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Impatiens work well in shady garden areas
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Whenever someone tells me they have quite a bit of shade and want to plant flowers, I always direct them to impatiens. These tropical-looking flowers from East Africa are literally unbeatable for season-long color.
Long before we had all of the dazzling choices today, our grandparents and great-grandparents no doubt felt the same exuberance for their version called Touch-Me-Not.
When I speak of season-long color, I am talking about a really long season. In the south, that means 210 days of pure floral ecstasy if you
give them water when needed and a light application of fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks. By late September, the show of impatiens rivals the spring bloom of our beloved azalea.
If they ever look a little too leggy for your style, don't be afraid to cut them back in mid-summer to about 6 inches. They will quickly revive, sending out more foliage and flowers.
Impatiens come in literally every color you can think of except blue, although there are some great lilacs.
Then there are the rose form varieties of impatiens. As the former executive director of the American Rose Society, I love to pop a question around other members. “Would you like to have a rose that has no thorns, blooms in the shade, doesn't get powdery mildew or blackspot, needs no deadheading and blooms nonstop?” Obviously, their answer is yes, followed by a hallelujah, too.
With varieties like the Fiesta and the compact Fiesta Ole, we can have a rose garden in the shade. But there are other varieties to like such as the Double Up series.
I am presuming by now we all can agree that impatiens are unbeatable for the shade or morning sun garden. But what do we plant with them? The other day I saw a planting that was truly exceptional.
A large deck had been built out among some stately oaks. Around the deck, the soil was prepared with good, fertile planting mix. The owners had a concrete border poured and formed to fit their design. This border made the perfect edge to hold the planting mix and to keep the bed separated from turf.
In the bed were hot coral pink Lipstick impatiens with a splash of white ones. In the back of the bed was the Lime Zinger elephant ear and the unique foxtail look of the Meyersii asparagus fern.
Beds were constructed in the same manner on the sides of the home. Here the gardener chose Fiesta Ole rose form or double impatiens in both red and white and used the lime green Joseph's Coats as pocket plants.
Impatiens can really pop out a shade garden and give it definition and attention from visitors. Other great companion plants are coleus, gingers, bananas, hostas and caladiums. Caladiums that usually have variegated colors allow us to hand select matching impatiens for an extra special display.
If you are still looking for some flowers to plant in your shadier locations, then you are probably in luck as impatiens still seem to be available. Why not do it this weekend?