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Impatiens walleriana, commonly referred to as just Impatiens, is an herbaceous perennial from the Balsaminaceae family of plants. Originating from Africa, this flowering plant is one of the most popular species planted in flowerbeds on both sides of the Atlantic; however, it is also grown in containers and as a houseplant. Other common names given to Impatiens walleriana include Balsam, Bizzy, or Busy Lizzy, and Buzzy Lizzy. There are hundreds of impatiens’ species that present a variety of colored blooms, but this is the most widely grown. Though generally a hardy variety, this plant can encounter growing issues from issues such as insects, leaf issues, and improper care.
There are various cultivars of Impatiens that bloom in a variety of colors starting in early summer until the first frost of the season. The thin flowers, which average 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) wide, are available in shades of pink, red, purple, and white, among others. Varieties such as impatiens zig-zag and impatiens fanfare will produce bi-color blooms. The plant’s light to dark green leaves are approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm) in length and grow on succulent stems that can exceed 12 inches (30.5 cm) in height, depending on the cultivar. Hybrid impatiens has been produced that display multicolored leaves, such as the hawkeri and fanfare varieties; red-stemmed leaves are also available such as those seen on the petersiana variety.
Impatiens walleriana are generally a low-maintenance plant. Caring for impatiens generally involves feeding and watering during the growing season, deadheading dead and dying blooms, and pruning as needed in the spring. Commonly grown as an indoor perennial, Impatiens walleriana prefers moist yet well-draining soil. The ideal outdoor location for most species is an area offering shade or semi-shade from the hot summer sun. This is a warm-loving plant and does not fare well when temperatures drop below 55° Fahrenheit (13° Celsius), but it will also deteriorate in direct sunlight.
Although most varieties are hardy growers, there are some special problems that may be encountered when growing impatiens. During hot, dry weather, red spider mites can affect the leaves, and both aphids and whiteflies are known pest problems for Impatiens walleriana. Leaf problems can occur from pests, exposure to cold temperatures, and irregular watering. Poor flowering of Impatiens walleriana is commonly caused from inadequate sunlight or repotting; cultivars such as the Busy Lizzy fare better when left pot-bound. Rotting can occur from over-watering, which should always be reduced during the winter months.
New plants can be grown from stem cuttings or impatiens’ seedlings. When planting seeds directly outdoors, sow the seeds in early spring after all chance of frost has passed. Seeds started indoors should be planted about six to eight weeks prior to the last frost. Impatiens walleriana grown outdoors can be repotted in containers and brought indoors for overwintering. During the winter months, impatiens should be provided indirect sunlight and limited water, and then planted again outdoors the following spring.
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