast array of shade plants that will provide flowers and foliage color in shaded spaces.


Impatiens-Bounce-Lilac-16054-SelectaBounce Impatiens (Due in stores mid-March): This exciting new shade alternative offers the habit and prolific flowering of Impatiens walleriana, but with resistance to Downy Mildew. Bounce Impatiens thrive in both sun and shade, and have a mounded spreading habit that looks beautiful in baskets, containers and landscapes.  Also, the well-branched plants bounce back like magic if they wilt. Feed modestly and water regularly for vibrant color all season.


Fibrous Begonia: Choose from dwarf or tall forms. All are neat and compact growers. They will grow in shade to full sun in cooler coastal areas. They are more tolerant of drier situations than other bedding plants. Many plants return reliaby after winter. Flowers are white, red, rose, and scarlet. Foliage can be green or burgundy. New varieties such as “Bada Bing” and “Big” are ideal with their larger flowers and taller stature.


Tuberous Begonia: These begonias with their lush, large green leaves and rose-like flowers are ideal for containers and hanging baskets. Colors include everything but blue and purple. Good bloom summer through fall.




A vast array of Coleus: With such a dizzying array of foliage colors and combinations, Coleus are a sure bet go-to for colorful beds and containers. Darker foliaged types are the most tolerant of sun.



New Guinea Impatiens: Many excellent new strains have been developed with large flowers and a compact habit. The color range is that of regular impatiens with all colors represented other than yellow and blue. While most have green foliage, some are splashed with gold, scarlet or cream for added pizazz. Best in light shade with regular water and feeding. Good in containers and the ground.


Viola: Normally sold as a fall or early spring annual, Violas will endure in shadier locations well into summer in cooler coastal areas.




Sweet Potato Vine:
These vigorous, trailing vines will cover a lot of space in a shady bed or happily spill over a large container. Choose from chartreuse green, burgundy, and black foliaged forms. Fast growing and rewarding. Average water.





Torenia: Compact and bushy plants, they will bloom happily summer to fall. They do best in cooler areas. They come in pink, blue and white shades. Regular water is appreciated.



Mimulus: Large flowers are scarlet, gold, red, and orange. Many are speckled with contrasting color. Ideal for shaded areas with regular moisture


Bacopa: Also known as Sutera, this perennial bedding plant performs happily in partially shaded areas with regular watering Many large flowering types are available in clear white, pink, and lavender. Blooms spring through summer and is ideal for containers, hanging baskets and beds.



Lamium: A fast growing perennial groundcover. Silvery green to chartreuse foliage is a standout in shady areas.



Heuchera: Robust, clumping perennials are great in shaded borders and beds. Foliage comes in a wide range of yummy tones: caramel, burgundy, cinnamon, grape, green tints, and more. Small tubular flowers on foot long flower stalks are adored by hummingbirds in summer.


Sunpatiens: While these are technically a New Guinea type Impatien, the name says it all. This variety will tolerate more heat and sun than other Impatiens.





There are many other shade loving perennials that provide flowers and foliage color, and will be great performers in your shaded spaces. Our professional team members are well-versed in the choices available and will be happy to help you plan your shade garden, plus answer any questions you may have. We feel confident that working together with our customers, local growers and other independent garden centers, we can limit the effect this disease has in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Additional Details about Downy Mildew:
Downy Mildew is a fungus that is spread by spores through air and water. This strain of Downy Mildew is only affecting Impatiens walleriana (single and double flowers) and does not affect New Guinea Impatiens or Sunpatiens. The disease first appears as a white, powdery covering on the backs of the leaves (see image), progresses to leaf curling and eventually to complete collapse of the plant. While non-infected plants can be treated with weekly sprayings of certain fungicides (somewhat impractical), once infected, there is no cure for the disease. Currently, we do not know how the disease will proliferate in our climate but feel it prudent to take all precautions necessary to slow its spread.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The spores of this disease can remain viable in the soil for several years. There is no evidence that infected beds will affect any other plantings other than Impatiens walleriana. DO NOT put infected plants in your compost pile or green waste recycling.

Curious if we have your favorite plant or product in stock? Call one of our locations directly and we'll be happy to check.