Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) rank among the top ten most popular annuals in the United States. This is because they are colorful, dependable plants which bloom steadily all summer. However, their biggest attraction is that they flourish in light shade. So if you have a shady area and you love color, try impatiens.
The most familiar type of impatiens is the common one, sometimes called Busy Lizzie or Patience Plant. There is also a type called New Guinea Impatiens and another called Balsam Impatiens. Impatiens of all kinds are extremely sensitive to the cold. They thrive in warm weather, but their fleshy, succulent stems and tender foliage can not stand even the lightest frost. They die when the first frost comes in autumn and will not come back next year.
Size: Most common impatiens seedlings purchased at the garden center, hardware store or home center will grow to be about 8 to 12 inches tall, depending on their variety, planting location and soil condition. There are some compact hybrid forms as short as 6 to 8 inches tall, and those called “dwarf type” run 10 to 12 inches tall.
Foliage: Impatiens foliage is typically smooth and medium green. However, some types have variegated green and white leaves. Leaves are shaped like fat tear drops, tapering to a point at the ends. Their edges are gently toothed.
Flowers: Individual blossoms measure from 1 to 2 inches across and they bloom at the ends of short stems near the leaf tips. Blossoms come in many colors including red, maroon, purple, pink, white, orange, salmon and mauve. Some have "eyes", or centers of contrasting colors. Others have a bi-color star pattern of white centers and rays out to the tips of the petals. The petals of some newer types, called "picotee", are edged in pink.