Extension Connection

Extension Connection

SunPatiens - Impatiens for sunny locations

This year my dad, Ron Simmons, started some SunPatiensÒ for me in his greenhouse. I was skeptical that an impatiens would really grow in the sun, but to my delight and surprise, they look amazing!

Impatiens are the most popular bedding plant for shady locations. There are two main types of impatiens available: balsam and New Guinea. The balsam type (Impatiens wallerana) is the best known. It has a mounded habit, long bloom time, and incredible range of colors.

New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) have similar flowers but very different leaves. Leaves are larger and come in colors other than green, such as bronze or purple with yellow or pink midribs. Flowers typically are larger and showier. With lots of water they will grow in part sun.

SunPatiens are a hybrid (Impatiens x hybrid hort) of traditional New Guinea impatiens and a wild variety similar to the balsam type. Sakata developed this new hybrid and state on their website that "these remarkable plants represent a breakthrough in flower breeding" (www.sunpatiens.com). They are said to be sun-loving, heat-loving and thrive in full sun or part shade. They also are supposed have continuous flowering from spring into frost.

There are several different series of SunPatiensÒ available: compact, spreading, and vigorous. Each series has a full range of flower colors, including white, pink, red, magenta, lavender, and orange.

My SunPatiensÒ have full sun for at least seven hours each day. I have impatiens in light shade that tend to wilt in the late afternoon. These have never wilted and I haven't really watered them since they were planted, though we do irrigate the lawn around them from time to time.

Another advantage to SunPatiensÒ and other New Guinea types is that they are resistant to a disease that has been decimating balsam-type impatiens in recent years. Downy mildew has been found across Illinois. Once infected, the plants must be removed since there is no chance of saving them. It typically comes in on bedding plants, but because it overwinters in the landscape, it is very hard to get rid of.

You may have trouble finding impatiens in the future because of this disease. Many gardeners struggling with downy mildew have given up and switched to growing other shade-loving plants. Michigan State recently published a fact sheet titled, Alternatives to Impatiens, found at http://flor.hrt.msu.edu/IDM/index.htm.

If you like the look of impatiens but have sunny gardens, give SunPatiensÒ a try! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how well they do.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event listed in this news release, contact your local Extension office.

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