How To Grow and Care For Impatiens Plants

There are many different kinds of Impatiens (im-PAY-shuns) plants throughout the northern hemisphere and in tropical settings. Ornamental species of Impatiens are native to Asia and Africa. These are Impatiens Walleriana and New Guinea impatiens. 

There are also wild varieties that are native to North America, such as Jewelweed or Spotted-Touch-Me-Not.


Most Impatiens are also called “touch-me-not” because when they have seed pods, they will burst quite dramatically and impatiently when lightly touched.

Other common names shared among the various types of Impatiens include:

  • Old-Fashioned Impatiens
  • Busy Lizzie
  • Snapweed
  • Patience
  • Sultana

Impatiens is a perennial member of the Balsaminaceae family of plants. The tropical, ornamental varieties are usually grown as annuals outside of tropical settings.

Impatiens Plants Care

Size and Growth

Depending upon the cultivar, Impatiens may grow to be only 6″ inches tall or reach a towering height of nearly 3′ feet tall.

The plants’ semi-succulent, bright green foliage grows alternately and rises in a whorl along the plants’ stems.

Flowering and Fragrance

Ornamental impatiens are well-known for their colorful blooms in their growing season. They delight with massive numbers of lightly scented blooms in a wide variety of colors, such as pink, purple, violet, red, coral, yellow, and white flowers.

Healthy impatiens will produce hundreds of blooms per plant. Read this article if your Impatiens are not blooming.

In addition, flowers transition into plump seed pods, which burst easily and scatter seeds at impressive distances.


Light and Temperature

Choose the right cultivar for your setting. New Guinea impatiens tend to be very sun tolerant but grow best in locations with morning sun followed by afternoon shade. 

Walleriana impatiens like a setting that provides partial or medium shade but may grow in partly sunny locations in northerly regions.

These tropical plants like consistently warm temperatures and are planted in the garden bed when the soil temperature is 60° degrees Fahrenheit. However, make sure to keep this plant out of direct sunlight.

In addition, impatiens are sensitive to cold temperatures, so make sure to plant them in the ground once the frost has passed. 

Watering and Feeding

These plants like consistently moist soil, so your watering schedule will be determined by your setting.

  • Container plants and those in sunny settings may need daily watering.
  • Plants in partial shade and those with a good covering of mulch over the soil may require less watering.

Check the soil frequently. When the top couple of inches are dry, water deeply and thoroughly. As a good rule of thumb, it needs about 2″ inches of water a week during heat seasons or dry spells. 

You must keep the soil moist by providing frequent watering. However, do not overwater, especially when planted in containers. 

Be sure your plants have ample drainage because although they are water-loving plants, soggy soil is never OK. After all, it can lead to root rot.

Fertilize when you plant your Impatiens by working a good quality, balanced, general-purpose slow-release granular fertilizer into the soil. Alternatively, you can use a slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of spring and halfway through summer.

Throughout the growing season, fertilize monthly with a water-soluble fertilizer containing slightly higher phosphorus levels to promote flower development.

In addition, liquid fertilizers work best for container-grown plants. Feed them every two weeks throughout spring and summer.

After the flower buds have formed, feed your impatiens plants with a flower-specific fertilizer monthly.

Soil and Transplanting

The ideal soil for impatiens is fertile, well-drained soil. But it may also grow in sandy soil amended in organic material to help retain moisture evenly and drain off excess moisture quickly.

Impatiens in the landscape like a light, airy, rich soil well amended with organic matter for nutrients and inorganic matter (e.g., sand or very fine gravel) for excellent drainage.

Moreover, they also thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 6.0–6.5. 

When growing Impatiens in containers and baskets, use a soilless or high-quality potting soil with superb drainage to allow the plant’s roots to absorb nutrients and drain excess water easily.

In addition, the best time for planting impatiens plants outside is late spring. 

Grooming and Maintenance

Generally speaking, prune away dead flowers or damaged leaves and stems as needed. It’s a good idea to facilitate good air circulation to prevent downy mildew problems.

With Walleriana cultivars, you can and should prune aggressively to prevent impatiens from becoming leggy. When the plant attains a height of 6″ inches, clip off the top 2″ inches of the entire plant, just above leaf nodes. This will promote compact, bushy growth.

You do not need to deadhead Impatiens to promote flower growth. Deadheading does not affect this; however, pick off the impatiens flowers when they begin to fade if you want to prevent seed pod development.

In addition, you can pinch back the stems to encourage bushier growth with new beautiful blooms.

How To Propagate Impatiens Plants

Ornamental impatiens can be easily grown from seed indoors, a few months ahead of the outdoor growing season.

For New Guinea cultivars, start your seeds a full three months before you plan to plant seedlings outdoors.

For the Walleriana cultivar, start your seeds ten weeks before your intended outdoor planting time.

For either cultivar, follow these steps if you’re starting impatiens from seed:

  • Prepare a tray of moist seed starting mix.
  • Scatter seeds over the mix lightly.
  • Cover the seeds with a light layer of vermiculite.
  • Put a layer of plastic or a plastic cover over the tray.
  • Place the tray in a consistently warm area with bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Keep the growth medium slightly moist, never soggy.

For Walleriana seeds, keep the temperature between 72° and 77° degrees Fahrenheit. You should see germination within a couple of weeks.

For New Guinea seeds, keep the temperature between 75° and 80° degrees Fahrenheit. You should see germination within a month.

Once your seeds have sprouted, you can keep either variety at temperatures ranging from 65° to 70° degrees Fahrenheit.

Related: How To Propagate Impatiens Cuttings

Impatiens Plants Main Pest Or Diseases

As with all plants, excessive moisture can lead to fungal problems. Walleriana impatiens especially tend to develop downy mildew disease and root rot in excessively damp settings.

To know if your plant is infected with this fungal disease, you’ll notice wilting yellow leaves with white spores and stunted growth. 

Balsam Impatiens and Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) are also quite susceptible to downy mildew infection, which is an incurable fungal disease. 

New Guinea impatiens are less likely to have downy mildew problems if they can be planted in sunnier settings.

If your plants become infected with powdery mildew, you best dispose of them.

To prevent the problem from spreading, treat unaffected, healthy plants with a good, general-purpose foliar fungicide. You’ll need to do this regularly throughout the growing season.

You can also prevent impatiens downy mildew by aiming the water at the plant’s base when watering. Make sure to avoid the flowers and foliage.

You can also plant disease-resistant varieties produced by plant breeders if you want to prevent any infestation of this disease. 

Moreover, they can be susceptible to insect pests, including aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips.

Is the plant considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, and pets?

Impatiens are non-toxic, and rabbits and deer are rather fond of them. Even so, kids and pets should be kept away from them because they do taste bitter, and their sap can cause an upset stomach.

Is the plant considered invasive?

In warm, swampy, lowland settings, some types of impatiens can become invasive. Examples include Balsam Impatiens. 

Suggested Impatiens Plants Uses

Available at local garden centers in the spring these low-maintenance flowering plants are a great choice in private gardens as border plantings, container gardens, and hanging baskets. They make a lovely ground cover in a flower bed or under trees that provide high shade.

Moreover, you can plant impatiens as container fillers or common bedding plants if you want continuous gorgeous blooms with minimal effort. They’re also excellent annual flowers for providing a pop of color in shade gardens. 

Interestingly, Impatiens Walleriana is very attractive to mosquitoes, so you might want to avoid planting it in areas where people will sit in the evenings. 

This quality has caused the plant to be the subject of research into developing an Impatiens cultivar that could deliver mosquitocidal nectar. 

Also, it’s well-known that standard impatiens flowers can be quite sweet and edible.

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