How to Plant and Grow Impatiens

Impatiens are blooming powerhouses. Learn how to plant and grow these colorful flowers, and they'll keep going until the first frost.

Impatiens 'Xtreme Rose'
Photo:

Jason Wilde

A classic shade garden annual, impatiens have long been popular because of their bloom power and wide variety of colors. They can produce flowers nonstop for an entire growing season and don't need deadheading to keep going.

This quick-growing annual (often planted as a perennial) makes an excellent filler for garden beds and containers. The soft color palette of impatiens allows them to blend well with pretty much anything.

More recently, many impatiens have become susceptible to downy mildew, a devastating fungal disease, so look for resistant varieties.

Impatiens Overview

Genus Name Impatiens
Common Name Impatiens
Plant Type Annual, Houseplant
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 3 feet
Flower Color Blue, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Bloom
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Groundcover

Where to Plant Impatiens

Impatiens should be planted in humus-rich, moist, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH of 6-6.5. They should be planted in shaded or semi-shaded locations, spaced 10-12 inches apart. Impatiens do exceptionally well in planters as long as the soil is hospitable and there's good drainage. Impatiens are hardy in Zones 10 to 11 but usually grown as an annual in colder areas.

How and When to Plant Impatiens

To plant impatiens, dig a hole the same size as the plant's container. Remove the plant from the container and carefully loosen the roots. Place the plant in the hole, fill it with soil, and give it a good watering. Plant impatiens after your area's last spring frost.

Keep the plants 6-12 inches apart to facilitate low-growing flowers. The closer together they are, the higher the plants will grow. By keeping them low, impatiens will act as a supporting player for taller, showier flowers.

Impatiens Care Tips

These beautiful plants are easy to grow, but an important thing to remember is that impatiens are tropical plants. Once the first frost comes, your impatiens will turn to mush. You can overwinter them indoors, though. If you'd like to do so, make sure to bring in any pots or take any cuttings before the temperatures get too low.

Impatiens are relatively low-maintenance. As long as they're planted where they get the right kind of light, are kept watered (but not overwatered), their soil remains moist, and they're pruned to keep them from becoming leggy, impatiens will grow and thrive without too much attention.

Light

Plant impatiens in a spot where they'll get 2-4 hours of partial morning sun and afternoon shade. They thrive under shady trees or near bushes or shrubs that protect them from sunlight. Impatiens can be grown in full shade, but the plants won't be as abundant without some sun.

Soil and Water

When you're planting impatiens, give them rich, well-drained soils. In containers, any general-purpose potting mix will do. In the ground, if you have heavy clay, add some organic matter like compost to loosen it up and add nutrients.

Impatiens should be watered regularly and kept moist but not very wet. If you overwater, they become susceptible to diseases. Impatiens are not very tolerant of drought, and the plants will quickly wilt during prolonged dry spells. Luckily, they're very quick to bounce back once watered. So if you see an impatiens that looks beyond hope, give it some water and watch; it will look good as new in no time.

Temperature and Humidity

Impatiens thrive when the temperature is 68-85° F in the daytime and 60-64° F at night. They can react badly to excessive heat, and if high temperatures last a while, they'll begin to wilt. Give them water, and they should quickly revive. Impatiens do well in humidity.

Fertilizer

Fertilizing before you plant usually supplies enough nutrients for annual impatiens to last the season. Perennial varieties require fertilization each spring after growth resumes, and they also benefit from additional applications every six to eight weeks throughout the growing season. You can use any all-purpose, balanced fertilizer, such as a 13-13-13 or 10-10-10 blend.

Pruning

Impatiens should be pruned when they grow to about 3 inches high to help avoid the plants becoming leggy. This usually happens around midsummer, but they can be pruned anytime their colors fade, and they begin to look spindly. Keep impatiens plants short and bushy for the best flowers and color.

Potting and Repotting

These quick-growing and easy-care flowers are perfect for planting in pots, and because they have a shallow root system, they can thrive in small containers. This makes them a good choice for apartment balconies, window boxes, and small patios.

When potting or repotting impatiens, use a nonporous container, like metal or plastic, so watering isn't needed as frequently.

Pests and Problems

There are a few things to watch for when growing impatiens. A fungus called downy mildew is particularly devastating. 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 their trademark downy white spores on the undersides of leaves.

Downy mildew is difficult to control once it's appeared, 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.

How to Propagate Impatiens

To propagate impatiens, cut a 3-6 inch non-flowering stem from a healthy plant with at least two leaf nodes. These stems can be added directly into the soil in the ground or a planter.

Types of Impatiens

'Fanfare Orchid' impatiens

Impatiens 'Fanfare Orchid'
Justin Hancock

Impatiens 'Fanfare Orchid' trails to 20 inches and produces orchid-pink flowers. It has better sun tolerance than most varieties.

'Fiesta Burgundy' double impatiens

Impatiens 'Fiesta Burgundy'
Justin Hancock

Impatiens 'Fiesta Burgundy' bears beautiful burgundy-purple double flowers on 16-inch-tall plants.

'Fiesta Ole Peppermint' double impatiens

Impatiens 'Fiesta Ole Peppermint'
Ed Gohlich

Impatiens 'Fiesta Ole Peppermint' bears beautiful pink-and-white double flowers on compact, 12-inch-tall plants.

'Fiesta Ole Purple Stripe' double impatiens

Impatiens 'Fiesta Ole Purple Stripe'
Marty Baldwin

Impatiens 'Fiesta Ole Purple Stripe' bears purple-and-white double flowers all summer long. It grows 16 inches tall and 1 foot wide.

'Fiesta Pink Frost' double impatiens

Impatiens Fiesta Pink Frost
Justin Hancock

Impatiens 'Fiesta Pink Frost' features variegated foliage and pink double flowers all summer long. It grows 16 inches tall and 1 foot wide.

'Fiesta White' double impatiens

Impatiens 'Fiesta White'
Justin Hancock

Impatiens 'Fiesta White' shows off pure white double flowers. It grows 16 inches tall.

'Fusion Glow' impatiens

Impatiens 'Fusion Glow'
Justin Hancock

Impatiens 'Fusion Glow' bears golden-yellow flowers with orange throats. It grows 16 inches tall.

'Fiesta Stardust Pink' double impatiens

Impatiens 'Fiesta Stardust Pink'
Justin Hancock

Impatiens 'Fiesta Stardust Pink' bears pink double flowers stippled with white. It grows 16 inches tall.

Sunpatiens Series impatiens

Sunpatiens Series impatiens
Justin Hancock

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 various colors. Downy mildew resistant. (Zones 10-11)

'Fusion Sunset Peach' impatiens

Impatiens 'Fusion Sunset'
Justin Hancock

Impatiens 'Fusion Sunset Peach' bears warm apricot-peach flowers. It grows 16 inches tall.

'Fusion Heat Coral' impatiens

Impatiens 'Fusion Heat'
Justin Hancock

Impatiens 'Fusion Heat Coral' bears coral-orange flowers with yellow throats. It grows 16 inches tall.

'Super Elfin White' impatiens

Impatiens 'Super Elfin White'
John Reed Forsman

Impatiens 'Super Elfin White' bears pure white flowers on compact, 10-inch-tall plants.

'Tempo' impatiens

Impatiens 'Tempo Series'
Chipper R. Hatter

Impatiens 'Tempo' series bears flowers in a very wide range of shades on compact, 8-inch-tall plants.

'Xtreme Rose' impatiens

Impatiens 'Xtreme Rose'
Jason Wilde

Impatiens 'Xtreme Rose' bears large, bright rosy-pink flowers on 12-inch-tall plants.

Impatiens Companion Plants

Browallia

Browallia
Dean Schoeppner

Browallia earns its nicknames of amethyst flower and sapphire flower for the richness of its small blue flowers, which pop out like jewels against the bright green of its foliage. A tidy mounding plant, it's great in containers or planted as edging in a neat row at the front of the border. Plant in a shady spot in spring after all danger of frost has passed. It likes rich soil high in organic matter, so add some compost at planting time.

Keep well-watered and mulch to keep the soil cool and moist. It may not flower in areas where summers are very cool. It may overwinter in the warmest regions (Zones 10-11), especially if covered with loose autumn leaves, straw, or any other light, airy winter mulch.

foxtail asparagus fern in white indoor planter

Krystal Slagle / BHG

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus fern is a pretty, easy-to-grow perennial—but it's not actually a fern. Its small, needle-like leaves have a soft texture that creates a feathery look.

Asparagus ferns do best in well-drained soil rich in organic properties. Once they're established in the garden, they're drought tolerant. They should be kept consistently moist in dappled shade. Asparagus ferns prefer warm and humid climates (about 70°F) and cannot withstand temperatures below 55°F for long periods.

begonia big rose with bronze leaf

Justin Hancock

Begonia

There are wide varieties of begonias, and they can be used in almost any garden. Larger types are ideal for landscaping and add a dramatic look when planted in large amounts, while smaller begonias work well in containers with other plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many times does an impatiens plant bloom?

    Impatiens plants can bloom over and over, as long as they're cared for properly. Make sure to prune, water, and fertilize as recommended, and you'll have bright, colorful flowers all season.

  • Are New Guinea impatiens different from other impatiens?

    New Guinea impatiens are often referred to as "sun impatiens" because they tolerate more sun than other types. New Guinea impatiens have larger flowers than most varieties. Also, New Guinea impatiens appear to be resistant to downy mildew.

  • What are the newest innovations for impatiens?

    The downy mildew problem has resulted in quite a bit of research on breeding resistant varieties. Many of these new varieties are more similar to New Guinea impatiens, which are not affected by the disease. 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.

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