Each year my impatiens grow very tall (over 2 feet) and are healthy, but they are not covered with flowers like those I see at other homes and even commercial plantings. How can I get my impatiens to grow lower and give me that “carpet of color” effect?
Impatiens are a good selection for shady spots for a number of reasons—the plants thrive in both beds and containers, plus they come in a wide range of flower colors including red, orange, salmon, rose, pink, white, violet, and lavender blue. New Guinea impatiens also offer exciting variations in leaf color.
With proper care, impatiens will fill your flower beds with color until frost. To ensure impatiens flourish, you need to do several things. First, plant impatiens in the right soil. The plants prefer well-drained soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. After preparing the soil, you are ready to plant.
Choose healthy transplants, free of disease and pests, from a local nursery or garden center. The common impatiens actually prefer shade. The New Guinea impatiens with variegated foliage will tolerate morning sun. Take this into consideration when you select plants. Space tall-growing varieties 18 inches apart and compact varieties 8 to 10 inches apart. The closer they are planted, the taller and leggier the plants grow.
Once plants are in their containers or beds, provide them with ample water. Impatiens need plenty of water during the hottest parts of the summer. Check plants regularly. You may need to water daily during hot weather. Plants under stress from insufficient water will not bloom as heavily as healthy plants. Use soaker or drip hoses in flower beds. These hoses put the water where it’s needed (the roots) and are more economical than overhead sprinkling.
Impatiens respond well to fertilizing. Applying a water soluble fertilizer once a week encourages foliage and flower development.
When the summer really begins to bake the garden, impatiens may look spindly and leggy with only tufts of foliage at the top of long stems. There’s an easy solution to that problem: Pinch or cut back stems to within three inches of the plant’s base. Impatiens have suppressed leaf buds along their stems. When you remove the upper growth, the plant responds by opening the suppressed buds. This pruning will encourage a new flush of growth and blooming for you to enjoy the rest of the season.
Impatiens, or touch-me-not, is quite special among the cute spring and summer blooming flowers.
Important Impatiens facts
Name – Impatiens
Family – Balsaminaceae
Type – perennial grown as an annual
Height – 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm)
Exposure – part sun and shade
Soil – ordinary
Flowering – May to September
You can thus decorate your flower beds, garden boxes and pots for many months in a row.
The planting of impatiens purchased in nursery pots is performed in spring.
- Prefer shade or part shade.
- One variety, Impatiens hawkeri or New Guinea impatiens tolerates sun.
- The soil must contain a lot of humus.
- Plant at least 8 to 10 specimens to a square yard (1 m²) to create amazing ground cover.
Mix your earth with flower plant soil mix and water generously to make the flower-bearing abundant.
For impatiens purchased as seeds, you can sow directly in the plot from April onwards but be careful in case of frost spells to protect your seedlings.
- If you want to plant impatiens in the sun, select sunpatiens.
Caring for and pruning impatiens
Impatiens care is child’s play and no pruning is actually required.
- Water regularly in case of heat wave.
- Adding flower plant fertilizer will enhance the blooming but you’ll still have flowers if you don’t fertilize.
Nonetheless, in pots or garden boxes, you can amplify the aesthetic appeal and stimulate budding of new flowers if you remove wilted flowers regularly.
All there is to know about the impatiens
Care is elementary and growth is quick.
Don’t be surprised if your Impatiens don’t grow back from one year to the next because they fear the cold.
They’ll survive winter only where winters are mild.
- You might however try growing them in pots to bring them inside your house during the coldest months.
- If this is the case, reduce the watering to only once a month during the winter dormant phase.
If holes appear on the leaves, be on the lookout for slugs because they love impatiens and you must act fast.
Disease and enemy of impatiens
Although generally not so vulnerable to diseases and parasites, occasionally you’ll notice an invasion of red spider mites and aphids on your impatiens.
- Here is how to fend off red spider mites
- Here is how to fight aphids off
Smart tip about impatiens
During the blooming, feel free to water regularly but not too much to keep just the right moisture level.
One of the best things that you can do for a healthy, thick display of impatiens is to give them a good cut right away. This can be for potted containers, baskets, hanging pouches, beds or planters. It all works the same. Give them a good “hair” cut.
In our greenhouses we like to do this as soon as possible, once the plants get to be about 3 inches tall and start flowering. For us it is as soon as the plants are up past the tags that are in the packs.
Trimming them down helps to force them to branch out instead of stretching up towards the sky. They will grow much thicker and eventually become a healthy bed of sturdy flowers. They will go wider, rather than just vertical.
How do you do it? Well just like Walt Disney said “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
Now you will probably read all kinds of professional advice on taking care to clean the scissors to make sure that infection doesn’t spread. That may be true and wise advice, but in the real greenhouse world where we only have 24 hours a day and need 25, we just start cutting.
And if you really want to have fun at it, fire up a hedge trimmer. You will be able to do a lot in a short time. Yes, it will look like a disaster and you will question yourself. But give it some time. They will grow back…healthier.
We were able to trim down 5 benches (22 flats per bench) in about 30 minutes using a hedge trimmer.
After you have trimmed back the foliage, run your fingers through and try to pick out as much of the cutting as possible. This helps to prevent any rot sitting down on the plant or in the soil. Usually they will be pretty wet, which makes it stick to your fingers and actually helps the process.
In only a couple weeks you will have a very nice and thick bed of impatiens that are ready for the season. Give them a good dose of Beat Your Neighbor fertilizer to speed up the growth.
If you are feeling a little skeptical it’s okay. As I tell our greenhouse customers “trust me, they will grow back.” And when they do our customers usually come back and tell me that they did it and had a beautiful bed of impatiens and have no hesitation the next time.
Check out our video on how to trim back leggy petunias:
Q. I planted New Guinea impatiens in pots during the summer. Before the frost I brought them indoors. They continue to bloom but are very leggy. Can I cut them back and will they continue to grow this winter?
— Cie Grosskopf, Naperville
A: New Guinea impatiens can be grown indoors during the winter but leggy growth is a response to lower light levels indoors. It is a good idea to cut back the impatiens to about a third of their height when you first bring them inside in fall. Keep them in a bright sunny window or provide supplemental light to keep them going. Water throughout the winter as needed but do not fertilize the plants.
Your plants will probably be struggling by late winter, with the short days and interior growing conditions. In late March, as days begin to lengthen, cut back the leggy winter growth and start fertilizing. Gradually acclimate the plants to being outside in spring once the danger of frost has passed.
Another way to save New Guinea impatiens for the next year is to take cuttings from the plants in late summer. Make the cut 4 to 6 inches below the bloom and place in a glass of water. Remove flowers and flower buds and also any leaves that will be in contact with the water. Watch for roots to form and transplant to a pot with a soilless potting mix once the roots have formed.