Impatiens are popular as a bedding plant across the nation, and Florida is no exception. It offers dazzling, high impact color in bright red, orange, pink, and white hues that attract butterflies and look great when planted in en masse, borders, hanging baskets, or containers.
Impatiens need moist, well-drained soil. North Florida gardeners should plant impatiens in the spring, after the last frost. In South and Central Florida, plant them from October to April to enjoy nearly year-round color.
Until several years ago, traditional impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) were the norm with their easy-to-grow, self-seeding habit. Unfortunately, downy mildew disease took them out of production nationwide. Luckily, mildew-resistant New Guinea impatiens and SunPatiens® have filled the void as colorful options.
New Guinea Impatiens
New Guinea impatiens do well in the sun, although they can't handle prolonged full-sun exposure. They do not set flower buds when night temperatures reach 70° and typically go out of flower during summer or when drought-stressed. Because New Guinea impatiens require regular watering, be sure you plant them around plants with similar watering needs.
SunPatiens® are a hybrid from Japanese seed company Sakata. These hybrids thrive in the conditions we have here in Florida — full sun and humid, hot weather. SunPatiens® flower year-round in Florida. As an added bonus, these hybrids are unaffected by downy mildew. Like New Guinea impatiens, SunPatiens® also require regular watering and should be grouped together with plants that have similar needs, although they do not lose their flower buds when severely water stressed.
Traditional Impatiens on the Comeback!
As mentioned above, downy mildew all but wiped out traditional impatiens, but good news is on the horizon.
Breeders from Pan American Seed have developed a mildew-resistant I. walleriana. "Beacon" will be available in stores starting fall 2019. Other growers also report that they'll be coming out with mildew-resistant cultivars.