Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Impatiens & Begonias

By Kathleen Sonntag ; Updated September 21, 2017

Annual flowers that bloom in the shade are more difficult to find than sun-loving flowers. Begonias and impatiens are two of the most commonly grown in shady areas. Their colors and foliage brighten garden areas that get filtered sunlight. Many varieties of these two plant genus are available. Choosing the right one for you is the fun part. Visit a garden center or nursery and see what grows best in your area. Like many annual plants, begonias and impatiens can survive the winter in mild climates.

Genus Impatiens

Impatiens have two common names: Busy Lizzy and Balsam. 850 species are grown around the world. Impatiens have abundant flowers in many shades of pink, blue, red and white. They bloom from spring until the first frost. Although they are usually grown as small bedding plants, they can spread to a height and width of 3 feet.

Genus Begonia

Begonia plants come in hundreds of varieties with a large variation in flower and foliage type. Flowers can be single or clustered. Foliage is variegated or glossy green with leaves of many sizes. All begonias like humid, shady garden areas. The American Begonia Society website (begonias.org) is a good place to learn about cultivation of this popular plant.

Impatiens Varieties

The original impatiens plants grew in the jungles of east Africa. The name comes from the way they impatiently shoot their seeds out to allow widespread propagation. Claude Hope is known as "the father of the impatiens" in the horticultural world. He is given credit for breeding many of the popular varieties grown today. The now defunct International Impatiens Society was founded by Derick Pitman. The two main plant groupings are single and double flower varieties. The most common variety of impatiens is I. wallerana, a small clumping bedding plant.

Begonia Varieties

Begonias have been cultivated and bred in the United States since the late 1700s. They are difficult to group by traits, but here are the six groups recognized by growers: tuberous, rex, cane, semperflorens, thick-stemmed and trailing. Each of these types has several varieties. The most common begonia is the wax begonia (x semperflorens-cultorum), a bedding plant with white, pink or red flowers.

In Your Garden

Growing impatiens and begonias in a shady garden is one of the most common garden practices in the US. There are varieties that trail out of hanging baskets and others that are compact and make good border plants along walkways. Almost all varieties do well in containers. Look for beautiful foliage in begonias. Begonia 'Marmaduke' has large yellowish leaves with brown, chocolate-colored spots. Some impatiens flowers (Impatiens namchabarwensis, Sapphire jewelweed, Blue diamond impatiens) are exotic; these resemble a crane in flight.


About the Author


Kathleen Sonntag lives in Carmel, California, where she is a writer, teacher and editor. She is a Master Gardener and writes articles for gardening publications. Sonntag has written and edited reading test passages and has edited children's books, cookbooks and memoirs. Her articles appear on GardenGuides.com. Sonntag holds a Bachelor of Arts from University of California, Berkeley.