If you look along the highways of many of our Treasure Coast cities, you will see mounds of colorful flowers planted in large masses designed to create an impact. Most likely the plants you see will be Impatiens. Impatiens plants are annuals that will last for several months, especially during the cooler months of winter and early spring. These annuals planted in groups can create an extremely colorful garden display that will dazzle the senses.
When you walk in to almost any lawn and garden center, Impatiens will most likely be the dominant plant. You will find them in all colors and sizes from a small 4 inch pot all the way up to 14 inch (or larger) color bowls. Many stores also carry six packs and 24 packs. As a rule of thumb, if you are going to plant a garden with Impatiens, plant lots of them. You will be well rewarded with a garden to be proud of.
Impatiens will do best if planted in an area that does not get full sun all day. If you plan on putting in Impatiens just for the winter, this won't be quite as critical as the plants will endure more sun during the winter then the spring and summer. You will want to use a good quality potting soil such as Miracle Gro and plant them in an area that has good drainage. If water stands too long or the soil stays mucky, Impatiens will develop root rot. They do, however, need to be kept evenly moist. If you let an Impatiens plant dry out too much, the plant will wilt. Even though the plant will appear to recover when you revive it with water, there is still damage that has done. Repeated bouts of drying out will compromise the plant quality dramatically over time. If you have a sprinkler system, do not rely on it 100 percent for your flowers. Always supplement your watering regimen with hand watering.
One of the biggest secrets to growing good Impatiens is to use a good quality slow release fertilizer. There are several to choose from but two of my favorites are Osmocote and Dynamite. You only need to apply the fertilizer once or twice during your growing season. Every time you water your plants, the fertilizer is slowly released into the soil. This also helps prevent fertilizer burn.
Impatiens will do well in both the ground or in containers. The only thing you need to watch out for if you plant in containers is fungus disease. You have to be very careful not to overwater or underwater your plants. This can be difficult during the rainy season. If you use containers and you know we are getting a heavy rainstorm, temporarily move your plants to a protected location until the storm is over. Impatiens also need to be protected from the cold. I have seen plants sustain damage in temperatures as high as 37 degrees. Cold damage does not always show up immediately. Very often you will not see the damage until days later. This is true for many other plant varieties as well.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.