Touch-me-not – New Guinea Impatiens
New Guinea Impatiens are part of the genus “impatiens”, which will come as no surprise to most, is Latin for “impatient”. The impatiently explosive discharge of seeds at the onset of the right season or when touched by passers-by is what inspired their genus name but also gave rise to another common name, touch-me-not. One can almost see an already impatient seed pod mustering everything it has within not to burst before the time is right and hence, not wanting to be touched.
New Guinea Impatiens were first collected in 1884 by Lt. Hawker in Papua, New Guinea, explaining the species name, Impatiens hawkeri. It wasn’t introduced into the US until the early 1970’s and then horticulture until 1978 though. The rest is history, as they became almost an overnight success and gardeners can still be seen fawning over their masses of blooms.
Contrary to the feeling their name might impress on your subconscious, there is not much patience required with New Guinea Impatiens. They are readily available, in abundance, never mind an avid painter’s palette of colour options for you to start enjoying almost instantly this summer. Whether you’re looking to cool down a hot spot in the garden with some pastel shades or warm up a shady area with some vibrant reds and oranges, you’ll find something to suit your taste and needs.
As with most things in life, too much or too little of anything is not always a good thing, and your New Guinea Impatiens adopt that approach when it comes to how much sunshine they like to receive. Ideally they would like to be chosen to fill the gaps in your garden that get both sun and shade. They’ll grow in full sun but tend to crouch away from the constant onslaught of direct rays making it a small compact bush. Planting them in deeply shady areas will have exactly the opposite effect seeing them stretching out in search of the sun and they often produce very few flowers.
Other than the sun requirements, location, location, location is not something you need to fuss over too much with New Guinea Impatiens. From garden beds to hanging baskets, window boxes and pots to edging or bordering beds and fillers between shrubs or under trees, these lovelies are at home filling pretty much any gap you’ve got for them.
Wait until all danger of frost has passed and then plant your New Guinea Impatiens in well composted and well-draining soil. Unlike many other annuals, they don’t need the additional maintenance of deadheading but feel free to cut them back after each flush of flowers to encourage more blooms and strengthen the structure of the plant into a sturdier bush.
If you’re feeling impatient for some colour in your beds this summer then head into your local garden centre and saturate your senses with the sheer variety of New Guinea Impatiens on display.