Impatiens New Guinea, not to be confused with the popular Busy Lizzy Impatiens, are a must have for all gardens. The trick is deciding on which ones to take home. Between the bright and varied foliage to the large, showy flowers, you may be excused for being slightly indecisive.
Impatiens hawkeri, commonly known as New Guinea Impatiens, is a species within the vast genus of Impatiens which in turn belongs to the balsalminaceae family. It is native to the Melanesian island of New Guinea and has only very recently been introduced to the nursery industry after being discovered on a plant expedition in the 1970s. Through modern breeding techniques, the gangly and poor flowering specimens have been transformed into one of the most popular bedding plants, with extra large flowers and excellent compact branching habits.
New Guinea Impatiens form compact, succulent sub-shrubs. By summer’s end, they can reach a height of up to 60cm, variety dependent. The leaves are ovate in shape and slightly elongated. The edges are finely serrated and the colours of the leaves are as varied and striking as the flowers. They can either be plain or variegated and the colours include various shades of green, purple, lemon, peach and bronze.
The flowers of the New Guinea are simple in construction, but their size and bold, bright colour is what makes them so striking. The colour palette includes various pinks, purples, lavenders, reds as well as orange and white. Whilst most of the flowers are solid in colour, you will find bicolours in some varieties.
New Guinea Impatiens are versatile and can be used in flowerbeds to create larges patches of bold colour or to define a border. They can also be used in containers either on their own or mixed with other summer annuals. They can also be used as an indoor plant provided they sit in a window and receive some sun.
The soil preparation for New Guinea Impatiens is very important. For container planting be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect the pot – this helps to avoid disease. Use only a high quality commercial potting soil and not garden soil. Ensure there are sufficient drainage holes. If planting into flowerbeds loosen the soil and add compost. It is essential the soil is well draining. In both containers and beds, mix in a slow release fertilizer.
New Guineas grow best if planted approximately 25cm apart and in a location that affords them four to six hours of afternoon shade. Morning and evening sun will generally produce the healthiest and best flowering plants. It is essential to get their watering requirements just right. The soil should remain moist at all times without being soggy. New Guineas are susceptible to root rot should conditions be too wet, however they are also prone to wilting if they get too dry. They can recover from brief bouts of wilting, but frequent and/or extended wilting will damage the plant.
Aphids, Red Spider Mites and caterpillars are particularly partial to New Guineas. Your local garden centre will be able to advise you on the best product to keep them in check. It is not essential to remove old flowers but it does help to reduce the mould that can develop on moist, dying flowers.
Being a relatively new annual, New Guinea Impatiens are staking their claim on the nursery table with every summer that passes. The ever increasing demand for this plant indicates their growing popularity – be sure you don’t miss the bus on this one.