So what can you plant this year instead of impatiens? I've spent the long off-season pondering that dilemma. In addition to coleus, a colorful foliage plant, I can recommend some great flowering annuals with a long bloom cycle that are low-maintenance, can tolerate at least some shade and have the same suitable-for-bed-or-container habit as our beloved standby. It wasn't easy, but I did find seven solid alternatives I think you'll like.-- Jessica Damiano
Vinca (Catharanthus roseus) Not to be confused with vinca vine, a perennial ground cover, this annual resembles impatiens more closely than any other substitute, and is available with lavender, white, red or pink blossoms. Can handle some shade, but flower size increases dramatically with sunlight exposure. Perfect for hot, dry sites, this plant is drought-tolerant, "self-cleaning" (no deadheading necessary) and can be brought indoors for winter windowsill color. Grows 6-16 inches tall and wide.
Begonia, tuberous (x tuberhybrida) thrives in part shade, requires ample water and fertilizer, and grows 6-18 inches tall, 6-12 inches wide.
Clown flower (Torenia), like this Suntory ''Summer Wave Large Blue'' variety, doesn’t bloom quite as prolifically as impatiens but is very attractive and thrives in light shade while tolerating heat. Flowers are deer-resistant; grows 8-12 inches tall, 6-9 inches wide.
Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana ''Starmaker'') requires just six hours of sunlight per day. Deadhead to prevent self-sowing; grows 10-12 inches tall and wide.
Lobelia is available in cascading and mounding varities. If plants stop blooming during heat waves, shear plant to encourage another burst of flowers. Grows 6 inches tall, 6-9 inches wide.
Petunia performs best with 6-8 hours of sun daily. Pinch or cut back by half in midsummer to rejuvenate plants. Vines of “Wave” varieties can trail up to 4 feet long.
Amethyst flower (Browallia) prefers rich soil, so add compost at planting time, then mulch to keep roots cool. Grows 12-24 inches tall, 6-12 inches wide.