Impatiens have been extremely popular as a house plant for generations. Cuttings can 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 that 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 comprises 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.
Where Did Impatiens Come From?
Claude Hope was a pioneering horticulturist born in Sweetwater, Texas, in 1907. He is most well-known for developing impatiens from an unknown weed, making it the most sold bedding plant in the United States. He introduced them to the US in the 1960s. Claude Hope also started the Pan American Seed Company, where he bred these flowers in its nursery in Costa Rica.
Are Impatiens an Annual or Perennial?
Impatiens are shade loving tender perennial that is often grown as an annual. They come in various colors, including red, purple, pink, white, and orange. Annual impatiens thrive for one full growing season in most zones in the United States. Perennial impatiens grown in Zones 10 through 12 come back each year as long as they are cut back and properly cared for.
Impatiens and New Guineas are both perennial plants and do not tolerate frost. Morning sun with afternoon shade is the most ideal for both of these species. They easily wilt in full sunlight even if they have moist soil.
What Is Downy Mildew and How Do You Spot Infected Plants?
Downy mildew is a mold-like growth that can be found on the underside of the leaves. You may notice white, gray, or purple growth, depending on the species of downy mold you are dealing with. It is easy to see on most plants.
Older leaves of the plant are usually attacked first. To eliminate it, you can use drip irrigation and wide row spacing. This dries the leaves while also encouraging proper air movement and air circulation. If there are any plants with signs of this disease, remove them immediately. There are no pesticides currently available to help a home gardener combat downy mildew.
Types of Impatiens
Traditional impatiens have long been grown on both sides of the Atlantic: the well-known Busy Lizzie in British homes and Patient Lucy in American homes. There is much confusion over naming, and the best plan is to group the various popular species together as Impatiens walleriana.
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, growing one of the many F1 Hybrids is much more usual – plants are much more compact, and the floral display is more impressive.
Busy Lizzie (Impatiens walleriana)
The Buzy Lizzie or Impatiens walleriana is a species of the genus impatiens and is also known as bedding impatiens. They are native to eastern Africa and can be found from Kenya to Mozambique. It is considered a balsaminaceous plant with pink, red, or white flowers and is most often grown in pots as houseplants. However, they are also often grown as annuals. If given enough light, they can thrive in an indoor environment.
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 want 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.
Impatiens zig-zag and impatiens fanfare produce what are known as bi-color blooms. These impatiens require average warmth and a minimum of 55°F in winter. They should be kept at 60°F or more to ensure flowering during winter. Bright light is necessary, but avoid direct sunlight in summer. A few hours of sun are necessary for winter if the plant is to continue flowering.
When it comes to watering these impatiens, keep the compost moist all the time. Daily watering may be necessary for summer, but you will want to reduce watering in winter. Additionally, the pot must be filled with roots before the plant will flower freely. Repot, if necessary, in the spring.
Regarding propagation, stem cuttings root readily at any time of the year, but you want to sow seeds in the spring.
Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
In the UK, this impatien is nicknamed the policeman’s helmet. It was introduced in the Northern hemisphere and soon became invasive. For this reason, it is now banned in the EU and most of the United States.
It has been known to grow from 3 ft to 6.5 feet and has lavender, pinkish, and purplish flowers that are pretty to the eye. Its shoots, young leaves, green seed pods, and seeds are also edible and are often used in jam and dessert recipes.
The Impatiens glandulifera has also been known to excrete toxins that could potentially harm any nearby plants in your garden. They do this as a way to cut down their competition—something also known as allelopathy.
New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri)
These impatien plants, also known as impatiens hawkeri or the painted paradise orange, have larger, brighter, and more colorful flowers, can tolerate high direct sunlight and have variegated foliage. They grow between 8 and 12 inches in height and can spread 10 to 12 inches.
These impatiens plants are also considered leggy, intolerant to drought, and bloom irregularly. Some of the cultivars of this species include the Celebrette, Clockwork, Celebration, Devine, Harmony, and SunStanding series.
The Sun Harmony baby pink impatien is a flowering plant with a well-branched and compact habit and produces vibrant pink flowers from early spring to frost. This New Guinea impatien is part of the Sun Harmony family and thrives in partial shade and sun, meaning it can be grown in a partial shade garden or on a sunny balcony.
Balsamina Impatiens (Impatiens balsamina)
These impatien plants can grow to be between 8 and 16 inches. They are also commonly known as rose balsam or garden balsam. They are endemic to Southeast Asia and India. These plants are smaller than the impatiens walleriana variety.
This is a new type of impatien plant and looks very similar to the new guinea. The leaves are similar to those of the more classic impatien plant variety and are resistant to downy mildew. They are extremely versatile and can grow in the shade or the sun. You won’t find many plants that can thrive in both. You also don’t have to trim any growth as it is unnecessary.
Jewelweed Impatiens (Impatiens capensis)
Jewelweed impatiens are native to the woodland areas of the eastern and northern United States. These impatien flowers are yellow and orange shades and grow well in partial shade and moist soil. They can grow to be between 12 and 48 inches in height. Under this impatien species, you will find the Spotted Jewelweed and Pale Jewelweed.
The Spotted Jewelweed has orange flowers, curved spurs, and brownish-red spots with dark green foliage. The Pale Jewelweed has droopy yellow flowers and recurved spurs. It thrives in moist to wet soil conditions.
Why Plant Impatiens?
Impatiens love the shade and are incredibly easy to grow. As you can see from the variety we have shared above, they also come in a plethora of different colors, from flat to rosette and those with brighter colors.
Minimal maintenance and care are required for the impatiens flower, and they bloom from spring til frost. For all of these reasons and more, impatiens will certainly make a versatile addition to any home garden setup.
Looking for inspiration for the perfect garden design? Look no further. Check out these creative ideas for garden design and transform your patio or garden into the oasis of your dreams.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2014 and has been completely updated.