Impatiens

Impatiens

The epitome of the shade garden plant, impatiens have been used for years for their bloom power and wide variety of colors. These tropical plants are blooming powerhouses and will fill a space with blossoms as long as there is no frost. They can bloom for a whole growing season, and they don’t even need maintenance, like deadheading, to keep up! More recently, many impatiens have become susceptible to downy mildew, a devastating fungal disease, so make sure to look for resistant varieties.

genus name
  • Impatiens
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Shade
plant type
  • Annual,
  • Houseplant
height
  • 1 to 3 feet
width
  • 1 to 3 feet
flower color
  • Blue,
  • Purple,
  • Red,
  • Orange,
  • White,
  • Pink,
  • Yellow
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom,
  • Winter Bloom
problem solvers
  • Groundcover
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
zones
  • 10,
  • 11
propagation
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

Colorful Combinations

Impatiens are great plants if you want loads of color with little effort. Most commonly, impatiens come in softer pastel shades, but some tropical species come in warm colors like yellow, coral, and orange as well. With their quick growth habit, impatiens are great fillers for both garden beds and containers. The soft color palette allows them to blend well with pretty much anything.

Impatiens Care Must-Knows

You might think there would be some catch with a plant this floriferous and easy to grow—but there isn’t! An important thing to remember, however, is that impatiens are tropical plants. Once the first frost comes, your impatiens will turn to mush, so if you are planning on overwintering some indoors, make sure to bring in any pots or take any cuttings before the temperatures get too low.

When you are planting impatiens, give them rich, well-drained soils. In containers, any general-purpose potting media will do. In the ground, if you have heavy clays, it is best to add some organic matter like compost or peat moss to loosen it up and add nutrients. Impatiens are not very tolerant of drought, and during long dry spells the plants will quickly wilt. Luckily, they are very quick to bounce back once watered. So if you see an impatiens that looks beyond hope, give it some water and watch—in a very short time, its will look good as new.

There are a few things to watch for and to be aware of when growing impatiens. Recently, a major problem has been a nasty fungus called downy mildew. Downy mildew can be tricky to identify in the early stages. It typically begins by causing leaves to yellow and drop off or die. Eventually, this can become more dramatic, and portions of the leaves will erratically become brown and dead. You can identify downy mildew by finding their trademark downy white spores on the undersides of leaves. Downy mildew is a tricky disease to control, so the best way to avoid it is to choose resistant varieties when planting. If you do find powdery mildew, destroying the plants and any debris around the plants to prevent it from infecting any other plants is the best course of action.

New Innovations

Because of the devastating affects of downy mildew on such an important horticultural crop, there has been quite a bit of research on new hybrids. Many of these new hybrids are more similar to new guinea impatiens, which are not affected by powdery mildew. This has created some beautiful new cultivars, many of which boast the best of both worlds, including larger plants, more sun tolerance, and disease resistance. Be sure to look for these disease-resistant varieties as you shop for plants in the spring.

More Varieties of Impatiens

‘Fanfare Orchid’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fanfare Orchid’ trails to 20 inches and produces orchid-pink flowers. It has better sun tolerance than most varieties.

‘Fiesta Burgundy’ double impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fiesta Burgundy’ bears beautiful burgundy-purple double flowers on 16-inch-tall plants.

‘Fiesta Ole Peppermint’ double impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fiesta Ole Peppermint’ bears beautiful pink-and-white double flowers on compact, 12-inch-tall plants.

‘Fiesta Ole Purple Stripe’ double impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fiesta Ole Purple Stripe’ bears purple-and-white double flowers all summer long. It grows 16 inches tall and 1 foot wide.

‘Fiesta Pink Frost’ double impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fiesta Pink Frost’ features variegated foliage and pink double flowers all summer long. It grows 16 inches tall and 1 foot wide.

‘Fiesta White’ double impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fiesta White’ shows off pure white double flowers. It grows 16 inches tall.

‘Fiesta Salsa Red’ double impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fiesta Salsa Red’ bears double rose-like flowers on 16-inch-tall plants.

‘Fiesta Purple’ double impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fiesta Purple’ bears beautiful purple-pink double flowers on 16-inch-tall plants.

‘Fusion Glow’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fusion Glow’ bears golden-yellow flowers with orange throats. It grows 16 inches tall.

‘Fiesta Stardust Pink’ double impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fiesta Stardust Pink’ bears pink double flowers stippled with white. It grows 16 inches tall.

‘Pixie Pink Bicolor’ mini impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Pixie Pink Bicolor’ bears many small creamy-pink flowers splashed with darker pink on 12-inch-tall plants.

‘Fusion Infrared Apricot’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fusion Infrared Apricot’ bears apricot-pink flowers with yellow-orange throats. It grows 16 inches tall.

Sunpatiens Series impatiens

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Impatiens Sunpatiens Series is an interspecific hybrid of impatiens that grows just as well in full sun as in full shade. With blooms closer in size to new guinea impatiens, these plants can quickly fill a garden bed or hanging basket in a wide variety of colors. Downy mildew resistant. Zones 10-11

‘Fusion Sunset Peach’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fusion Sunset Peach’ bears warm apricot-peach flowers. It grows 16 inches tall.

‘Fusion Heat Coral’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Fusion Heat Coral’ bears coral-orange flowers with yellow throats. It grows 16 inches tall.

‘Super Elfin White’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Super Elfin White’ bears pure white flowers on compact, 10-inch-tall plants.

‘Swirl Coral’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Swirl Coral’ bears soft salmon-pink blooms with darker coral-pink edges on 12-inch-tall plants.

‘Swirl Pink’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Swirl Pink’ bears soft-pink blooms with deeper pink edges on 12-inch-tall plants.

‘Tempo’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Tempo’ series bears flowers in a very wide range of shades on compact, 8-inch-tall plants.

‘Xtreme Rose’ impatiens

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Impatiens ‘Xtreme Rose’ bears large, bright rosy-pink flowers on 12-inch-tall plants.

Plant Impatiens With:

Browallia earns its nicknames of amethyst flower and sapphire flower for the richness of its small blue flowers, which pop out like jewels against the bright green of its foliage. A tidy mounding plant, it’s great in containers or planted as edging in a neat row at the front of the border. Plant in a shady spot in spring after all danger of frost has passed. It likes rich soil high in organic matter, so add some compost at planting time. Keep well watered, and mulch to keep soil cool and moist. It may not flower in areas where summers are very cool. It may overwinter in the warmest regions (Zones 10-11), especially if covered with loose autumn leaves, straw, or any other light, airy winter mulch.

Talk about foolproof: Annual begonia is about as easy as it gets. It does well in a variety of conditions, but to keep it its most luxuriant best, give it light shade; rich, well-drained soil; and ample water. It also loves plenty of fertilizer, so be generous. Plant annual begonias in spring after all danger of frost has passed. No need to deadhead this flower unless you want to because it’s “self-cleaning.”

Tired of impatiens? Try the enchanting wishbone flower, also dubbed clown flower for its vividly marked flowers that are said to resemble the face of a clown. It’s a wonderful, relatively new choice for shade. The flower shape resembles tiny snapdragons, with mouths opening wide and showing off delicate throats marked with a contrasting color. Torenia grows easily from seed sown indoors in pots or outdoors in the ground. This little clown flower blooms nonstop until frost.

impatiens, sultana, BALSAM

Of the hundreds of species, only the following are usually seen in gardens. Most of these are annuals or tender perennials treated as annuals; all are valuable for long bloom period (most flower in summer, and a few continue into fall). When lightly touched, ripe seed capsules burst open and scatter seeds.

impatiens balfourii

  • Annual.
  • From the Himalayas.
  • To 20 inches high and broad, with 4- to 5 inches leaves and loose clusters of inch-wide, pink- tinted white flowers.
  • Seldom planted but often pops up unannounced.
  • It can become a pest by reseeding, but it is attractive in shady, informal plantings.

balsam

impatiens balsamina

  • Annual.
  • From Southeast Asia.
  • Erect, branching plant reaches 830 inches high and 68 inches wide.
  • Sharp-pointed, 112- to 6 inches-long leaves with deeply toothed edges.
  • Large, spurred flowers are borne among leaves along main stem, branches; they may be solid colored or variegated, in white or shades of pink, rose, lilac, or red.
  • Compact, double camelliaflowered forms are most frequently grown.
  • Sow seeds in flats or pots in early spring; after frost danger is past, set out young plants (or purchased transplants) in full sun (light shade in hottest climates).

jewel weed

impatiens capensis

  • Annual.
  • Native to damp, shady sites in Canada and the northern U.S. Grows 25 feet tall, 2 feet wide.
  • Smooth, tooth-edged, green leaves to 312 inches long.
  • Spurred, 1 inches orange-yellow flowers with reddish brown splotches; blooms in summer, fall.
  • Partial or full shade.
  • Juice from crushed stems is used to treat dermatitis caused by poison ivy, poison oak.

impatiens New Guinea hybrids

  • Perennials in Zone TS; USDA 10-11; annuals anywhere.
  • A varied group of striking plants developed from a number of species native to New Guinea, especially Impatiens hawkeri.
  • Plants can be upright or spreading; most are 12 feet tall and as wide or wider.
  • Leaves are typically large, often variegated with cream or red.
  • Flowers usually large (212 inches wide) though not profuse, held well above foliage; colors include lavender, purple, pink, red, orange, and white.
  • Once considered primarily potted plants, they also perform well as bedding plants; provide ample fertilizer and give somewhat more sun than you would Impatiens walleriana.

SunPatiens strain is the result of a cross between New Guinea hybrids and a wild species. These are long-lived, free-blooming plants that can take full sun in all but the hottest areas. Flower colors range from pinks and reds through coral and orange and white. Three form-based series are offered: Compact (upright and bushy, to 23 feet tall and wide); Spreading (mounding growth to 23 feet tall and 3 feet wide); and Vigorous (vase-shaped, 34 feet tall and 3 feet wide).

hardy impatiens

impatiens omeiana

  • Perennial in Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • From mountainous areas of China.
  • To 1112 feet high, spreading by runners.
  • Primarily grown for its attractive leaves that grow to 112 inches long and are velvety dark green with a whitish stripe down the center.
  • Blooms in early fall, bearing small yellow to apricot flowers that resemble little goldfish.
  • Partial or full shade.

yellow impatiens

impatiens repens

  • Perennial in Zone TS; USDA 10-11, usually grown as annual.
  • From India, Sri Lanka.
  • To 8 inches high, 1 feet wide, with thick reddish stems and kidney-shaped, 1 inches., green leaves.
  • Hooded, clear yellow, 112 inches flowers from summer to fall.
  • Good choice for hanging baskets.
  • Partial shade.

poor man’s rhododendron

impatiens sodenii

  • Perennial in Zone TS; USDA 10-11; indoor/outdoor plant elsewhere.
  • From eastern tropical Africa.
  • To 48 feet tall, 10 feet wide, with woody-based stems clothed in whorls of 8 inches-long, glossy, dark green leaves.
  • Produces many 212 inches., slender-spurred flowers in lilac, pale lavender, or pinkish shades.
  • Tolerates seacoast conditions.
  • Frosts kill it to ground, but it regrows in spring.
  • Blooms in partial or deep shade; takes sun in cool-summer areas.
  • Flash has white blooms streaked with bright rose-pink.
  • Madonna has pure white flowers.

impatiens, sultana

impatiens walleriana

  • Perennial in Zone TS; USDA 10-11, annual anywhere.
  • The South’s most popular flowers for partial or full shade; will take full sun if watered frequently almost daily.
  • Rapid, vigorous growth; tall types reach 2 feet high, dwarf kinds 612 inches high.
  • Narrow, glossy, dark green, 1- to 3 inches-long leaves on juicy pale green stems.
  • Flowers 12 inches wide, in all colors but yellow and true blue.
  • All types are useful for many months of bright color.
  • Grow plants from seed or cuttings, or buy them in cell packs or pots.
  • Space taller types 1 feet apart, dwarfs 6 inches apart.
  • If plants overgrow, cut them back to 6 inches above groundit’s a tonic.
  • New growth emerges in a few days, and flowers cover it in 2 weeks.
  • Plants often reseed in moist ground.

At any given moment, there are dozens of excellent strains on the market; many are just nuanced versions of the others. Following are some of the more popular.

Accent. To 10 inches high, in numer- ous individual colors or a mix.

Blitz. To 16 inches high, with 2 inches flowers in mixed or single colors.

Dazzler. To 11 inches high, in all colors plus a star pattern.

Super Elfin. To 810 inches high. Comes in an exceptionally wide range of individual colors and blends of harmonizing hues. One example is ‘Blue Pearl’, with flowers in an unusual bluish lilac shade.

Swirl. To 1012 inches high. Pastel shades with picotee edges of deeper color.

Many novelty strains and selections are available. They include ‘Firefly’, dwarf series to 68 inches high, with 12 inches flowers in the full range of impatiens colors; ‘Confection’, 1012 inches., producing a high percentage of double and semidouble flowers from seed; and ‘Victorian Rose’, 1012 inches., with frilly, rose-pink, semidouble flowers. Other double impatiens with flowers resembling rosebuds include cutting-grown ‘Fiesta’, ‘Rockapulco’, and ‘Tioga’ strains. The double-flowered types are best used as potted plants, located where flower detail can be observed close up.

How To Grow New Guinea Impatiens

Colour your summer with this versatile Impatiens; in the garden or indoors

The New Guinea impatiens are a great value bedding plant, they flower all summer into autumn and they make quite a large plant so you don’t need as many to have a good show. They have become a lot more popular in the last few years as they don’t get the highly contagious downy mildew that has plagued Busy Lizzies. Unfortunately Busy Lizzies are one of the few summer bedding plants that will thrive and give you some colour in a shady spot. The New Guineas won’t thrive in the shade but do need to be out of the midday sun. The flowers are much larger than Busy Lizzies and come in shades of orange, red and lavender, and also pure white. As their name suggests they are a tropical plant native to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Position

Pick a spot out of the midday sun but where they receive morning and late afternoon sun. If planting in the garden you need good moisture retentive, but not soggy, fertile soil. If you are growing it as a houseplant don’t place it in a south facing window, it will last a lot longer if shaded from the midday sun and kept on the cool side.

Planting

If planting in containers use good quality peat-free compost with slow release fertiliser and water retention gel added. When planting in the garden add some balanced fertiliser such as Growmore or blood, fish and bone. They make a thick mound about 30cm (12”) in diameter so don’t plant them too close together.

Aftercare

They won’t thrive if they become dry so make sure they are kept well-watered, especially in a drought. Feed every week with a high potash fertiliser, such as Tomorite, if you feed with a nitrogen based fertiliser you will end up with a big plant but not many flowers. Deadhead regularly to encourage it to go on producing more flowers. Treat the houseplant just the same as you would in the garden.

Pests and diseases

They will suffer from slugs and snails so take the usual precautions.

Mildew can also be a problem so make sure you don’t let them dry out and ensure there is a good airflow around them.

Q: I have some particularly beautiful impatiens that I want to grow next year. Is there any way to keep them alive indoors over the winter?

A: There are three ways to keep your impatiens. You can simply dig a clump of the plants and keep them in an indoor pot for the winter. You’ll need to grow them in plenty of light to keep them healthy. Another option is to take 6 inch long stem cuttings and root them in water. When the roots have grown one half inch, transplant the cuttings into small pots filled with potting soil. The third choice is to collect the impatiens seeds and plant them next year. You could either start them indoors in March or plant them outdoors in late April. If you plant the seeds, remember that they need light in order to germinate. Sprinkle the seed on top of the soil but do not cover it with more earth.

Sept. 1
Q: What is the best winter care for my New Guinea impatiens?

A: Unlike geraniums, New Guinea impatiens and common impatiens can not be forced into dormancy for the winter. They must be brought inside and cared for as a house plant. To make the job easier, prune the plants back now so they will be correctly sized for indoor life. If they are planted in the ground, dig them and put them in pots now. Put the plants in deep shade outdoors until fall so they won’t suffer “light deprivation” when they go indoors. Then, place them in your sunniest window and water only when necessary during the cold weather.

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