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Impatiens, a shade garden must-have

Impatiens The Ultimate Guide to Cold Climate Gardening

Impatiens walleriana double. photo: The Ultimate Guide to Cold Climate Gardening

Impatiens are a staple of the shade garden.

And, the wonderful thing is that they will take a lot of sun if you give them enough water.

Today, too, there are varieties that are bred to grow in full sunlight.

There are 850 to 1,000 species in the genus, so we can’t offer them all here, but we can give you a few guidelines about the main types.

Impatiens can be annuals or perennials. We most often see the annual Super Elfin series for sale.

They generally grow 9 in (24 cm) tall and have single flowers of pink, orange, red, purple and white.


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SunPatiens are a cross between regular impatiens (I. walleriana) and New Guinea impatiens (I. hawkeri).

They have inherited the New Guinea resistance to downy mildew.

The stems are sturdier than on traditional impatiens and the leaves resemble those of New Guinea.

The flowers are midway in between. Best of all, they can take all the sun you can give them!

They come in all the regular colours.


Impatiens walleriana.

This is the Busy Lizzie of our grandmother’s garden.

It is the one most likely to be planted in a cool, shady spot.

They also come with very attractive double flowers that look like little roses. Some have variegated leaves.

New Guinea impatiens, Impatiens hawkeri.

Some people love New Guinea impatiens over all others. That might be because their blossoms which are larger than those of I. walleriana.

They have darker green, more pointed leaves. They should receive morning sun with afternoon shade for optimum performance.

They should be pruned for maximum branching and can withstand the efforts of the amateur quite successfully.

Balsam impatiens, Impatiens balsamina.

From India and Southeast Asia comes impatiens which grow up the stem in a spiral.

Its popularity has waned as new impatiens hybrids have come on the market, but before World War Two, this plant was all the rage.

Balsam impatiens have vividly-coloured, camellia-like flowers and grows 12-to 24 in (30 to 60 cm) tall.

This plant has now been cross-bred with a wild impatiens (I. glandulifera) by Ball Seeds to produce yellow and peach varieties sold under the series names, Fusion Glow and Fanfair, with sunny orchid shaped flowers.

Seashell Impatiens.

Finally, the yellow flowering gene has been incorporated, providing a whole new range of tropical colours in a wonderful novelty type plant.

The flower petals are cupped like a seashell rather than splayed out and has small oval green leaves.

It likes well-drained soil that stays consistently moist, but not wet.

When grown in containers, use a high-quality peat -based potting medium.

Although known for their shade tolerance, impatiens do need a lot of light to bloom well.

They reach a height of 12 to 14 in (30 to 45 cm).

Trailing impatiens.

Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind trailing cascading impatiens.

Reaching a height of 16 in (40 cm), the abundant bright blooms cover lush leaves.

These plants are perfect for hanging baskets, patio planters and window boxes.

Flower petals are cupped like a seashell rather than splayed out.

– The Ultimate Guide to Cold Climate Gardening by Bernie Whetter, owner of the Green Spot



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