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Clumps of red impatiens flowers in a garden bed
There are many different types of impatiens, but the two most often grown are the bedding impatiens – known as Busy Lizzie, balsam or bedding impatiens – and the far more flamboyant New Guinea impatiens. Both are admired for their masses of brightly coloured flowers throughout the warmer months, and the ease with which they can be grown in cool or warm climates.

What you need to know about impatiens

Name: Busy Lizzie, bedding impatiens (Impatiens walleriana); New Guinea impatiens (I hawkeri).

Height: Busy LizzieL 30cm; New Guinea impatiens: 45–60cm. 

Foliage: Busy Lizzie: light–mid-green leaves, fleshy stems, oval; New Guinea impatiens: dark green, sometimes tinged with red; also varieties with yellow and green variegated, pointed leaves.

Climate: sub-tropical to cool temperate; frost-intolerant.

Soil: good quality loam with organic matter; free-draining.

Position: sunny open spot; light shade from midday; avoid deep shade. 

Flowering: single and semi-double rose-like flowers in a variety of colours and combinations, predominantly pink, white, purple, red and orange (New Guinea impatiens). 

Feeding: use a long-term controlled-release fertiliser; supplement with liquid food in spring and summer.

Watering: needs regular watering; wilts readily if left to dry out.

Appearance and characteristics of impatiens

Busy Lizzie

Busy Lizzies, or bedding impatiens, form compact mounds about 30cm or so high, with light- to mid-green oval leaves and bright flowers in shades from white to cerise, some with a contrasting coloured “eye”. Their stems are soft and fleshy. Wind protection is recommended, as they can be brittle.

Planted en masse, they form dense carpets of colour for months at a time. They are perfect for planting in light shade under trees where they will be protected from the sun as well as from frost. Usually grown as an annual, plants may last into a second year in warmer areas.

New Guinea impatiens

The extravagant New Guinea impatiens has larger, darker green leaves, sometimes tinged with deep red, depending on the variety. The plants are somewhat taller than bedding impatiens, and their flowers bigger and with more intense colour. Their stems are also soft, and can be damaged in strong winds, so shelter is recommended.

While they can be planted into the garden in warm to hot climates, they are most often grown in pots and hanging planters around outdoor living areas, where their true beauty can be easily admired.

A cluster of pink impatiens flowers

How to plant and grow Busy Lizzie (bedding impatiens)

Busy Lizzie grows quickly from seeds sown into trays of premium-quality seed-raising mix, or from punnets of commercially grown seedlings. For a carpet effect, space plants in the garden about 25–30cm apart and allow about 30cm between rows.

For optimal flowering, choose a well-lit position that will be shaded from hot afternoon sun. Deep shade should be avoided.

Impatiens prefer a rich loam that drains well, but will also grow in light sandy soil. Avoid heavy clay that holds moisture for long periods after watering or rain—root rot can be an issue in wet soils.

  1. Prepare the soil by digging over, and including plenty of compost and weathered manure.
  2. Add a controlled-release fertiliser for flowering plants and garden beds during your prep.
  3. After planting, make sure the soil is kept moist, but not wet—the softness of stems and leaves means they wilt quickly if they become dry or the weather is hot.

Pruning bedding impatiens

  • As the plants develop, pinch out the growing tips to encourage branching. 
  • If plants become, trim them back to make them more compact.

How to grow New Guinea impatiens

New Guinea impatiens are usually only available as plants. most are trademarked varieties that are not available as seeds. 

In sub-tropical and tropical areas they can be mass planted into the garden, but more often they are planted singly, or in small groups as accent plants. 

  1. Plant in a rich loam that holds moisture but allows excess to drain away freely. 
  2. Add compost and manure before planting, as well as a controlled-release fertiliser for flowering plants. Impatiens are heavy feeders, so a water-soluble or liquid plant food can be added into the care regime every three or four weeks.

Because they are also soft-stemmed, plant out your impatiens where they will receive morning sun but will be shaded in the afternoon. They will tolerate full shade but must have reasonably good ambient light to flower freely.

In cooler areas—temperate and cool temperate climates—New Guinea impatiens are best grown in pots or hanging planters that can be positioned where plants receive plenty of shelter from cold winds and frosts. An east-facing verandah or balcony that receives morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal. 

Pruning New Guinea impatiens

As with bedding impatiens, pinch out tips of stems to encourage branching when plants are young.

Diseases and pests affecting impatiens

Bedding impatiens may be attacked by snails and slugs from time to time, so use bait traps to protect plants, especially while they are establishing. Aphids and thrips may also be troublesome—a natural insecticide like pyrethrum can be used to control them, but avoid spraying in the heat of the day or when the plants are in direct sun.

Powdery mildew may sometimes be a problem, especially in warm humid areas, but generally no treatment is required. 

If you like this then try

Begonias: tuberous begonias, with their showy flowers in hot colours, perfectly complement New Guinea impatiens.

Crepe myrtle: a flowering deciduous tree with attractive bark that gives dappled shade from spring to autumn.

Hibiscus: a tropical flowering shrub with blooms from white to deep crimson; contrasts well with New Guinea impatiens.

Start growing today

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.