A classic shade garden annual, impatiens have long been a popular choice because of their bloom power and wide variety of colors. They can produce flowers nonstop for a whole growing season, and they don’t even deadheading to keep going! More recently, many impatiens have become susceptible to downy mildew, a devastating fungal disease, so make sure to look for resistant varieties.
Impatiens provide loads of color with little effort in shady places in the garden. Most commonly, impatiens come in softer pastel shades, but some species come in warm colors like yellow, coral, and orange as well. Some varieties also offer double flowers that look almost like mini roses. 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
These beautiful plants are easy to grow but an important thing to remember, however, 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.
When you are 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 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; it will look good as new in no time.
There are a few things to watch for when growing impatiens. Recently, a fungus called downy mildew has been 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 has 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.
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. Be sure to look for these disease-resistant varieties as you shop for plants in the spring.
More Varieties of Impatiens
Impatiens 'Fanfare Orchid' trails to 20 inches and produces orchid-pink flowers. It has better sun tolerance than most varieties.
Impatiens 'Fiesta Ole Peppermint' bears beautiful pink-and-white double flowers on compact, 12-inch-tall plants.
Impatiens 'Fiesta Ole Purple Stripe' bears purple-and-white double flowers all summer long. It grows 16 inches tall and 1 foot wide.
Impatiens 'Fiesta Pink Frost' features variegated foliage and pink double flowers all summer long. It grows 16 inches tall and 1 foot wide.
Impatiens 'Fiesta Stardust Pink' bears pink double flowers stippled with white. It grows 16 inches tall.
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
Impatiens 'Fusion Heat Coral' bears coral-orange flowers with yellow throats. It grows 16 inches tall.
Impatiens 'Tempo' series bears flowers in a very wide range of shades on compact, 8-inch-tall plants.
Impatiens Companion Plants
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 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.