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Past Articles Library | Growing and Caring for Impatiens

Do you have a partially sunny to slightly shady area in your landscaping and are looking for a little color?  If so, I have the most perfect plant for you.  It is easy to grow, blooms both summer and fall, and is easy to grow.  What is it?  Well, the answer is simple and that is impatiens.

This plant is also known as “Busy Lizzy,” Patient Lucy,” and “Touch Me Knot.”  The reason for these names is due to how easily this plant distributes its seeds.  When the seed pods are ripe, all it takes for the impatiens to release their seeds is a simple brush of your arm or hand.

While you can find impatiens in any nursery during the spring and summer, you may not know where their native home actually is.  These little plants that can reach 15 inches in height can be found growing in South Africa, East Africa, and New Guinea. 

Impatiens can be found in several different colors, which includes white, purple, red, pink, yellow, and orange.  They thrive in an environment that receives partial sun to some shade and can tolerate some full sun but not during the summer season.  As far as the soil goes, impatienses love a loamy soil that is neutral in nature. 

Yes, impatiens can be started by seed but to get quicker results, one will need to pick up their plants at their local nursery.  While this may seem to be an easy task, it can be a challenge if you do not know what to look for.

When shopping for plants, make sure that you buy the healthiest plants possible.  What this means is you pick plants that are disease free and are not spindly.  How can you tell if there is a disease problem?  Well, make sure to check out the leaves first.  Are there damaged leaves or ones that look like they have been chewed on?  Are there holes in the leaves or ants hanging around?  All of these symptoms can be a sign that there is a disease and/or pest problem.

Once you have your plants, the next step is to prepare the garden space but before you do this you will need to make a decision.  Impatienses that are planted close together will grow tall.  If this is what you are looking for then plan on planting your impatiens close together.  On the other hand, if you want them to grow low and full then plan on planting them 8 to 12 inches apart.

After you have decided on the look you want in your landscaping, the next step is to prepare the garden space.  To do this, begin to loosen up the soil.  Once that is done, mark the areas by which you want to display your plants with powdered milk.  Next, dig a hole in each location.  How deep the hole needs to be should only be as deep as the container your impatienses are planted in.  As far as the width, make sure that the hole is 2 times the width of the container.

Once the hole has been dug, the next step is to mix some compost and/or a slow release fertilizer into the removed soil.  Next, remove a plant for its container but do not pull the plant out.  Instead, simply slice down the sides of the container and gently remove the plant.  At this point you may be tempted to just put the plant in the hole but do not.  The roots will need to be loosened up so they can grow outwards.  How do you do that?  It is easier than what you think and does not require anything fancy except your hands.  Take your fingers and gently rake them through the roots until they are no longer in the shape of the container.  This process is called “teasing” the roots.

After the roots have been teased, the next step is to place the impatiens in the hole and fill in with the mixture of removed soil, compost and/or slow release fertilizer.

Repeat the process until all the plants have been planted and then water the plants in. 

Since you placed compost and/or slow release fertilizer in the soil prior to filling in, you will not need to fertilize throughout the season but you will need to water.  Blooming plants are thirsty plants and impatienses are no different. They do not like soggy soils but also do not like dry soils.  How do you know when to water?  Do the finger test, which simply means you stick your finger in the soil.  When you pull it straight up out of the soil, your finger should come out clean if you need to water.  If your finger comes out with a lot of soil on it then do not water.

Another chore you will also need to do to keep your impatiens looking its best is deadheading.  This process consists of simply removing spent flowers.  Doing this simple task, will encourage the plant to bloom and flower more.

As beautiful as this annual is, did you know that you can bring your impatiens inside as a houseplant?  Well, you can but….be prepared.  They do require a lot of sunlight in the indoor environment. 

If you decide to use this approach, you can do it in two ways.  One way is to dig up your plant material and place it in a container that has a drainage hole.  This simple feature will help keep the soil from getting too soggy. 

The other approach is to simply take a cutting from the impatiens.  To do this, prepare a small pot with drainage material and sterile or soilless planting medium.  Next, take a three to four inch cutting at an angle.  Remove all the leaves from the cut end up until you have three to four leaves remaining on the top.  Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone and push into the soil.  Repeat until you have the number of impatiens that you want. 

Regardless of which technique you choose to bring in your impatiens with, prior to bringing them indoors make sure to check for spider mites.  These will take over if the humidity is too low.  To check for spiders mites is easy.  To do this, take a piece of white paper and shake the branches of the plant over the paper.  If you see little red dots on the paper then you have spider mites. 

While your impatiens will look wonderful in your home or in a container garden, do not worry about them quickly outgrowing their container.  Impatiens like to be somewhat root bound and should only be upsized into a new home when it is clear that the pot is full of roots.


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