Impatiens are one of the most popular annuals in America, according to the University of Vermont. These colorful flowers are prolific growers, resistant to serious insect pests and diseases, and can thrive and bloom even in full shade. Impatiens range in size from only a few inches to several feet tall, depending on the variety, and come in a wide range of colors. These attractive, easy to care for flowers are the perfect choice for both a beginning or experienced home gardener.
Impatiens are native to the eastern part of Africa and Tanzania. They are part of the large Balsaminaecae family of plants, according to the University of Vermont. Impatiens were brought to Europe by Dr. John Kirk, a British explorer and physicist. Claude Hope, a horticulturist, improved the impatiens, developed hybrids and brought them to prominence in the United States.
Impatiens range in size from 6 inches to over 2 feet. The smaller, more compact varieties are considered to be more desirable, because they are not as leggy. These desirable hybrids have a maximum height of only 18 inches, and a maximum spread of 24 inches. Impatiens come in 15 different single colors. Three hybrids feature bi-colored petals, and five feature flowers with white stars at the center of each.
Impatiens are not frost hardy, but they do not like very hot conditions either. These flowers grow best in climates that have mild, frost-free winters and summers that do not have consistently high temperatures. For these reasons, they are usually grown as annuals, planted for their spring, summer and fall beauty. The first hard freeze in the winter will kill them. Consistently hot weather (temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit) will cause the plant to wilt and stop flowering.
Impatiens need at least partial shade in order to grow well. In warmer climates, they can grow in full shade. If impatiens are planted in full sunlight, the sun will scorch their leaves. These flowers love consistently moist, but not soggy, soil. Overly wet soil can cause fungal diseases to develop, according to the University of Vermont. Do not plant them in the spring until all danger of frost has passed.
Impatiens are very hardy plants and are not troublesome in general, according to Clemson University. These flowers suffer most from watering problems. Too much water can cause root rot. Too little water will cause the plants to wilt and drop their flowers. Impatiens can also suffer from minor insect problems such as spider mites and aphids.