Impatiens are the most commonly grown annual bedding plant in the world, and for good reason. They are easy to grow, adapt well to their surroundings, color up quickly after being cut back at the end of the season, and come in a wide variety of colors.
The following is an overview of forms available for impatiens with some cultural information to help you get started growing them.
Dwarf impatiens are hybrids, growing only 6-8 inches tall with a spread of 12-18 inches. They are shorter and more compact than the standard varieties. The term “dwarf” is actually a misnomer since these plants will most likely reach about 20 inches if grown in vases on decks or patios. Dwarf impatiens are often used in hanging baskets where their smaller growth habit makes them ideal for fitting more flowers into the limited space available. These feature dark green leaves with small flowers in white, red, pink, purple, and various bicolors. Newer dwarf types have orange or yellow throat markings.
Standard Garden Impatients
Garden impatiens are the standard types grown by home gardeners for borders, planters, or window boxes. These plants grow to 24-30 inches tall with a spread of 18-24 inches. They produce more blooms than the dwarf types because they have longer stems and larger flowers. The leaves are often larger too, giving these plants a lush tropical look. The colors include all of the ones available for dwarfs plus many more – reds, oranges, yellows, maroons, and even chartreuses. Dwarf varieties may also be planted in the ground if their mature height will not interfere with nearby plants.
Lace Cap (New Guinea)patients
Lace cap impatiens, also known as New Guinea impatiens, are hybrids that were developed in the early 1990s. They are a cross between garden impatiens and the wild New Guinea species. Lace caps have larger flowers (1-2 inches) than either of the other types and are borne in clusters on long stems. The petals are reflexed or curled back so that the center of the flower is visible. This gives the plant a delicate, lacy appearance. These plants grow 18-24 inches tall with a spread of 12-18 inches. Flower colors include shades of pink, red, purple, lavender, and white.
SunPati is a new breed of impatiens with the unique ability to withstand full sun. They are hybrids of New Guinea impatiens and can handle temperatures 10 degrees colder than regular impatiens, allowing gardeners to grow them in cooler climates with longer summers. SunPati have rounded leaves that are slightly smaller than those of regular impatiens. The flowers are about 1 inch across and come in shades of red, pink, lavender, and white. Newer varieties feature markings of yellow, gold, or chartreuses instead of the solid colors common among regular impatiens.
Ground Cover Impatients
Ground cover impatiens are a cross between a dwarf and standard types. The plants produce a carpet of color in containers, hanging baskets, or the landscape with flowers in white, pink, or red. Like dwarf impatiens, ground covers grow only 6-8 inches tall with a spread of 12-18 inches. Their low profile makes them perfect for edging borders and creating colorful groundcovers under trees and shrubs.
Vine impatiens are hybrids that climb by means of tendrils that grow from the stem axils – just like morning glories! These climbing vines can be grown-up trellises, poles, or other supports to add height and color to your garden. The flowers are about 1 inch wide and come in shades of red, pink, purple, and white. Newer varieties have bicolor flowers with contrasting colors on the petals. vine impatiens can also be used to cover unsightly walls or fences.
Super Elfin (Top Elf)patients
Super Elfin impatiens are more compact than standard types and feature two-toned petals with red and yellow colorings. These plants will grow about 16 inches tall with a spread of 12-18 inches, perfect for adding color to container plantings or edging beds and borders.
Patio impatiens are hybrids that can be grown in hanging baskets, window boxes, or other containers on decks and patios. The plants have large flowers that come in shades of white, pink, red, purple, and lavender with contrasting throat markings of yellow or orange.
Festival impatiens were developed as a replacement for Super Elfin types which had become susceptible to disease. These hybrids are more compact than standard types with two-toned petals featuring red and yellow colorings. Festival impatiens grow about 16 inches tall with a spread of 12-18 inches, making them the perfect choice for containers or edging beds and borders.
Grand Elfin (Top Elf) Impatient
Grand Elfin impatiens are similar in appearance to Super Elfins but they grow larger, up to 20 inches tall with a spread of 12-18 inches making them ideal for edging beds and borders or filling large containers. The plants have flowers that come in shades of white, pink, red, and purple with contrasting markings on the throat in yellow or orange. They also feature two-toned petals like Super Elfins. SunPatiens were developed as a replacement for these types which had become susceptible to disease.
Impatients are a diverse group of plants that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are perfect for adding color to your garden landscape or containers. With so many choices available, there is sure to be an impatiens variety that will suit your needs.