Impatiens are one of the best annuals for shade, in addition to being easy to grow, which is probably why they are so popular. Plant them under trees, as edging along the shady borders of your yard, or among other shade loving plants like ferns, they always look attractive and bloom profusely without direct sun. Like other annuals, they bloom from early summer to late fall, although exact times vary depending on the type.
Impatiens walleriana is the basic impatiens type and the most common. The flowers come in many colors, such as pure white, deep red, hot pink, and lilac purple, in fact the only colors they don’t come in are blue and yellow. The blooms are around 1 to 2 inches in diameter, with the plants themselves reaching heights of 8 to 24 inches.
Of the many varieties, a couple of notable ones are the Super Elfin, which is compact but produces nice large flowers, the Accent strain, an early blooming impatiens that can be found in many colors as well as bicolors, and the Tempo, with it’s pendulous stems and early bloom, which makes it perfect for hanging basket planting.
More recent variety of impatiens you may want to grow are the double flowering ones like Fiesta or Fancifrill, which produce a small rose-like, multilayered flower. You’ll want to plant these beauties out where they can be seen well; don’t bury them among other plants that could cover them up.
Impatiens balsama is another species. It grows 24 to 30 inches in height and has double flowers, also. The foliage on these plants is a bit thicker than the standard impatiens, and therefore they tend to look less colorful, since the blooms are hidden among the leaves somewhat.
There is also the New Guinea hybrid type. They typically require more sunlight than other varieties to flower. Some have multicolored leaves, which add even more color. The flowers themselves are larger and fewer. This type of impatiens is taller and more robust than walleriana.
It is time to plant impatiens when the weather has begun to warm up in the spring, and the risk of frost has disappeared. If the air and soil are still cool, your plants will not grow or bloom, and could be damaged by frost.
Impatiens plants can be located in full shade, although partial shade is preferable. These plants can take a fair amount of sun in cooler climates, and bloom better with more sunlight. It may take some trial and error to see just how much sun or shade you can allow them while still getting good flowering.
They should be planted nine to twelve inches apart; dwarf varieties should be planted 6 inches or so apart. Impatiens need to kept well watered all through their growing season, however, they tend to recover well from drying out, so don’t give up on withered plants too quick, just give them a thorough soaking and see if they revive.
Faded impatiens blooms don’t require any special pruning or removing, they take of themselves. But stems can be cut back to force new growth if flowering has diminished toward the end of the season. Impatiens will continue to bloom at a slower rate through the winter in mild climates, so don’t be surprised to see them still color into your garden.
Photo by gailf548, Creative Commons Attribution License