Carry Me Back to Old New Guinea

New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) are the workhorses of my shade containers. Their virtues include a full, mounded habit; larger velvety flowers, and shiny foliage. Plus, they are resistant to impatiens downy mildew, which has devastated annual impatiens plantings around the country.

Caladium, New Guinea Impatiens, and golden creeping jenny in the back containers.
Caladium, New Guinea Impatiens, and golden creeping jenny in the back containers.

Their biggest defect is that they are much more expensive as plants than the regular impatiens (I. walleriana). Growing them from seed is not an option given my spring travel schedule.

The old wheelbarrow full of NG impatiens
The old wheelbarrow full of NG impatiens

I noticed that one of my neighbors grew common impatiens last year and they did not become infected. He’s planted them again this year, and so far they are fine. If they make it through the season without signs of disease, I may consider going back to I. walleriana for 2015.

I move these containers to cover up the area where the Virginia bluebells have gone dormant.
I move these containers to cover up the area where the Virginia bluebells have gone dormant.

Anyhow, I’ve kept my containers in shade very simple. White is the primary color in the back garden, and most of the New Guinea impatiens are white. However, I have a hanging basket of red ones that I put out for the hummingbirds.

For the containers against the house, the New Guinea impatiens are a mix of white, lavender, and red. This is to provide some transition between the white in the containers and the red in the hanging basket (also, I want them to stand out a little against the house, which is painted white).

At this time of year the back garden depends on containers for a good deal (though not all) of its color.
At this time of year the back garden depends on containers for a good deal (though not all) of its color.

Actually, what they call lavender really looks like pink to me, and I may just try to find a pale pink next year.

Along with the New Guinea impatiens I’ve mixed Caladiums and golden creeping jenny (Lysimachia numularia ‘Aurea’) as a “spiller”. The big leaves of the Caladiums stand out against the pattern of impatiens blooms and foliage.

Do you use New Guinea impatiens or common impatiens in your shade containers? If you’ve stopped using common impatiens, would you consider going back to them in the future?

31 Comments on “Carry Me Back to Old New Guinea

  1. I’d like you get some of the New Guinea impatiens for the containers under the wisteria which are now in quite deep shade, either that or I’m actually considering some Hydrangeas but am worried by how much water they need.,

  2. Your New Guinea impatiens look great. They’re nice for containers I think. One year I grew red-orange ones along with white and they looked good, but they needed more shade and water than I could give them.

  3. I bought them faithfully every year and then stopped. Our local garden center doesn’t even carry them. But, yes, I’d love to go back because they can be such an addition to the shade garden. Love your wheelbarrow. 🙂

  4. Thank you for telling us about them. I have never used them but was thinking of getting some next year. I like the simplicity of your containers. You have very nice, unfussy arrangements that are very appealing. I will try to produce the same effect next year.

  5. All those shade containers look so lovely Jason! I have very little shade, so don’t grow any impatiens at all. I do like the idea of using more white though, even in sunny containers.

  6. Your are right, you do have a lot of containers. Containers are popular here too with folks as are the Impatiens. I don’t have many containers due to limited time in the summer. And I don’t have a lot of shade either. I see you plant in handled, black grower’s pots. Never saw anyone do that before. Good recycling. I use my largest ones for composting.

  7. I haven’ t heard about this disease, I don’ t know if we have it here. But your New Guinea Impatiens look great. I specially like the white ones in the wheelbarrow.

  8. I don’t do much in the way of container gardening….but looking at your blog inspires me to maybe try it next year. Your impatiens look so lovely – really like the ones in the wheelbarrow! Cheers.

  9. Someone at a local nursery that was actually selling impatiens this year (many were not) told me that if you didn’t have the disease in your impatiens when it was going around, then you are fine to plant them. But if you did have the disease, it’s in your soil and you should stay away. I have no idea if that is true or not.

  10. Funny you should mention the cost of new Guinea impatients, I always thought of them as ‘big money’ annuals since they were always sold in the larger pots…. even though nowadays it’s hard to find six packs of anything, so I guess everything is big money!
    Love the white theme, it looks nice and cool for summer.

    • Actually, I found that I could buy smaller and cheaper NG impatiens if I bought them earlier in the season. I find that I like white flowers best in shade.

  11. It is interesting that downy mildew is so ubiquitous now. It was about 5 years ago that it really struck in the UK and it was seen as a disaster. But 20 years ago we didn’t use impatiens here for bedding and I think it has actually done our gardens good – people used to put in impatiens everywhere without thinking. Though I like the New Guineas I don’t really think of them as a ‘shoe-in’ replacement for busy Lizzies because they look so different. I also dislike that breeders have made them smaller and less vigorous in an attempt to make them copies of their smaller cousins. New Guineas used to be the exciting impatiens – now they are dull and dumpy.

    • I wasn’t aware that the NG impatiens had gone through such a change. I miss the busy lizzies, they had many important virtues. I may give them a try next year and see what happens.

      • They were useful plants, yes. I think that if you dont grow them for a few years and grow from seed you stand a good chance of avoiding the downy mildew. But here at least it was weather-related and two wet summers made it a curse

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