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