Better in bulk

Better in bulk

Blah, blah, blah…. is what some gardeners may say if you announce that you have a part of your yard that you are going use to plant impatiens. These “naysayers” might change their minds after seeing these fabulous mass plantings at Villa d’Este done with a single color, single variety, single flower; impatiens. 

It was surprising to read that the genus of impatiens has more than 1,000 species of flowering plants found throughout both the Northern Hemisphere and the tropics. Traveling to Africa, Eurasia, Mexico and Costa Rica you will see them everywhere if the conditions are right. 

You may have also heard impatiens called jewelweed, touch-me-nots, snapweed, Busy Lizzie and Patience. It is speculated that impatiens originally got their name from “impatient” because the mature capsules of seeds often burst when touched, sending seeds up to several yards away.

Impatiens are both perennial and annual herbs and are known for their shade-loving ways and succulent stems. Only a few woody species can be found. The trusty Farmer’s Almanac reminds us that this flowering beauty likes humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil. Most like shady areas and partly sunny locations. They like some shelter from strong winds. 

The closer you plant your impatiens, the taller they will grow so spread them out about 8 inches apart if you want them to stay low to the ground. They like the addition of compost and slow-release fertilizer. The most important thing about impatiens is to water them regularly. They want to be kept moist but not too wet. 

Some great varieties are Tom Thumb series, which is a dwarf variety with large, double, brightly colored flowers. Farmer’s Almanac also likes Super Elfin Series with its pastel colors and the Swirl Series, which have pretty pink and orange flowers and petals outlined in red. 

Also, look for the more recently popularized New Guinea impatiens. They are densely flowering and come in some pretty great colors. Yellow has been an elusive flower color in impatiens, but the New Guinea impatiens make yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and lavender within our “impatiens reach.” Breaking news in the impatiens world: Keep your eyes open for the newest type of impatiens called “SunPatiens.” Yes, they are new and fabulous and will tolerate sun.

Now, if you want to do a super mass planting you can plan for sun in one area and shade in another and use only impatiens. Have lots of blooms? Their blooms are edible. Top off a salad or garnish a drink with a few blooms from your organically grown impatiens!