Impatiens rank in the top 10 of my favorite garden annuals. It's very hard to pick just one favorite flowering ornamental, but Impatiens suit so many purposes and provide so much color for such a long period that I cannot imagine my garden without them. They are a mainstay in medium shade to all but the heaviest shade, look fabulous in mass plantings, are so easy to propagate that it's almost ridiculous, and don't require much care other than appreciating halfway decent quality, well drained but moist soil and adequate watering. Impatiens also make excellent container plants, and cascade beautifully over the sides of a container for a lush look that requires minimal effort on the part of the gardener. This is definitely my kind of plant!
Impatiens are actually tender perennials but are generally grown as annuals. They can be propagated by cuttings or seed. Cuttings are by far the preferred method. As described on the main Annuals page, you can literally fill the neighborhood with this plant if you just take cuttings at regular intervals and keep the soil moist. Impatiens seed is very fine and is finicky about conditions. If you give the seedlings the right conditions, they will sprout and grow quickly, but I know that in my garden - where there is often competition from weeds and uneven watering - I have had minimal luck starting this plant from seed.
There are only three drawbacks to using Impatiens in your landscape.
Sun - Too much sun will wither this plant so fast it will make you cry. Do give it a shady spot that gets half a day or less of full sun - preferably morning sun.
Water - If you let Impatiens dry out too much they will wither quickly and die. One negligent day will do it. Make sure these plants have a moist soil at all times. Mulch is a must.
Size: Most common impatiens seedlings purchased at the garden center, hardware store or home center will grow to be about 8 to 12 inches tall, depending on their variety, planting location and soil condition. There are some compact hybrid forms as short as 6 to 8 inches tall, and those called “dwarf type” run 10 to 12 inches tall.
Foliage: Impatiens foliage is typically smooth and medium green. However, some types have variegated green and white leaves. Leaves are shaped like fat tear drops, tapering to a point at the ends. Their edges are gently toothed.
Flowers: Individual blossoms measure from 1 to 2 inches across and they bloom at the ends of short stems near the leaf tips. Blossoms come in many colors including red, maroon, purple, pink, white, orange, salmon and mauve. Some have "eyes", or centers of contrasting colors. Others have a bi-color star pattern of white centers and rays out to the tips of the petals. The petals of some newer types, called "picotee", are edged in pink.
Care for Impatiens Flowers:
Uses for Impatiens Flowers:
Origin of the Name for Impatiens Flowers:
Impatiens flowers take their name from the Latin, impatiens, "impatient." They are so called because their ripe seed pods will sometimes burst open from even a light touch (as if they were "impatient" to open). This characteristic is especially apparent in a relative named, "jewelweed," indigenous to eastern North America.
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