New Guinea Impatiens: How To Plant, Care For And Grow

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New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) is a fairly new type of impatiens that offers quite a few benefits over the traditional Elfin (Impatiens walleriana ) variety.

This good-looking breed sports oversized, showy flowers and variegated leaves.

New Guinea Impatiens are able to thrive in many parts of the garden because it tolerates and even prefers partial sun.

It is also a vigorous grower that gains more size than the old-fashioned variety and is able to fill in more space with fewer plants.

In this article, we will discuss selection, planting impatiens, and the easy care of the New Guinea impatiens. Read on to learn more.

The best watering schedule for New Guinea is an early morning drenching. Your soil should be friable and rich with organic matter so it can hold moisture properly without waterlogging.

In the flowerbed, you should water deeply at the soil level, as opposed to sprinkling. Water container and potted plants until the water runs out the drainage holes. Overall New Guinea impatiens like moist soil.

The History Of New Guinea Impatiens

Traditional Elfin impatiens is a common landscaping plant and a good choice for adding color and beauty to a partial shade setting.

New Guinea flower does this well-established favorite one better. New Guinea impatiens plants enjoy a half-day of sun and present a far more impressive showing than their humble cousins.

This plant was discovered in the jungles of New Guinea in the early 1970s. The original plant specimens were found during an expedition conducted by the USDA and Pennsylvania’s Agriculture & Longwood Botanical Gardens.

Although the New Guinea impatiens were rather spindly and unattractive when brought straight in from the wilderness, clever horticulturists soon developed very attractive, low maintenance, carefree hybrids.

Early varieties were available to the public very soon after the discovery of these plants.

By the late 1980s, the hybrid known as Tango with orange flower color had been developed. This continuously flowering plant produces bright orange blooms that can be as large as 2.5 inches across. It was termed an “All-American Selection” in 1989.

Continued selective breeding and development of New Guinea impatiens has resulted in plants that produce large, showy flowers coupled with beautiful, variegated foliage.

These attractive plants have become a favorite for landscaping, flowerbeds, or in an outdoor container garden.

In fact, few other types of bedding, landscape, and potted plants can rival the New Guinea impatiens in terms of popularity.

These plants were initially met with enthusiasm, and in the past couple of decades their popularity has soared.

You can purchase good looking New Guinea impatiens plants as 6-pack or 12 pack liners, in small pots, in group arrangements, and in hanging baskets.

New Guinea impatiens make wonderful additions to any home, porch, patio, yard or garden. Cared for properly, they provide continuous bountiful and beautiful color from early in spring until autumn.

Video: Impatiens Care & Watering

How Are New Guinea Impatiens Better Than Elfin Impatiens?

Impatiens hawkeri is a larger, sturdier, brighter version of the old-fashioned favorite, Impatiens walleriana. In addition to differences in looks, size, and hardiness, these plants also differ in propagation.

Impatiens walleriana is a seed grown plant. Hawkeri is started using vegetative cuttings. Naturally, it is possible to grow them from seed; however, this is usually so difficult that it is not worth the trouble to attempt it.

Be that as it may, continuous research and effort has resulted in some new varieties of New Guinea impatiens seed that are available to commercial growers but are not yet available to consumers as seed. You can purchase finished plants of New Guinea impatiens from your local nursery.

Traditional or “Elfin” impatiens produce more flowers than New Guinea plants; however, these flowers are quite small when compared with the generously sized New Guinea impatiens flowers produced.

The elfin variety is a more common choice for mass landscape plantings. It is typically considered a more economical choice as individual plants for large plantings.

This belief is somewhat faulty, though. When planning your garden, remember that New Guinea impatiens grow bigger and taller than Elfin impatiens.

For this reason, you will need fewer plants to cover the same amount of space, so choosing New Guinea impatiens over Elfin varieties might very well end up saving you quite a bit of money.

Because of their impressive size and showy appearance, New Guinea impatiens are also quickly becoming quite popular as holiday plants. They can be kept happily as indoor plants through the winter and transplanted outdoors in the springtime.

This makes them a versatile and satisfying choice for many different settings.

In terms of growing conditions, Elfin and New Guinea impatiens have similar needs when it comes to potting soil. The ground they grow in should be rich and well-watered, yet it should also possess very good drainage capabilities to help prevent root rot and fungus development.

While Elfin impatiens thrives in full shade, New Guinea impatiens need half a day of sun every day to look their best and to thrive.

It’s best to provide them with full sun in the morning and sheltered afternoon shade.

That’s why this variety is often referred to as “sunpatiens”. If you plant these specimens in an area that does not get half a day of sun every day, your plants’ flowers will fade. Variegation of leaves will become less dramatic and will eventually disappear.

Video: Clockwork New Guinea Impatiens

How To Plant Impatiens & Prepare Them

Begin with carefully selected New Guinea impatiens. When shopping look for specimens that are fully branched and well rounded. Their leaves should be smooth and shiny, and they should possess a wealth of flowers and buds. Check to be sure that the root system is healthy and intact.

Don’t purchase leggy plants or those that have dead or faded foliage. Avoid New Guinea impatiens plants that seem to have damaged or rotted roots. If the plant you are considering buying has brown roots, it is an indication that it has not been well-cared-for.

Once you have made your selections, take your plants straight home. They will not enjoy riding around in the car as you run your errands. Less traveling and handling will result in less stress.

When you get them home, don’t transplant your New Guinea impatiens immediately. Instead, place them in a somewhat sheltered location in their original containers. Water them if needed and keep them this way for several days before transplanting to their permanent location.

Be careful not to keep your new plants in an area that is too dark as this can also be stressful. Place your New Guinea impatiens in an area that provides light shade throughout the day. If you plan to transplant them to a sunny full sun area, gradually acclimate them to these conditions by moving them nearer and nearer to the final location over a period of a week or more.

Choosing The Location For Your Planters Or Bed

How much sun do New Guinea impatiens need?

Your New Guinea impatiens will be happiest with full morning sun and light afternoon shade in most areas of the northern United States and Canada.

Just as too little sun will have a negative impact on impatiens flowers and blossoms, too much sun can cause stunted flowers and bleached, burned foliage.

When you allow your New Guinea impatiens to bask in the friendly sunshine of the morning hours and hide from the punishing rays of the afternoon sun, you will have a winning combination.

Tips For Planting And Potting New Guinea impatiens

Use Clean Implements and Equipment

Before you begin transplanting your new arrivals, make certain that all the materials and tools you plan to use are clean and free from contamination.

It’s a good idea to always keep all of your gardening supplies disinfected by cleaning them with a combination of bleach and water. One part bleach to nine parts water is a very useful mixture.

Alternatively, a soap solution may be used. Soak pots and implements thoroughly in the solution and then rinse with copious amounts of clean water to prevent potential disease of your new plants.

Provide Lots of Room

When placing New Guinea impatiens in the garden or in pots or planters be sure to provide plenty of growing space.

Double the size of the original pot when determining how far apart to space your new plants directly into your garden.

If the New Guinea impatiens you are planting came in a four-inch pot, it will need a good eight or nine inches on all sides for proper growth.

Plants that come in five-inch pots need ten or eleven inches of space all around. Those that come in six-inch pots need a generous foot of space on all sides.

When planting in pots or planters, the new container should be about one-and-a-half times the size of the pot in which the plant currently resides.

Transplant New Guinea impatiens in six-inch pots into nine or ten-inch containers. You can also group three or four six-inch plants in a fourteen to sixteen-inch container.

Adjust these measurements depending upon the variety of impatiens you are working with.

Be sure to research the varieties you are planting and provide even more generous spacing for vigorous types of impatiens.

There is a real difference between the growth potential of compact varieties and vigorous varieties.

The former usually grow to be about a foot high and wide. The latter can grow to be eighteen inches high and wide, so plan accordingly.

Use the Right Kind of Soil

New Guinea impatiens plants like a rich, well-drained soil so you should only use very high quality, professionally prepared potting soil.

The very best choices are those that have a high perlite, vermiculite and/or peatmoss content.

These types of potting soil are more coarse and provide better drainage.

If you are planting directly into a flowerbed, be sure to prepare the soil thoroughly and work in a high percentage (30-50%) peat or compost for arability and drainage.

It is also a good idea to work some 20-20-20 dry, slow-release fertilizer into the soil before planting. Incorporate it at a rate of a pound per 100 square feet of ground.

Use the Right Amount of Soil.

When you plant or pot your New Guinea impatiens, be aware of the soil level.

It should be equal with the current level of soil in your plant’s existing pot. If you make the soil level too high, you run the risk of rotting the stem. If you make it too low, the roots will be exposed and will suffer.

Keep the Roots Cool and Protected

After you have planted or potted your New Guinea impatiens, be sure to give it a generous watering and cover the soil with mulch to protect the roots and hold the moisture in. Outdoors, mulch also helps keep the soil cool, thus reducing stress.

Protect Your Plants From Extreme Heat & Cold

Remember that your New Guinea impatiens is sensitive to sudden extremes in temperature, so don’t plant it outdoors in the heat of the day. It’s best to do your planting and transplanting in the cool, early hours of the morning or at dusk to give the plants a little time to adjust and recover without the added stress of excessive heat and sunlight.

The climate in New Guinea is tropical, so this type of impatiens is not happy outside in cold weather. Don’t set them out until after evening temperatures are reliably above 45° degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal would be to wait until evening temperatures are reliably between 55° – 65° degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temperatures are a steady 70° – 85° degrees Fahrenheit.

When the temperature climbs higher than 85° degrees Fahrenheit during the day, you may wish to add shade in the form of awnings, shade netting, and the like to protect your plants. Coddling New Guinea impatiens a bit will prevent stress and result in healthier plants with more abundant blooms and more beautiful flowers and foliage.

Watering Your New Guinea impatiens

Like Impatiens walleriana, the New Guinea variety of impatiens like daily watering. In fact, this plant is generally quite thirsty. Be careful not to allow plants to dry out and wilt frequently as this will stunt flower and foliage growth. Nonetheless, if you do occasionally forget to water, don’t despair. Even if your New Guinea impatiens plants appear to be dead, give them a good watering. Very often, this hardy, cheery variety will bounce right back from seemingly fatal dehydration.

You should keep the soil moist consistently but never soggy. Soggy soil promotes root rot. Dry soil causes plants to suffer and drop flowers and foliage. If you allow the soil to dry out multiple times, the health of the plants will suffer severely, and they will be more subject to disease and pest infestation.

Don’t spray your New Guinea impatiens, and don’t use a sprinkler. A slow drip, ground irrigation system is best. Reduce the frequency and amount of watering to suit the weather. Naturally, you will water less in cool, damp weather than in hot, dry weather. The best time to water is in the very early hours of the morning so that the plants can benefit from ample water during the sunny, warm hours of the day.

Reliable watering is of the utmost importance, so use of an automatic irrigation system is ideal. This should be set up in such a way that the ground is thoroughly soaked but the leaves are left dry. This method will help prevent fungal growth.

If your area is receiving only light rain, continue your daily watering schedule. This is especially important immediately after planting. Your New Guinea impatiens will need lots of water at first to become well established in their new home.

Feed Frequently

New Guinea impatiens are not heavy feeders, but they do need regular fertilization. Use of a long term, slow-release fertilizer mixed into the soil at the time of planting and applied as a top dressing twice a month should keep your plants happy and thriving. Some good choices in fertilizer include:

Use these products at a low-to-medium rate for best results. Excessive use can result in a rapid release of nutrients during the hottest months of the summer.

If you do not wish to use these types of products, you can use a liquid soluble plant fertilizer applied every third time you water.

Peters Classic 20-20-20 All Purpose Fertilizer, 8-Ounce


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However, this will add significantly to the time and effort you invest in the maintenance of your plants outdoors. It might be very workable for a few indoor or container plants, though.

As a caveat, if your plants have been without water for a while don’t fertilize initially. Instead, get the water needs thoroughly met and give your New Guinea impatiens a chance to recover before gradually introducing fertilizer. Fertilizing parched plants can result in burned roots.

How To Encourage More Blossoms And Fuller Growth

Generally speaking, you don’t have to deadhead New Guinea impatiens plants. They tend to drop their spent blossoms naturally to make room for fresh blossoms.

The downside of this is that they don’t tend to drop them in a symmetrical manner, so plants left to their own devices can begin looking rather unkempt. Additionally, fallen flowers can cause the development of fungal gray mold, which could kill your plants in fairly short order.

For these reasons, it’s a good idea to trim back and collect old blossoms occasionally. If your New Guinea impatiens plants are in pots or containers, you can just pick them up and gently shake off the old blossoms in an area where it will be easy for you to sweep them up and dispose of them.

New Guinea impatiens care requires little pruning. However, you may want to trim occasionally to shape and guide the plant. Additionally, if the stems of your plants are getting leggy and overgrown, which happens in partial shade, you will naturally want to correct this flaw.

Remember to always make your pruning cut just above a leaf node to promote strong, bushy growth. This will also help encourage more abundant flowering.

New Guinea Impatiens Problems: Pests And Weeds

Check your plants, planters, and flowerbed regularly for pest and weed infestation. Here are some common pests and problems you may encounter:

Various types of caterpillars may attack your impatiens. If you see big, chewed-up holes in your plants, your problem is probably caterpillars.

Deal with them by picking them off and dropping them into a bucket of soapy water.

If the infestation is heavy, apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) according to packaging instructions. Take care to identify the type of caterpillars you want to control before taking action.

Bonide Leaf Eating Worm & Moth Killer, Thuricide Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) Outdoor Insecticide/Pesticide Liquid Concentrate (8 oz.)


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Avoid killing butterfly caterpillars as butterflies are valuable pollinators. Instead, relocate them to another area. You may wish to establish a separate butterfly garden to provide an appropriate setting.

You may see small, green aphids in clusters on the tips of branches. These tiny insects secrete a sugary substance made of the sap of the plants they eat. This can form a black, sooty mold.

If you see a sticky, black substance on your plants, suspect aphids.

If caught early, simply knock aphids off plants with a strong spray from the garden hose or a natural aphid spray. If spraying with water be sure to do this on a warm, dry day to avoid encouraging fungal growth.

Take steps to encourage friendly fauna in your garden (e.g. ladybugs) to help you control your aphid problem.

You can purchase ladybugs online or possibly at a local garden center.

If you see webbing and what looks like cayenne pepper powder on the undersides of your plant leaves, you have a spider mite infestation.

Spider mites usually attack during hot, dry spells.

They leave tiny little holes in the leaves of your plants.

Lady bugs can also help you get spider mites under control as can specialized predatory mites. These can also be purchased online or at a garden center.

Unexplained wilt may be caused by fungal root rot. Fungal infestation of the roots occurs when roots do not get enough air.

If your soil is not high quality and well-drained and/or if you do not have adequate drainage holes in planters, this will be the result.

The best way to deal with fungus is to avoid it. This is why it is so important to position your plants correctly, prepare your soil well and water with care.

Video: Impatiens Dying From Downy Mildew

Enjoy Versatile, Beautiful New Guinea Impatiens Year-Round

Although it is not as frequently used as a landscaping bedding plant in mass plantings, New Guinea impatiens is actually better suited for this purpose than Elfin impatiens, which is the usual choice. This plant can thrive in a wider variety of settings than its Elfin cousin.

In containers, New Guinea impatiens makes an excellent porch or deck plant. They are especially attractive when creatively combined with other colorful annuals and perennial plants.

It also makes a nice houseplant if you have a sunny south-facing window with lots of bright sunlight. Bringing your impatiens indoors during the wintertime is a great way to protect them, brighten up your home through the dreary winter months.

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