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Impatiens: Plants Care & Growing Guide

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How to Grow Impatiens

Impatiens plants are one of the most popular annual flowers, due to their colorful flowers and their ability to grow in shady areas. Although technically tropical perennials, these plants are grown as annuals in all but the warmest regions (zones 10 to 12).

The genus Impatiens, one of two genera in the Balsam family of plants, has many dozen species, two of which are common garden plants. Impatiens flowers get their name from the Latin impatiens, which means "impatient." They are so named because their ripe seed pods sometimes pop open with a slight touch (as if they are impatient to open).

Two Types of Garden Impatiens

Wallerian impatience is the common impatience. The most commonly grown cultivars are short plants, reaching a height of no more than 30 centimeters. Some types, like the 'Super Elfin' series, are shortened a lot. Standard impatiens flowers come in a variety of colors, including white, red, pink, violet, coral, purple, and yellow (relatively recent).

The flowers of the common impatiens have a lot to offer, including shade tolerance, long-lasting blooms, and brightly colored blooms that come in a variety of colors. Impatiens flowers have long been one of the dominant flower beds in North America, especially in shady areas. They are also used in container gardens, from hanging baskets to planters.

However, in 2004, a particular form of downy mildew appeared that quickly decimated breeders in commercial North American nurseries. This disease is caused by a pathogen called Plasmopara obducens and, for more than a decade, it has practically stopped all commercial sales of standard impatiens. Standard impatiens didn't start to make a comeback until 2019, with the development of some mold-resistant hybrids.

The other common form of impatiens is Impatiens hawkeri, which goes by the common name of New Guinea impatiens. It is a noticeably larger plant than standard impatiens and is considered more showy, especially in terms of foliage. New Guinea can also receive slightly more sun than Wallerian species. Many growers prefer the New Guinea type for use in containers. In recent years, perhaps the greatest advantage of the New Guinea type has been its resistance to downy mildew.

When impatiens are planted from seed, it can take several months before they mature into flowering plants. Therefore, they are generally started indoors up to 10 weeks before the last expected frost date. Most often, impatiens are planted from nursery seedlings that are already close to flowering maturity.

Botanical NameImpatiens spp.
Common NameImpatiens, busy Lizzy,
Plant TypeTender perennial, usually grown as an annual
Mature Size6–36 inches tall; 1–3 feet wide
Sun ExposurePart shade to full shade
Soil TypeRich, well-draining soil
Soil pH6.0–6.5 (slightly acidic)
Bloom TimeSpring through summer
Flower ColorPastels and vibrant colors including white, red, pink, violet, coral, purple, and yellow
Hardiness Zones10 to 11; grown as an annual elsewhere
Native AreaAfrica, Eurasia, New Guinea
ToxicityNon-toxic to humans; may be slightly toxic to pets

Impatiens Care

Impatiens are easy to grow in any moist, well-drained soil in a shady or semi-shady location. New Guinea impatiens are more tolerant of the sun than conventional impatiens. In the northern United States and in areas with equally cold winters, the traditional time to plant impatiens is Memorial Day, when the danger of frost has passed. If planted in very cold soil, these plants will wilt during the growing season.

After planting, pinching the stems will encourage the growth of more shrubs.

While the plant is very popular, don't let the claim that it has been "overused" sway your purchasing decisions too much. If a particular color of impatiens helps fulfill a need at the edge of a flower or elsewhere, especially in shady areas, it is advisable to use it.

Light

With enough water, impatiens can be grown in a place with part of the sun in the northern regions, their great virtue is that they thrive in the shade.

In fact, they are among the relatively few readily available and inexpensive flowering plants that will give a great flower display even when grown in full shade. The New Guinea forms are much more tolerant of the sun and can even thrive in full sun if watered frequently.

Soil

Grow impatiens flowers in well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. The soil must drain well to prevent it from becoming boggy with frequent watering that impatience requires.

Water

Once in the ground, the impatiens will need at least two inches of water per week. When average temperatures are consistently above 80 degrees, water at least four inches a week. In planters and hanging vases, impatiens may need water on a daily basis.

Temperature and humidity

Impatiens are very sensitive to heat. If your temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need at least four inches of water a week. The impatiens containers will need to be watered daily, or twice a day if temperatures are above 85 degrees.

If there has been a long dry spell, your plants will likely look wilted. Fortunately, they recover quickly. Give them some water and they will recover.

Impatiens are tropical plants that turn to mush with the first light frost. Bring them indoors if you plan to keep them during the colder months. They are fine in wet weather.

Fertilizer

Impatiens bloom best if fertilized regularly. A water-soluble fertilizer can be used every two weeks during spring and summer. Another option is a slow-release fertilizer, used in early spring and again in mid-summer.

If your impatiens plants start to grow long-legged in late summer, use scissors to trim off a third of the vegetation. This will promote the appearance of new flowers and improve the overall appearance of the plants. One possible cause of leggings is overfertilization.

Varieties of impatiens

There are more than a thousand varieties of impatience. Standard impatiens can still be difficult to find as mold-resistant varieties are still being developed and introduced.

Your best selection may come with New Guinea impatiens. Some recommended varieties of standard and New Guinea impatiens include:

  • Impatiens walleriana 'Imara XDR': This line is a new disease-resistant line of standard impatiens from the Syngenta company, which became available in 2019. There are seven colors as well as color mixes in this series, which promises to restore standard impatiens to their former popularity.
  • Impatiens walleriana 'Beacon': This is another series of standard impatiens that is "highly resistant" to mildew, introduced in 2020. Beacon is derived from the Super Elfin line, with many colors available.
  • Impatiens hawkeri'Celebration'series: This is one of the best of the New Guinea impatiens. Available in a wide range of vibrant colors, these plants grow to 16 inches tall. These plants were likely hybridized with other species of impatiens.
  • Impatiens x 'Bounce' series: Developed by Ball Horticultural Company, this hybrid series of impatiens is a cross between New Guinea and standard impatiens. According to the company, they are resistant to downy mildew and thrive in sun and shade. It "bounces back" nicely after wilting in hot weather.
  • Impatiens x 'SunPatiens' series: This variety of New Guinea impatiens has unusually large flowers (up to 3 inches across) in a unique shade of salmon pink. At up to 3 feet tall, the Sunpatiens line is across between New Guinea impatiens and standard impatiens species.

Propagation of impatiens

Impatiens are easily self-seeded, even in colder climates, though it may take most of the next year's growing season before the seeds produce flowering plants.

Some gardeners also collect seeds from the "exploding" pods that plants produce in late summer and fall, and then grow them indoors in a seed mix in late winter, six to 10 weeks before the last frost.

It's easier to propagate impatiens from cuttings harvested in the fall:

  1. Cut a plant shoot 10 to 15 cm long, with broad leaves. Tear off the lower leaf sets, as well as the flowers or seed pods.
  2. Suspend cutting in water and place in a bright area, but out of direct sunlight. Replace the water frequently (every few days) as it turns cloudy.
  3. When a good root network develops, plant the cutting in potting soil or a mixture of soil and vermiculite or perlite. Continue to grow in a bright area out of direct sunlight. Keep the potting soil moist at all times.
  4. Plant in the garden after the last spring frost.

Common Pests/ Diseases

In addition to the downy mildew that wreaked havoc on common impatiens, these plants can be affected by viruses, fungal diseases, and decay. These problems are more likely in humid conditions or where the plants are too close together.

Problems with insects include aphids, mealybugs, thrips, whiteflies, slugs, snails, and spider mites. Severely affected plants can be removed; Minor infestations can be treated with horticultural oils or pesticides.

Too much sun can burn the leaves in most impatien varieties, although New Guinea varieties can generally tolerate full sun if given more humidity.

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Planting Flowers

Source: Gardening Upbeat

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