Gardening: Planting impatiens

With a variety of colours and an easy-to-maintain attitude, Impatiens are a blessing!

A few weeks ago, we painted our courtyard wall orange, which immediately rendered the plants in the two pots at the entrance way unsuitable. Wrong colour, you see.

And being an impatient gardener, I couldn’t wait for the perfect replacement to suggest itself, so I bolted off to the plant centre and bought the only orange flowering plants they had. Busy Lizzies –wouldn’t you know it?

They were little, but they each had a few orange flowers, so I figured they’d do until something else came along.

Impatiens come in a variety of colours and are easy-to-maintain.

They’ve been in for about a month now and they’re 10 times their original size, vibrant, healthy, lush and, I must admit, very good looking. Everyone who walks between those pots comments and it would be fair to say I’ve softened.

The botanical name Impatiens comes not from the fact that they grow like Jack’s beanstalk, but from the explosive and impatient way the seeds are expelled from the pods. The slightest touch can make a ripe Impatiens seed pod burst open and scatter its seeds. Sounds like fun to me.

It’s a characteristic of the Balsam family, to which the Busy Lizzie belongs.

Impatiens are commonly used in borders and these ones are thriving on the shade they get from the hedge behind.

Most of the articles I’ve read about Impatiens suggest buying a whole heap of different colours and planting them in a pattern, the idea of which fills me with horror. But if you like that mad look, this is your baby. There are heaps of colours (apart from true blue) and in terms of care, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

You can plant from seeds or seedlings, but if you’re as impatient as the plant, seedlings are the go. It’s also easier to space them out because if you plant them too close together, they get tall and skinny, lucky things, whereas you probably want them to be short and fat.

If they start looking leggy late in the summer, trim off the top third of their vegetation. They’ll make new flowers.

Add compost or buy nutrient-rich potting mix if planting these flowers in pots.

I’m assuming you’ll have them in the ground within five minutes of getting them home but if that’s not the case, keep them moist or they’ll wither with characteristic speed.

They do well in pots and planters and like moisture, well-drained soil and a shady spot. Don’t plant any Impatiens until the frosts are over and the soil’s warmed up a bit. They like their soil rich, so till it to a depth of about 30cm and mix in some compost or a light application of fertiliser. The same applies to pots.

If you’re nervous about lashing out on a heap of plants, think of how often you see them used in civic planting, and if, like me, you think the flowers are a wee bit ordinary, take a look at the double varieties. You could almost mistake them for a rose, and they are truly drop-dead gorgeous.

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