As kids, the ice cream truck was an icon for simple summer pleasures. Ice cream, sherbet, and brightly colored ices were quintessential summer treats. 

As adults, the local garden center is our new ice cream truck and impatiens are the new simple pleasure. Their hues compare to watermelon, tangerine, peach, and grape popsicles, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, or orange and white creamsicles.

Impatiens will add fullness and a burst of color to any garden setting

Impatiens are one of the most reliable of the summer annuals - easy to grow and perfect for shady spots. In containers, hanging baskets, window boxes, and garden beds, they add fullness and continuous color from late spring through early fall. Got an empty spot somewhere that needs a quick fix? Impatiens will fill the void with mounds of soft hues or vibrant shades.

These sweet plants get their name from the Latin word for impatient because of the hasty way they hurl the seeds from their pods with even the slightest touch. Originally from East Africa they are part of the Balsaminaceae family, which includes over 800 species of plants. In their native tropical climate, they’re evergreen perennials but are annuals in most other regions.

Types of Impatiens

Each year introduces new varieties of impatiens in various sizes and colors – it’s always a pleasant surprise to see what’s new at the garden center! There are single and double blooms in solid colors and variegated shades.

Beyond the pinks, oranges, reds, and purples we’ve come to expect, there are now lemon and apricot shades that bring surprising color and contrast to blend with other summer blooms. Available in small, medium, and tall sizes, there are impatiens for everyone.

Impatiens come in so many varieties and vibrant colors.

Single Impatiens are the ones we typically see throughout the garden center. They have five flat petals and bright green leaves that form waves of color. They pair beautifully with other shade loving foliage plants like hosta or moss for a serene setting. Also try them with daylilies and ornamental grasses for a naturalized setting.

Impatiens are one of the few plants that flower in the shade but also tolerate full sun

Double Impatiens look like miniature roses forming bouquets of flowers within flowers surrounded by bright green leaves. Perfect for gardeners who love roses everywhere, even in small spaces like hanging baskets, window boxes, and containers where rose bushes are impractical. Mix double impatiens in bright colors with trailing vines and asparagus ferns for cottage charm.

New Guinea impatiens are large and showy, reaching up to two feet tall. Developed to withstand more sun then other varieties, they offer a wonderful color palette and are prized for their large variegated foliage. As with all impatiens, they’ll wither without enough water but they are very forgiving - a good drink of water should quickly perk up a wilted New Guinea!

Care Tips

Your impatiens are ready to plant as soon as the danger of frost is past. One of the few plants that flowers in the shade but also tolerates full sun, they’re indispensable to any gardener. They will struggle in deep shade under large trees or in spots with full afternoon sun, but generally perform exceptionally in almost any garden spot.

Impatiens love moisture but hate standing water – they will let you know if they’re thirsty by drooping their stems so you’ll give them a drink. If your impatiens are in a sunny spot, container, or hanging basket they’ll need more water than those planted in the shade.

Impatiens create charming planters and window boxes. 

Impatiens will grow large and full if fertilized regularly and pinched back to encourage new branches to form. To simplify care, add some water soluble fertilizer once a week when watering the plants. By mid-summer, your impatiens may become long and leggy. To keep them full and attractive, they’ll need to be clipped. Use sharp scissors to cut the stems back to the height desired - cut right above the node where the stem branches.

What to know


  1. When choosing plants, resist the temptation to purchase impatiens in full bloom. Instead, look for plants with lots of leaves and few flowers so they’ll direct energy into building strong roots for a healthier and more prolific plant.
  2. When planting impatiens in containers or hanging baskets, be sure there is good drainage and loose soil. Potting soil is too dense for impatiens so use a “Pro Mix” or “Nursery Mix” instead. It may be more costly but your plants will know the difference.
  3. Impatiens planted in containers and hanging baskets can dry out quickly so keep an eye on them and water daily if needed. The bigger the pot the better as it will dry out less quickly.
  4. Mulch impatiens only if they are in full sun. A 1/4 inch layer will be all you need, any more than that, fungus may develop.

Fun Facts

  1. Impatiens are the number one garden plant in terms of popularity.
  2. Impatiens are also known as Jewel weed, Busy Lizzy, Patience Plant and touch-me-not - the seed pods will burst open with the slightest touch.

See Also

New Guinea Impatiens