The impatiens is the top-selling bedding plant in the country, and it's no wonder. When it comes to shade-loving annuals, impatiens are a gardener's best friend. The colors (ranging from white to orange, red, violet and all shades in between) really pop when placed in a shady spot. There are mounded varieties for containers and smaller gardens, and trailing varieties which add color to window boxes and hanging baskets. Breeders come up with more color choices every year, including bi-colors, and there is now a double-flowered impatiens. The more sun-tolerant New Guinea impatiens has colorful foliage, as well. The nickname "Busy Lizzie" is a good description of impatiens flowering ability.
Wait until all danger of frost has passed before setting plants out. Because impatiens contain a lot of moisture, they are frost sensitive.
Plant in filtered or partial shade, where they will not be exposed to direct sunlight. Plants with stunted leaves and few blooms are an indication of too much sun.
Place young plants 8 to 12 inches apart if they are in a garden, so they will spread, but remain low. If you are planting a container or basket, plants can be placed closer together to encourage height.
Use a sterile or soil-less mix if planting impatiens in a container to provide them with the proper drainage.
Fertilize every other week with a water-soluble formula. A fertilizer with too much nitrogen will cause the plant to produce lush foliage, but fewer flowers.
Water well throughout the season. Impatiens may require more than one watering a day in the heat of summer, particularly those in containers and baskets.
Don't bother with deadheading, since impatiens neatly shed their own flowers.
Avoid overhead watering late in the day. The foliage might not dry before nightfall and this could encourage fungal diseases.
Pay special attention to soil, fertilizing and watering if you are placing impatiens under trees, as they will have to compete with the tree for nutrients. Consider using a raised bed.
Use New Guinea impatiens in places where you want a slightly taller flower, since they grow up to 2 feet tall. They need more sun than common impatiens, but still require plenty of water.
About this Author
Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.