Impatiens walleriana in flowers

Busy Lizzies not only make good houseplants, there are a number of excellent free-flowering strains that also grow well outdoors. Recently voted as one of the most popular bedding plants in both the UK and USA.

Family: Balsaminaceae
Botanical Name: Impatiens
Common Names: Busy lizzie, jewelweed, patience, snapweed, touch-me-not.

Foliage: Simple, green toothed leaves.

Flowers: Spurred, 5-petalled flowers, in a range of bright colours.

Flowering Period: Early-summer to autumn.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, fertile soil loam. Any pH.

Conditions: Sun or partial shade. Can be grown in a north, east or west facing aspect, in a sheltered location.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Half-hardy Annual.

Origin: Eastern Africa.

Hardiness: Half-hardy in the UK. Protect from frost.

Planting and Growing Impatiens

Best planted in partial shade, in a sheltered spot (except for I. balsamina which needs full sun). Grow in a moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil or compost.

Ideal for pots, containers, shady banks and border edging.

They can be grown from seed but the easiest and often the cheapest way is to purchase spring bedding plants or plug plants from garden centers and nurseries. Do not plant outside until all danger of frost has passed in your area.

Taking Care of Impatiens

Keep well watered, especially container grown plants.

To improve flowering, apply an all-purpose flowering plant food every few weeks, or use a slow release form. Do not over fertilize.

Pinch out the growing tips of young plants to make them more bushy.


Deadhead regularly to keep the plants tidy and to prevent the wilting flower petals from marring the leaves.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by aphids. Can be affected by downy mildew.

Propagating Impatiens

Sow seed indoors in spring. Prick-out and pot on once they large enough to handle. Harden-off and plant out once all danger of frost has passed in your area. Seedlings can be prone to damping off.

Indoor varieties can be increased from cuttings taken in summer or early autumn.

Popular Varieties of Impatiens

Impatiens balsamina is a tender annual with large pink flowers. No longer popular in the UK as they don't perform well in cool wet summers. Height to 2ft (60cm).

Impatiens capensis is a hardy annual with orange flowers from midsummer to autumn. Height to 4ft (120cm).

Impatiens hawkeri (New Guinea impatiens) produces mid-green, lanceolate toothed leaves and large bright flowers. Unlike I. walleriana, which are shade lovers, New Guinea impatiens will tolerate a fair amount of full sun. Once popular as greenhouse specimens or houseplants, new strains are available that thrive well outside in the summer.

  • 'Divine' series is a good downy mildew resistant strain suitable for growing on the patio or a sunny border. Available in red, white, violet and pink or mixed colours with large blooms and strong stems. Height 10-14in (25-30cm). For sale at You Garden.
  • 'Divaro Mixed' is another disease resistant variety that is robust, vigorous and free flowering. For sale at Van Meuwen.
  • 'Roller Coaster Hot Pink' is a semi double variety with dark glossy foliage. The bold pink blooms appear from May to October. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Sunpatiens' a vigorous form with a stronger root system, thicker petals and bigger flowers than regular Busy Lizzies. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Wild Romance' series is a robust, free flowering, fully double strain available in a pink, red, white or mixed colours. Thrives in sun or light shade. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Impatiens walleriana is one of the best varieties for outdoor bedding. A good array of hybrids are available including:

  • 'Accent Series' is a compact strain with large flowers in shades of white, orange, red, pink, purple and mauve or sometimes bicoloured. Height to 8in (20cm). For sale at Van Meuwen.
  • 'Beacon' is a new compact strain with a natural resistance to downy mildew. For sale at You Garden.
  • 'DeZire Mix' is a new strain with a compact, uniform habit that is perfect for beds, borders, window boxes and patio pots. For sale at You Garden.
  • 'Florette Star' has pretty flowers with a white star marking. Height 6in (15cm).
  • 'Imara' is a good downy mildew resistant form. Free flowering, in sun or shade, whatever the weather. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Imp Strain' a single coloured hybrid with either white, pink, scarlet or orange flowers. Height to 9in (23cm).
  • 'Novette' a pretty low growing form. Height 4in (10cm).
  • 'Zig Zag' is a striking form with large white striped flowers. Height 6in (15cm).