Caring for Impatiens

Impatiens walleriana, sometimes called busy Lizzy, are the go-to choice for those shady spots in you landscape.  The plants grow in a mounded shape and produce tons of flowers until the frosts of fall.  Impatiens grow in abundance in the tropical warmth of eastern Africa from Kenya to Mozambique.  However, the impatiens walleriana varieties that we know and love got their start in Costa Rica.

A horticulturalist named Claude Hope (1907-2000) first noticed a gangly, lopsided “weed” growing wild in Costa Rica and thought he might be onto something new.  It was Mr. Hope who in the 1960s, after years of selective breeding and hybridization, turned an unruly weed into the reliable, compact plants that we now find in millions of yards worldwide.  Impatiens are now one of the most popular bedding plants in the U.S.

In 1953 Hope started Linda Vista, S.A., in Costa Rica. Over the years the company grew from six employees to more than a thousand, and is now one of the largest seed producers in the world. He sold the company to the Ball Horticultural Company in 1981, but remained as president until 1989 and continued to work on the farm thereafter. Hope never married, and his devotion to his employees and his adopted homeland was legendary. He became a citizen of Costa Rica in 1966 and over the years helped many of his employees, who affectionately called him "El Capitán" (the captain), a reference to his Army rank, with education, housing, and other needs. He also made donations to build churches, schools, libraries, and athletic fields in the town of Dulce Nombre.   Check out this blog post for a behind-the-scenes look at Linda Vista.

Tips to Help Care for Impatiens:
1.  Select a site that receives about two to four hours of filtered sun per day. A site with morning sun and afternoon shade is also a good choice. Impatiens will also grow in deep shade, but will not grow as vibrantly as those with light sun exposure.

2.  Space impatiens 6 to 8 inches apart in the planting bed. They will soon spread to create a dense mat of flowers and foliage. Dig individual holes with a planting trowel and slip the root ball into the prepared hole. Firm the soil around the roots to support the plant.

3.  Water impatiens regularly, as they require a lot of water. The more sun exposure at their planting site, the more water they will require. Do not let the soil in their growing bed dry out or the plants will wilt.

4.  Mulch the soil with organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips. Put down a layer of mulch about 3 inches deep, keeping the mulch from touching the main stems of the plants.

5.  Fertilize every two to three weeks during the growing season with all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer mixed according to the manufacturer's label directions. Spray the fertilizer solution on the plants with a garden sprayer.