Dictionary of Flowers: Impatiens Species (Busy Lizzie, Balsam)

Impatiens is better known as Busy Lizzie. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Musimpanas and Flickr
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Impatiens is better known as Busy Lizzie. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Musimpanas and Flickr

  • Impatiens Species
  • Common name: busy lizzie, balsam, New Guinea impatiens, Balsam
  • Family: Balsaminaceae
  • Category: annual, frost sensitive perennial in USDA zones 10 and 11
  • Height: 6" to 30"
  • Width: 6" to 24"
  • Shade/part shade/part sun, depending on species
  • Blooms: late spring to early fall. Year round in warm zones
  • Attracts: bees, butterflies
  • Growth habit: mounding. Used as a filler in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: fertile, moist, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers.
  • Garden uses: containers, hanging baskets, mixed border, edging
  • Diseases: disease resistant
  • Pests: slugs, mites

Frost sensitive perennials, grown as annuals in all zones except 10 and 11, impatiens are bedding plants widely available for shady areas and containers placed in shade.

They can handle more sun in cooler areas.

They are mounding fleshy plants with one inch flowers, single or double in many colors, like white, pink, peach, lilac and red. Some varieties can have variegated foliage. 

They are native to East Africa. Most bedding varieties are hybrids of i. walleriana, i. balsamina and i. hawkeri.

Busy lizzie prefers moist, rich soils that drain well. They need to be watered on a daily basis during dry periods in summer, even more when grown in smalll pots.

Moisture retentive soil or mixing potting soil and water retentive crystals will help.

If planting on the ground, amend with plenty of compost or manure before planting them after danger of frost has passed.

In cooler growing zones, they do well as summer bedding plants. In hot zones, they can be used as winter annuals.

Impatiens doesn't require deadheading, but if looking tired and leggy after midsummer, they can be trimmed back by a third and watered constantly; they will recover and start blooming again.

Feed impatiens regularly if grown in pots, and if grown in amended soil, just add a slow release granular fertilizer when setting plants in the ground.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Impatiens are readily available in nurseries during spring and summer.

They can be propagated by cuttings in water or by seed, though seed isn't easy to germinate. Plant seeds in moist starting medium and keep warm and moist at 75F. Seed can take up to eight weeks to germinate.

Harden plants off slowly once all danger of frost has passed. Plant in their permanent position outdoors at least two weeks after last frost or when the soil has warmed up. 




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

They don't normally have many disease problems. Slugs and snails can be baited if they become a pest.

Mites need to be eliminated with an insecticidal soap

Popular varieties:

  • Impatiens walleriana hybrid 'Accent' series - large flowers on compact plants, up to ten inches tall. Flower colors range from white to red and bicolors 
  • Impatiens walleriana hybrid 'Impreza' series - up to eight inches tall, spreading variety. Bright and pastel colors
  • Impatiens walleriana hybrid 'Tempo' series - good variety for hanging baskets. Ten inches tall, large flowers
  • Impatiens walleriana hybrid 'Fanfare' series - trailing, sixteen inches tall. Sun tolerant. Good for hanging baskets
  • Impatiens hawkeri hybrid 'Celebration' series - a foot tall, dense growth, heat tolerant. Many available colors
  • Impatiens hawkeri hybrid 'Celebrette' series - eight inches, compact. Good choice for small containers
  • Impatiens balsamina hybrid 'Tom Thumb' - camellia looking double flowers on dwarf plants eight to twelve inches tall
  • Sunpatiens – a new hybrid variety that can grow in full sun. Up to thirty inches tall with white, orange, pink or red flowers

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

Go from Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) to the Dictionary of Flowers

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