Impatiens are reliable shade garden favorites that will lighten up any dark spot in your landscape with their bright, cheery colors.
Petite, multi-colored and proficient bloomers, these annual flowers are equally at home when planted in-ground under the canopy of shade trees or when planted in containers on a covered porch. Their continuous blooms are rich with nectar and are a favorite food source for hummingbirds and bees.
These hardy little overachieving flowers even thrive when grown as indoor houseplants and can easily transition from potted houseplant to outside container plant. Use these impatiens care tips and get started growing your own overachieving little annuals this spring.
Impatiens Bloom Time and Colors
These small annual plants will produce blooms from early summer until the first killing frost of fall.
Bloom colors go around the color wheel and range from single shades of red, pink, purple, lavender, orange, yellow and white. Impatiens are also available in show-stopping bi-color and striped flowers that add a double impact of bright color to shady location.
Blooms are about the size of a quarter with four or eight petals that are shaped like an inverted cup. All blooms produce nectar and each color and petal count attracts hummingbirds and bees equally.
How to Plant Impatiens
Wait until all danger of frost has passed to sow seeds (outdoors) or set out plants. Sow seeds by broadcasting them on top of soil, then cover them with 1/4 inch of potting soil. Water gently to prevent the seeds from being uncovered. Thin seeds to 4-6 apart after they have germinated and reached 2 inches in height.
Dig a hole for each seedling the same depth and width as it was in the bedding cup. Dig planting holes 4-6 inches apart. Gently remove seedling from bedding cup by cutting the side of the bedding cup or lifting out seedling with a spoon. The goal is to plant the seedling with as much soil still intact around the roots as possible.
How Tall Do Impatiens Grow?
Most impatiens varieties remain a small compact size of between 6-8 inches tall, but some varieties can reach a mature height of around 2 feet.
The small, compact plants are perfect for use as bedding plants or borders. Taller growing impatiens can stand alone or be planted as a backdrop in a flower bed.
When to Plant Impatiens
Impatiens can be started from seeds, either indoors or outdoors. Start flower seeds indoors 12 weeks before the last frost. When planting impatiens into containers or outdoor flower beds be certain all danger of frost has past. Impatiens are highly sensitive to cold weather and will not tolerate even a hint of cold. If the temperature dips close to freezing, the seedlings will die unless protection is provided for them.
Impatiens Sun Requirements
How much sun impatiens need will depend on the exact variety that is planted. As a general rule, planting impatiens in full sun or shade will result in the same growth and blooming outcome.
However, impatiens planted in full sun will often become stressed and wilt in the midday heat and plants will not live as long as those planted in full to partial shade.
Amend soil prior to planting impatiens to prevent soil compaction and to keep plants fed during their long growing season.
Work 2 inches of compost or well-rotted cow manure into the soil of the selected planting location prior to planting seeds (outdoors) or flowers. This will improve soil structure, promote drainage and supply a steady food supply.
Using chemical fertilizer to feed impatiens can cause problems. These annuals do not require much food to sustain them, but when not given enough the plants will develop mottled foliage. If over-fed the plants will develop too much foliage and have very few blooms. If either of these issues occurs, lightly sprinkle granulated phosphorus on top of the soil around the plants, then water well.
The initial soil additives of organic matter will be sufficient to keep plants growing and producing abundantly throughout the season.
Impatiens Care Instructions
Be observant for signs of heat stress, disease, pest infestation or legginess, and provide plant care as needed with these tips.
When impatiens are planted in full sun or in growing zones with hot, humid summers, the plants will often become heat stressed. The first sign of heat stress is wilted leaves. Reduced bloom production and planted growth will follow. Prevent the plant problem by planting impatiens in the shade in high-heat areas, or provide afternoon shade to established plants.
Impatiens are hardy plants, but they do have a few enemies. Fungal blight, rot and viruses attack plants that are being watered from overhead and have frequently wet foliage. Prevent diseases by watering at soil level in the early morning before the sun hits the plants.
If plants show signs of disease, treat with an application of organic Neem oil. Neem oil is a natural pesticide which is derived by pressing the oil from the seeds of the Neem tree. It’s safe for humans and pets, but repels and kills plant-eating insects. Keep in mind there are also beneficial insects that can help you in a natural and organic way.
Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs and thrips enjoy the flavor of impatiens and will infest the plants overnight. Signs of a pest infestation are leaves that are curled and discolored. These pests not only feed on buds and leaves, they can also carry plant-destroying viruses. Get rid of pests the same way as treating plant disease, with an application of Neem oil.
This is a term used for plants that develop uncharacteristically long stems that are weak and have less-than-normal leaves. The problem occurs in impatiens that are planted in deep shade or have been fed too much nitrogen.
Prune plants back to 3 inches to correct the legginess and bring out the natural compact mound of impatiens.
How often you water impatiens will depend on their location and the temperature. Container-grown plants that are located in full sun may need to be watered twice daily – once in the morning and again in the late afternoon. Plants grown in a cool, shady area may only need watered every other day.
Keep soil moist, but not soggy. Water plants anytime the top of soil looks dry or the plants shows signs of stress.
Impatiens are rapid growers that will quickly fill in hanging baskets, containers or bare spots in a flower bed with minimal assistance from you. The care-free color will continue to brighten your landscape for months when planted in the proper environment.