Having flowers that brighten up your garden is key and impatiens are a gardener’s favorite. These shade-loving annuals are a popular choice and can be found in any gardening center.
When to plant impatiens: Impatiens can be started from seeds but are more common as transplants. You can readily find dozens of varieties of impatiens at your local gardening store. Plant them in your garden, hanging basket, or in a container in May, after the threat of frost is over. If you start from seeds, you can plant them indoors in February. The seeds will take a while and won’t be ready to transplant until May. Impatiens are naturally tropical plants. They like humidity, moist soil, and full to partial shade. While impatiens can be grown as a perennial in a tropical location, they are treated as an annual in any area where there is frost in the winter. If you love impatiens and want them to survive, you will have to bring them indoors during winter. Fertilize your impatiens every two weeks during their growing season and you should have flowers throughout the summer. If the plants become too leggy, you can cut them back in mid-summer to encourage more growth.
Planting Impatiens in Different Climates
Impatiens are actually tropical plants so they will naturally prefer this climate. Impatiens like humidity and soil that is moist.
As a bonus of growing impatiens in a tropical climate, they will revert to their natural perennial status. Because winters don’t go below freezing in a tropical climate, your impatiens will survive year-round.
A dry climate can be very tricky to grow impatiens. These flowers prefer moist soil that drains well and has plenty of humidity.
Those that live in a dry climate but love impatiens will do well to plant them in containers indoors. Then, you can control their growing area.
Impatiens thrive in a temperate climate. The constant moisture from rainfall and cooler summer temperatures means your flowers will last for quite a while. It still gets too cold for these flowers, however, so they won’t survive the winter.
Impatiens can be grown in a continental climate. You may want to wait until later in May to plant them, as there will still be a threat of frost.
Be sure to plant your impatiens in full shade in this climate. The hot summer temperatures can be too much for the plants, although if they do start to wilt simply water them more and they should bounce back to life.
Unfortunately, impatiens won’t grow well in a polar climate. They are tropical plants and won’t receive enough warmth in this environment.
Choosing Impatiens Seeds
While there are thousands of varieties of impatiens, they all fall into two main categories.
This category is also known as Busy Lizzie and includes the most common types of impatiens available.
Even though they can be grown as a perennial, this is only in areas that have absolutely no frost. For the most part, impatiens are grown as an annual as most climates have at least some frost in the winter.
There is a whole rainbow of colors you can choose from within this category of impatiens. They like full or partial shade and are fairly easy to care for.
New Guinea impatiens
Whereas Standard impatiens like shade, this category prefers full sun. They are not as common, but if you ask around you might be able to find them at a local gardening center.
New Guinea impatiens grow quite tall, up to 3 feet high, and their leaves can vary in color including purple and bronze. Varieties within this category are rarely grown from seed and instead you may find transplants for your garden.
How to Plant Impatiens Seeds
Seeds vs transplants
If you are looking for impatiens in your gardening center, you are more likely to find them among the plants than you are the seeds. While you can grow impatiens from seeds, it is not very common.
Growing impatiens from seeds is possible and is actually quite easy to do. However, it is a slow process. As this is an annual, and most people want to enjoy their flowers right away, it is much easier to simply grow them from transplants.
Those that are set on seeds should start them in February. Place them in potting soil inside and wait until the threat of frost is over before transplanting them outdoors.
Impatiens are ready to go into the ground as soon as the threat of frost is over. For most areas, this is between late April and late May.
While these flowers aren’t too delicate, if you plant them too early, a late frost can cripple them and you will have to start over from scratch.
You have many options when it comes to where you can plant your impatiens. They are great in garden beds, in containers, and even as houseplants.
They do prefer some shade, so part shade is ideal for these flowers. If exposed to the hot afternoon sun, impatiens can quickly wilt.
Overall, impatiens prefer dirt that is moist but drains well. Humus-rich soil is great, so be sure to add plenty of compost to your planting area.
You want to leave about 8 inches between your impatiens plants. If they are spaced too close together, they will grow taller as they compete for sunlight and space.
Spaced-out impatiens will grow about 6 inches tall while grouped-together impatiens can reach up to 30 inches. If you are using these flowers for a border, shorter is best.
How to Water Impatiens
Watering your impatiens on a regular basis is the goal. You want the soil to be moist but not saturated.
Having soil that drains well means that water won’t pool and lead to root rot. When in doubt, poke your finger into the soil to test how deep the moisture is and amend your watering schedule accordingly.
An easy sign that your flowers don’t have enough water is when the leaves fall off. Conversely, if the leaves have spots on them, this can be a sign of fungal disease, which can occur from over-watering.
Impatiens that are in containers will need more water as the pots will have holes in them for water to drain out. In warmer temperatures, you may need to water every day to keep the soil moist.
How to Grow Impatiens
While you should start your soil off so that it is full of nutrients, impatiens can take a lot out of the ground so you want to fertilize regularly. Use a water-based fertilizer and apply it every two to three weeks.
Generally, you won’t have to worry too much about pests with your impatiens, which makes them easy to grow. The biggest risks are aphids and spider mites.
If you see these tiny bugs, you can use an organic spray or even soapy water on the leaves. Planting garlic or rosemary near your plants will help deter pests as they won’t enjoy the overly fragrant companions.
During summer, your impatiens can start to look leggy, which means they don’t have a lot of blooms and instead more stems. You can take this time to clean them up a bit.
Use clean scissors or shears and cut off the top third of the plant. New blooms will come up and you can enjoy your flowers for longer.
Unless you live in gardening zones 10 or 11, your impatiens won’t survive the winter. Towards the end of summer, your impatiens will stop producing flowers and you can then clear up your garden.
Simply dig up your impatiens in the fall. As long as there is no disease present, the foliage can go straight into the compost.
An alternative is to bring your impatiens inside for the winter. While they might not survive the process, if you take care and move them to a container at the end of summer, they might be ok.
If you know you want to preserve your impatiens, it is best to plant them in a container from the start. This will make it easier to then move them inside for the winter.
How long do impatiens take to grow?
Most impatiens start from transplants that you can plant right in your garden in the spring. These plants will be ready to start blooming in late spring or early summer and will continue through the summer.
For those that want to start from seed, plant your seeds indoors in February. They will take a few weeks to germinate and then a few more weeks before they really start to grow. You can then transplant your seedlings in mid to late May.
Grown as an annual in most areas, impatiens are a popular choice as they have an abundance of color. These plants prefer full to partial shade and you can plant transplants in your garden after the threat of frost is over, and they will then bloom shortly after.