New Guinea Impatiens
Brighten shady corners of your landscape with something besides traditional impatiens: Try New Guinea impatiens. This impatiens cousin opens beautiful, large flowers on plants with eye-catching foliage in shades of green, burgundy tints and variegated forms. New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) is an easy-growing annual that isn’t demanding in terms of care.
Compared to traditional shade-loving impatiens, New Guinea impatiens offers several positive differences. First, the flowers are larger. You’ll find a similar wide variety of blossom shades in both types of impatiens; neither offers a strong sky blue. Yellow has been an elusive flower color in impatiens, but New Guinea impatiens brings that in the variety Vision Yellow. New Guinea impatiens flowers open in a host of dazzling hues, including orange, red, pink, white, purple and lavender.
Second, New Guinea impatiens tolerate more sun than traditional bedding impatiens. New Guineas grow in full or part shade. They thrive in a spot that receives morning sunlight and afternoon shade. In warmest zones where summers are hot and humid, New Guinea impatiens definitely benefit from light shade. Full sun can damage plants in those areas—unless you’re growing the sun-tolerant SunPatiens.
This hybrid New Guinea impatiens prefers full sun, but also grows in part shade. Plants can withstand morning or afternoon sun. In the Deep South, they can take full sun—all day, every day—as long as you tend to soil prep prior to planting. SunPatiens, like all New Guinea impatiens, needs a fertile, moisture-retentive, well-draining soil. That takes a little work.
In planting beds, work plenty of organic matter into soil prior to planting. You might consider mixing in a commercial bagged landscape mix. If your soil is heavy clay, raised beds may be in order. In containers, use a commercial container mix. Soil-less and most often peat-based, these mixes help New Guinea impatiens thrive in pots.
Incorporate slow release fertilizer into planting beds and pots where you’ll be growing New Guinea impatiens. These hearty bloomers are heavy feeders, and they benefit from a steady supply of nutrients. SunPatiens are lighter feeders than traditional New Guinea impatiens, but in the South expect to provide some supplemental feeding as the season wears on. SunPatiens plants flower from planting time until the end of the year—or until frost takes them out, whichever comes first.
Water is the other secret to growing beautiful New Guinea impatiens. These are not xeriscape plants. New Guinea impatiens need a steady supply of moisture. In the landscape, soaker hoses beneath mulch, or drip irrigation plus mulch, works best in warmest zones. In cooler northern areas, you won’t have to water as frequently. SunPatiens require daily watering in all regions, but the volume of water applied will be less in northern gardens.
The other advantage that New Guinea impatiens offer over traditional impatiens is that these bigger bloomers aren’t susceptible to downy mildew disease. Use New Guinea impatiens to brighten shade in areas where downy mildew has made growing impatiens impossible or unwise.