Ahh, busy-lizzies. How I adore these plants. I do not believe there is a better flowering plant for the shade than these incredible bushy flower-heavy beauties. Impatiens are the workhorse of the garden, adding pops of color to otherwise dark and shaded areas, containers, beds, patios, and window boxes! Impatiens care isn’t all that fussy or complicated, but there are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of these beautiful plants.
To grow impatiens well start with the right Environment
The trick to lush, abundant blooms on your impatiens plants is to ensure that you provide them with the right environment. Impatiens care is all about the right spot, with the right light, soil, water, and feed.
All types and varieties of impatiens are suspectable to frost and will not survive even a light frost.
It is also important not to plant out seedlings until all chances of frost have passed. Instead, plant out two weeks after your last predicted frost date or until temperatures remain over 50 F at night.
Impatiens are tropical plants that thrive in the hot temperatures of summer. In most of North America I. Wallerana grows best in partial to deep full shade, though it can handle full sun in coastal areas with cool summers. Impatiens flowers are the perfect addition to shade gardens, adding swaths of color in dark and shady areas. However, they do not do well with too much sun.
Impatiens balsamina will grow well in full sun, especially in the North. However, it can tolerate light shade. Impatiens balsamina is a tender annual. This stunning flower is commonly known in cultivation as Touch-me-not, Balsam flower, Rose balsam, or Garden balsam.
Impatiens walleriana with double flowers are gorgeous planted en mass; they also blend well with annuals, perennials, and shrubs. They do well in part shade. These plants are often referred to as common impatiens. Although impatiens plants are mostly carefree, I. walleriana is susceptible to downy mildew. The white impatience walleriana looks particularly stunning in a nighttime moonlight garden.
The new guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) are finicky; they like the direct sun but dislike heat. They are the perfect impatiens to plant in full sun and are immune to downy mildew.
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All impatiens require fertile, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. A pH range between 6-7 is ideal. If you have heavy soil, it is recommended to add vermiculate and grit to help with drainage. Impatiens will not grow well in rich clay soils.
Impatiens like consistently moist soil but should not be overwatered. Overwatering and allowing the roots to sit in water can lead to diseases like root rot.
Be sure that the plants receive at least 1 -2 inches of water a week. After a dry spell, the plants will wilt dramatically (and I mean dramatically).
Avoid watering during the noonday sun as water on the flowers and leaves can cause burning.
A single application of compost or slow-release fertilizer worked into the soil before planting is all you need. Too much fertilizer will cause an overgrowth of foliage at the expense of the flowers, creating leggy plants. Impatiens grown in small containers like baskets or pots may require an additional feed of liquid fertilizer (water-soluble fertilizer)during the summer season.
Planting & propagation
Impatiens can be started from seed, planted out as seedlings purchased at the garden center, or propagated from your own cuttings.
For best results, sow seeds of impatiens walleriana indoors 12 weeks before the last frost date in your region. The seeds need light to germinate, so do not cover them. Instead, cover the seed trays with plastic to help provide humidity. Seeds need heat to grow, so keep them at 70-75 degrees or use a heat mat.
Plants will sprout in 15-20 days. Do not overwater; overwatering can cause damping-off. Plant impatiens out after the last possible danger of frost when soil temperatures are above 50F.
You can quickly propagate Impatiens with softwood cuttings. Take cuttings from plants brought indoors and root them to create spring transplants.
General Impatiens plant care
Impatiens are almost carefree annual plants and do not require much fuss or day-to-day care once established.
I wallerana can be overwintered as a lovely showy houseplant. Dig up the plants before the first frosts and place them in a planter with adequate drainage. Pinch plants back to half to encourage new bushier new blooms.
Overwintered impatiences will require full winter sun. A bright sunny south-facing window will be ideal. Water when dry.
Container Gardening With Impatiens
I wallerana are perfect container plants and thrive and look beautiful in pots. They also look lovely in hanging baskets, patios, window boxes, and garden beds. Be sure to add lots of organic material and drainage holes to the containers and keep the plants out of direct sunlight. You will want to keep your eyes on your container-grown impatiens as the pots can dry out quickly. The trick to impatiens care in containers is to keep a regular watering schedule and check on the plants daily during hot spells. Impatiens make one of the best bedding plants due to their spectacular flowers.
Insects & pests that affect Impatiens Plants
As with most flowers and gardens, impatiens are generally susceptible to your primary garden pests like aphids and spider mites. Therefore, having a good soap-based insecticidal spray on hand is a good idea.
Plants infected with aphids have poor stunted growth with curled, puckered, or stunted leaves. Leaves may turn yellow, brown, or die.
You can manage the light Infestations of aphids with a blast of forceful water every few days. If that is not effective, you can spray the plants with insecticidal soap every 4-5 days for up to 3 weeks.
Southerly regions in the United States will sometimes have impatiens that become infested with nematodes which can cause wilted and stunted growth. The effects of nematodes can be seen quite clearly in hot weather when impatiens plants struggle to recover from the heat.
Tiny yellow dots are a sure sign that our impatiens are infested with spider mites. Spider mites are small pests that eat the chlorophyll out of the leaves. Unfortunately, they inject the leaves with toxins (double whammy!), which causes distorted and discolored leaves.
You may also see the plants coated in fine silk webbing either under or over the leaves.
It would be best if you destroyed severely infected plants. Do not add to your compost bin.
Light infestations can be managed with a forceful spray of water, focusing on the underside of the leaves every other day. If that does not work, you can use insecticidal soap every 3-4 days for up to two weeks.
To avoid spreading, avoid touching healthy plants after touching infected plants.
Diseases that affect impatiens
Although impatiens are often carefree, they are susceptible to several fungal blights. However, there are ways to manage and save the plants and prevent the diseases from spreading if you know which fungal disease affects your plants.
Damping-off is easy to diagnose. Seedling stems will blacken at the soil line and fall over and die. The stems rot and are not able to support the plant.
Several different soil-dwelling fungi cause Damping-off.
To prevent damping off, be sure to use sterilized containers of fresh seed starting soil, provide adequate drainage, do not overcrowd seedlings, and allow plants to wick up water as required vs. watering from above.
Fungal Leaf Spot
Small circular brown leaf spots on the leaves of the plants are a sure sign that your impatiens plant is suffering from a fungal leaf spot.
To treat pick-off and destroy infected leaves, keep garden areas clean of debris to reduce spore populations. A garden filled with waste is a nursery bed for fungal blights. Be sure to clean up all winter debris in late spring.
Impatiens are occasionally affected by stem rot. Stems are infected at the base of the plant and rot. Leaves will turn yellow and wilt, and the plant falls over and dies.
To diagnose stem rot, cut a stem from an infected plant, and if it oozes yellow, you have bacterial wilt called Pseudomonas solanacearum.
With stem rot, your best treatment is preventative. There is no overcrowding of plants, well-drained soil, and do no overwater and clean-up debris. Keep mulches away from roots.
You must remove and destroy infected plants. Do not add to compost, and be sure to sterilize your equipment and tools.
Downy Mildew Disease
One of the big advantages of impatiens care is that downy mildew only affects Impatiens walleriana, other varieties are immune. If you see impatiens with downy mildew, remove the affected plants roots and all.
Plants affected with downy mildew will turn yellow. In addition, the undersides of the leaves will have powdery white spores. In recent years downy mildew has been a real problem for gardeners and garden centers.
Do not compost these plants. Instead, you can place them in a plastic bag and dispose of or burn them. Remove all plants within a 3-foot radius of the infected plants even if they do not show signs of the disease. Although severe, this method will help prevent the mildew from spreading.
Caring & Trouble Shooting Impatiens care in Your Garden
And there you have it, all the things you need to know for impatiens care in your garden. I wish you a wonderful gardening season filled with lush gardens and happy blooms. I’d love to see your gardens! If you’re on Instagram sharing your gardens this summer send me your handle and I will happily follow you!
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