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The epitome of the shade garden plant, impatiens have been used for years for their bloom power and wide variety of colors. These tropical plants are blooming powerhouses and will fill a space with blossoms as long as there is no frost. They can bloom for a whole growing season, and they don’t even need maintenance, like deadheading, to keep up! More recently, many impatiens have become susceptible to downy mildew, a devastating fungal disease, so make sure to look for resistant varieties.
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Part Sun, Shade
1 to 3 feet
1 to 3 feet
Impatiens are great plants if you want loads of color with little effort. Most commonly, impatiens come in softer pastel shades, but some tropical species come in warm colors like yellow, coral, and orange as well. With their quick growth habit, impatiens are great fillers for both garden beds and containers. The soft color palette allows them to blend well with pretty much anything.
Impatiens Care Must-Knows
You might think there would be some catch with a plant this floriferous and easy to grow—but there isn't! An important thing to remember, however, is that impatiens are tropical plants. Once the first frost comes, your impatiens will turn to mush, so if you are planning on overwintering some indoors, make sure to bring in any pots or take any cuttings before the temperatures get too low.
When you are planting impatiens, give them rich, well-drained soils. In containers, any general-purpose potting media will do. In the ground, if you have heavy clays, it is best to add some organic matter like compost or peat moss to loosen it up and add nutrients. Impatiens are not very tolerant of drought, and during long dry spells the plants will quickly wilt. Luckily, they are very quick to bounce back once watered. So if you see an impatiens that looks beyond hope, give it some water and watch—in a very short time, its will look good as new.
There are a few things to watch for and to be aware of when growing impatiens. Recently, a major problem has been a nasty fungus called downy mildew. Downy mildew can be tricky to identify in the early stages. It typically begins by causing leaves to yellow and drop off or die. Eventually, this can become more dramatic, and portions of the leaves will erratically become brown and dead. You can identify downy mildew by finding their trademark downy white spores on the undersides of leaves. Downy mildew is a tricky disease to control, so the best way to avoid it is to choose resistant varieties when planting. If you do find powdery mildew, destroying the plants and any debris around the plants to prevent it from infecting any other plants is the best course of action.
Because of the devastating affects of downy mildew on such an important horticultural crop, there has been quite a bit of research on new hybrids. Many of these new hybrids are more similar to new guinea impatiens, which are not affected by powdery mildew. This has created some beautiful new cultivars, many of which boast the best of both worlds, including larger plants, more sun tolerance, and disease resistance. Be sure to look for these disease-resistant varieties as you shop for plants in the spring.
More Varieties of Impatiens
Sunpatiens Series impatiens
Impatiens Sunpatiens Series is an interspecific hybrid of impatiens that grows just as well in full sun as in full shade. With blooms closer in size to new guinea impatiens, these plants can quickly fill a garden bed or hanging basket in a wide variety of colors. Downy mildew resistant. Zones 10-11