Impatiens has been extremely popular as a house plant for generations. cuttings root very easily and the plants will, with proper care, bloom almost all year round. This non-stop blooming habit is the reason for its common name – Busy Lizzie.
There are three basic groups of impatiens. Until recently only the traditional types were grown – spreading, succulent stems bearing white, red or pink flowers amongst the leaves. In recent years breeders and plant hunters have been responsible for hundreds of new varieties. One of the new groups is the F1 Hybrid, a range of small and compact plants with a mass of blooms which partly or almost entirely cover the leaves.
The standard colors of white, pink and red have been joined by orange and lilac. The third group is made up of the New Guinea Hybrids which generally bear multicolored leaves.
Impatiens are not difficult to grow but they do need regular care. Pinch out the tips of young plants several times to ensure bushy plants – prune mature plants each spring. The stems of the traditional types of impatiens are brittle – tall plants may require staking. Feed regularly during the growing season and provide ventilation on hot days. Above all, remember to water frequently in summer.
The traditional types of impatiens have long been grown on both sides of the Atlantic: the well known Busy Lizzie in British homes and Patient Lucy in American ones. There is much confusion over naming, and the best plan is to group the various popular species together as Impatiens wallerana. Included here are the green-leaved Impatiens holstii and Impatiens sultani plus the red-leaved Impatiens petersiana. The stems are straggly and fleshy with oval leaves which may be all-green, bronze, red, mahogany or green edged with white. Nowadays it is much more usual to grow one of the many F1 Hybrids – plants are much more compact and the floral display is more impressive.
Plants can be raised from seed but this is not easy; it is better to buy small seedlings if you require a lot of them or pot-grown plants in bloom if you need just one or two. The choice is extensive – look for Cinderella, Novette Star, Zig-Zag, Sparkles and Rose Star. Doubles are less popular than the single varieties of impatiens, but you can try Rosette, Double Duet or Confection if you would like something different. Even more different than the old-fashioned varieties are the New Guinea Hybrids. These plants have evolved from Impatiens hawkeri, Impatiens linearifolia and Impatiens schlechteri, the complex crosses producing eye-catching specimens growing 1-2 ft high. The long leaves are nearly always bicolored or multicolored although there are a number of all-red and bronzy types.
Secrets of success
Temperature: Average warmth; minimum 55°F in winter. Keep at 60°F or more to ensure flowering during winter.
Light: Bright light is necessary, but avoid direct sunlight in summer. A few hours of sun are necessary in winter if the plant is to continue flowering.
Water: Keep compost moist all the times. daily watering may be necessary in summer. Reduce watering in winter.
Repotting: The pot must be filled with roots before the plant will flower freely. Repot, if necessary, in spring.
Propagation: Stem cuttings root readily at any time of the year. Sow seeds in spring.
Impatiens double bloom