What are Impatiens?

J. Beam
J. Beam
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Impatiens are a popular bedding plant that perform well in shade to part sun exposure in most growing zones. Primarily an annual, their popularity stems from the wide range of color and intensity they provide and because they bloom most of the growing season. Impatiens have darker green foliage set off by vibrant, but delicate petals, which may be single or double. Their height ranges an average of 6 inches (15.2 cm) to 18 inches (45.7 cm).

As a bedding plant, impatiens provide a colorful border or filler for flowerbeds, window boxes, urns, tree borders, and mounds. They prefer only some sun and while they can be grown in full sun with careful attention to watering, impatiens perform best in areas with afternoon shade, making east-facing locations ideal. When growing impatiens from seed, they should be started indoors and planted after the threat of hard frost.

There are a wide range of colors available from white to red to deep purples, pinks, and salmon. There are several varieties of impatiens as well, including New Guinea, which offer broader variations of leaves in the same exciting colors. Double impatiens are equally colorful, but produce a flower that is slightly less fragile looking than the standard variety. Any variety will enhance a flower garden or box with cheery color, which is what makes them one of the best-selling plants in nurseries each season.

In the southern climates of the United States, impatiens are slightly more hearty than in the northern portion. However, dry climates will require frequent watering to avoid wilting, but proper drainage is equally important as they are prone to wilting if soggy. With proper watering, impatiens will mound over and fill in empty areas in flowerbeds with thick accent colors that support thriving perennials. Impatiens make a nice accompaniment to hostas, which also enjoy shade.

The quickest way to enjoy the color of impatiens is to transplant varieties available at your local nursery. Be sure to check the different species available in your zone for their preference to planting location and soil conditions. You can plant them in clumps or spread them out about 8 inches (20.3 cm) apart and watch them fill in over time. Most varieties will not survive a hard frost. Ask your nursery about pruning and fertilizing of specific varieties.

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    • Woman with a flower
      Woman with a flower