Sunpatiens: New and Improved Impatiens!

When something we love and rely on is improved, we naturally want to learn more about it. Sunpatiens are the vibrant offspring of their predecessor, impatiens, which generations of gardeners have loved. This latest plant iteration offers new opportunities for the sunny spots in our gardens and has solved many of our long-standing problems. Allow me to introduce you to the remarkable benefits of this beautiful flowering plant.

  • Long Bloom Period-three seasons of color, spring to fall. (For us in South Florida-fall, winter, spring.)
  • Sunpatiens are the first and only impatiens to thrive in sun. Use them in sun, part sun and shade. (Expect fewer flowers in shade.)
  • Size-they are larger and more dense than any other impatiens.
  • Disease resistant-note the thick leaves and petals, they are the most resistant of impatiens varieties.
  • Use them anywhere beds, containers, window boxes, hanging baskets.
  • Low maintenance-less deadheading, trimming, easy care.

What to Expect From Sunpatiens

Sunpatiens are an all-new version of Impatiens and they are improved in ways you can benefit from in your garden. We have all loved using impatiens in our gardens and containers but there have been predictable problems; usability in limited light conditions and mildew diseases are among the leading issues.

Our new plant is a cultivar, a variety of plant created by selective breeding. You write a cultivar this way: Impatiens x hybrida ‘Sunpatiens.’ This is a new and patented plant.

what to expect from Sunpatiens
  • Sunpatiens are Versatile: Plant them anywhere! They will thrive effortlessly for you in sun or shade. Success in the sun is a major improvement and helps make them the most adaptable group members.
  • They Have A Long Blooming Season: In most plant hardiness zones these are long blooming annuals. Plant in spring and pull them up when frost comes. In zones 9b and warmer they are considered perennials. In Central Florida, we appreciated the same plants for over 2-3 years. Here in South Florida during our humid summers, we consider them three-season annuals.
  • Sunpatiens will continue to branch and constantly flower and the flowers themselves are bigger!
  • Rich Assortment of Abundant Bloom colors: Consider your garden beds a blooming canvas. Plant your beds, borders, and containers in your desired style and color. I create new colors and styles with them in places needing the vivid and daily colors that annual bedding plants will produce.
  • Hardiness: These plants are the most vivid, and more dense, the flowers are larger and the branching fuller than we ever expected before their arrival. They last longer.
  • While they perform best with regular water; unlike other impatiens, they will not lose their blooms if you miss a watering. The best of us make mistakes and these plants have saved me a few times!

Sunpatiens has emerged as an important asset in the color garden by bridging the gap between long tradition and innovation in flowering plants.

How We Got These Brilliant New Improved Impatiens

To understand the synergy that brings nature and science together and produces better versions of plants we love, it helps to understand a little history. Here’s how we got where we are.

How we got these new and improved Supatiens

In 1840, famed explorer, David Livingstone, embarked on his quest to find the head of the Nile River. Accompanying him were a few men including British Churchman, Horace Waller. They expected to hunt for new and exotic plants to bring home to Kew Gardens.

Impatiens

  • Among the plant life collected was a small flowering plant they thought had promise. They would later name it Impatiens walleriana after Waller. (Livingstone and Waller were well known for their efforts to end the slave trade.) They brought it back to Kew Gardens; from which it was distributed around the world.

Impatiens quickly became a garden favorite and were loved by gardeners everywhere. My mother used them for spring through fall color in her New England Garden. I used them in all of the gardens my family and I created too. We understood their limitations as shade-only plants and used them wherever we could.

New Guinea Impatiens

  • A more practical alternative appeared with the discovery of New Guinea Impatiens, with more dramatic color richer foliage, and far better flexibility in planting. From the beginning, this version of Impatiens charmed the horticultural world.

A Big Setback

  • A step backward was the arrival of Impatiens Downy Mildew, a devastating version of a known fungal disease. Beginning in the early 2000’s the disease arrived in the US and significantly damaged the impatiens crops. This was a huge disappointment and gardeners like me sought alternatives and were never satisfied. A plant that provided mounding forms, good branching, and scores of flowers was hard to give up.

Finally, A Solution

In 2006 the Japanese plant developer, Sakata, a global leader in plant production introduced ‘Sunpatiens’ a cross between Impatiens walleriana and Impatiens hawkeri the New Guinea Impatiens. Growers develop such crosses in the hope of creating a plant that combines the best of both original parents. This time it appears to have worked!

Here are features you can expect:

  • Disease Resistance: Sunpatiens have proved hardier and importantly, brushed aside the diseases that destroyed other impatiens.
  • Planting Choices: You have free rein in using this plant, sun, or shade, it grows beautifully.
  • Sunpatiens have sturdy stems that tolerate heat, humidity, and stormy weather. They offer short internodes (the stem between the nodes of branches) which means more branches and flowers per stem.
  • Robust and Lush: Sunpatiens are long-lasting, are dense, fully branched, and bloom in a rich variety of colors.
  • You can choose from three distinct forms:
  • Compact Series: dense, fully branched, with short internodes, producing multiple flowers. The plant will reach 16-30” High and 14-20″ Wide.
  • Spreading Series: With a mounding, trailing habit are 24-30″ High.
  • Vigororous Series: Vase shaped is the Highest, at 30-36″.

What We Can Do With Sunpatiens Color

Take advantage of the wide range of colors and the larger, denser blooms, as well as the long season to create a dramatic design in your garden beds and container. This image is a planting bed we develop twice per year. Sunpatiens allow us to produce different looks in the same space.

What we can do with Supatiens color

Go through these photos for more ideas to use the wonderful colors.

How To Grow Your Sunpatiens

Select Carefully

Follow the basic procedures you will use for impatiens and most annuals. When you shop, look for dense, bushy plants with loads of buds. (An occasional open blossom will show you you have the color you want.) There should not be holes in the leaves, a sign of insect infection, and the foliage should be a healthy shade of green. The soil should be moist but not soggy.

Planting Your Sunpatiens

Certainly! Here’s an improved version of your gardening advice:

  1. Mark out Your Planting Locations: Before you start planting, mark the spots where you’ll place your sunpatiens. Consider the overall layout and spacing to ensure a visually appealing garden.
  2. Spacing for Sunpatiens: Unlike the original impatiens, sunpatiens can be planted farther apart. Aim for a spacing of 14-18 inches between each sunpatiens plant. This wider spacing accommodates their vigorous growth and allows them to thrive without crowding.
  3. Benefits of Wider Spacing: By giving sunpatiens more room, you’ll achieve several benefits:
    • Vigorous Growth: Sunpatiens will flourish and become more robust.
    • Larger and Denser Plants: With enough space, they’ll develop into lush, full plants.
    • Cost Savings: By covering the same area with fewer plants, you’ll save on the number of sunpatiens needed.
  4. Long Beds and Borders: If you’re planting in long beds or along borders, this spacing strategy becomes even more advantageous. You’ll notice the savings while enjoying thriving garden.

Plant in organically improved soil at the same depth as the pot the plant came in. Recycle your plastic grower pots. The ‘Big Box stores are generous about recycling your pots for you.

Light Conditions For Growing Your Sunpatiens

Grow these plants in:

  • full sun (6+hours per day),
  • in partial sun (4-6 hours per day)
  • partial shade (3-4 hours of sun)
  • and even full shade (less than three hours per day of direct sun). My South Florida garden is in zone 10, at the Tropic of Cancer, the northernmost place where the sun is directly overhead at noon! I like to give my sunpatiens some afternoon shade to avoid wilting. If your sunpatiens wilt on hot afternoons, water will solve the problem.
  • In full shade you may notice fewer blooms than in any of the other areas.
  • If your planting bed lies in an area that includes various sun conditions you can use the same plants throughout.

How to Water Your Sunpatiens

Water the flowers as soon as you plant and fertilize your new beds or container gardens. During the growing period, water when the surface and one to two inches of soil is dry. Morning is the best time to water, if you have a choice. These beds are a great place for drip systems as they water the plants but not the foliage.

You will notice that sunpatiens require less water than original varieties of impatiens. Let the garden conditions guide you. In hot summer days you will water daily.

Soil for Sunpatiens

Wherever you garden sunpatiens will grow for you. Soil from sand to clay will work for sunpatiens. Amend your soil with organic matter.

Mulch

Adding mulch to your beds will preserve water, control the soil temperature, and reduce weeds. Just remember to keep the mulch from touching the plant stems which can transmit disease.

You will find that these plants cope well with humidity.

Fertilizer for Sunpatiens

Fertilize sparingly, use one-half strength, and less frequently, you can add liquid fertilizer about every two or three weeks and use slow-release, dry fertilizers about every four months.

Growing Sunpatiens in Containers

Containers are a perfect use for sunpatiens, use a quality potting mix, and utilize pots with large draining holes. Grow sunpatiens by themselves or with companion plants in pots of all sizes, windowboxes, and hanging baskets.

Containers require more water than plants in the ground. In the heat of summer you may water daily.

Pests and Diseases

Early morning or evening when you have time to concentrate on your flowers are the best times to look for signs of trouble.

  • Pests include spider mites, aphids or thrips. Look through the leaves, turning them over. The first signs of these infestations will show up on the bottoms of the leaves. If you see the tiny creatures or eggs, remove the most infested leaves, damaged leaves and wash the foliage with a spray of water.
  • Use an insecticide soap if needed.

If you need help using insecticidal soaps try this instruction from Clemson University.

Using Sunpatiens And Other Annuals In The Garden

Sunpatiens are Superior Pollinators

Note the long neck below the flower, this is convenient for pollinators with a long proboscis.

Sunpatiens and other improved annual plants will provide beauty, solve problems, and help you make long-term decisions about your garden.

  • They will give you all day, every day, color.
  • You can design your garden to have a new look every season.
  • You can cover bare spots, and make them assets quickly.
  • Experiment with new designs in color and form.
  • Attract pollinators.

Enjoy the benefits of annual color in your garden this season.

“To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.”

-Winston Churchill