Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
My husband jokes about our yard being a "horticultural experiment station". He's correct to some extent. A Master Gardener shared with me a piece of advice that sums up why my yard is a big horticulture experiment-- to really know a plant, you have to grow it.
When shopping for garden plants each year, there are always a few new plants that catch my eye because either they are so beautiful, or because there is some claim attached to them that seems too good to be true. This year, the plant that fits both these descriptions for me is the Fanfare™ Spreading Impatiens.
For one, they are gorgeous. The plant that caught my eye was the Fanfare™ Fuschia. I've since learned that this series also comes in five other colors: blush, bright coral, orange, orchid and pink sparkle.
The claim attached to them that caught my attention was that they could grow in full sun. Full sun and impatiens typically do not mix. Although research has shown that any impatiens can be grown in the sun if given adequate water, it's the "adequate water" that usually limits use of impatiens in the sun. At my house for instance, the plants would need a constant drip of water to combat the hot sun. This is just not practical. The labels on the Fanfare™ impatiens did not indicate any additional water needs. I bought three plants to try in a hot sunny corner of my garden.
At first glance, the Fanfare™ impatiens resemble New Guinea impatiens, Impatiens hawkerii, which can tolerate partial but not full sun. Some sources list Fanfare® as I. hawkerii, but the originator of the cultivars, Ball Horticultural Company, lists them as I.walleriana, the impatiens that are typically planted in the shade. Some sources suggest that Fanfare may be a cross of New Guinea impatiens with I. flaccida, an impatiens species with drought tolerance and spreading or trailing growth habit.
Whatever its pedigree, if Fanfare™ impatiens can survive a full-sun summer in my backyard, I'll be sold. The other trait being heavily marketed about Fanfare™ is the trailing or spreading habit.
The plant produces lots of branches low on the plant that extend horizontally, allowing the plant to fill pots or spaces very quickly while still exhibiting a pleasing mounded shape. Ideally they will reach 16 to 20 inches tall and spread 18 to 24 inches wide.
Fanfare™ impatiens are described as the "go anywhere" impatiens suitable for planting in containers or directly in the garden. I've planted mine in my garden in a very sunny spot. They will also tolerate shade like other impatiens. For best blooms, they should be fertilized every two weeks.
So far my plants look great, but after the heavy rains we received in the last week, the foliage has taken on a reddish hue, which is a sign of stress. I suspect the ground is a bit over-saturated at the moment. Growing information for Fanfare™ says that they prefer heavy watering, but cautions against overwatering, so in my case nature has overwatered my plants.
Fanfare™ impatiens are also touted as having incredible heat tolerance. Four of the six available Fanfare™ colors were tested and scored high marks in the University of Florida Trial Gardens in Gainesville, Florida. All were planted in full sun and flowered well. The orange cultivar flowered slightly less than the other colors tested. If they can survive the hot humid summers of Florida, I'd say they have a decent chance at surviving a central Illinois summer.