Impatiens: busy Lizzie
Height 15-60cm (6-24in)
Planting distance 30cm (12in)
Flowersto mid autumn
Fertile well-drained but moisture retentive
Sunny or lightly shaded site
Busy Lizzies are popular house plants, but introductions of robust F1 hybrids have encouraged gar-deners to use them for summer bedding, window-boxes, tubs and hanging baskets.
Here they can be relied upon to produce a mass ofin shades of red, pink and white throughout the summer. Combined with the small leaves they form an attractive ground carpet.
Numerous hybrids have been developed from Impatiens walleriana, including the following:
‘Accent Formula’ is up to 15cm (6in) high, spreading and with large flowers. Seeds are available in single or mixed colours of white, pink, salmon, crimson and violet-purple.
‘Blitz Orange’ bears large, plentiful flowers in warm orange; the plants grow 23-30cm (9-12in) high.
‘Double Confection Mixed’ grows 23-30cm (9-12in) high, with semi or fully double flowers in a range of colours.
‘Expo Mixed’ produces vigorous but compact plants, 20cm (8in) high, in a mixture of colours, often bicoloured.
‘Eye-Eye’ grows only 15cm (6in) high but is smothered with pastel-coloured flowers, all with a contrasting eye.
‘Firelake Mixed’, 30-45cm (12-18in) tall, has 5cm (2in) wide flowers in a mixture of colours set among foliage variegated dark red, green, white or cream.
‘Futura Mixed’ has brightly coloured flowers and a pendulous habit, making it an excellent choice for hanging baskets. The plants reach 20-30cm (8-12in) high. The flowers come in the typical busy Lizzie colours – reds, oranges, pinks and white – either plain or striped.
‘King Kong Mixed’ has large flowers coming in a mixture of reds, pinks, oranges and whites. The plants are particularly bushy and reach 23-30cm (9-12in) high.
‘Mega Orange Star’ is 20-25cm (8-10in) high and weather resistant. The orange-red flowers have prominent white star markings.
‘Novette Mixed’ carry big bright red, pink and orange flowers early in the summer. The plants reach just 15-20cm (6-8in) high.
‘Novette Star Formula’ is a bicoloured mixture of bright red, orange, rose-pink and violet.
‘Pastel Mixed’ is a mixture of dwarf plants (23-30cm/9-12in high), bearing flowers in coral, pink, salmon and white.
‘Picotee Swirl’ grows to 25cm (10in) tall and is early-flowering; the white to soft-rose flowers haveedges to the petals.
‘Spectra Mixed’ is about 30cm (1ft) high, with white, pink, lilac and carmine-red flowers and variegated foliage in cream or bronze.
‘Starbright’ has spectacularly large bicoloured flowers in shades of orange, pink, rose and violet. Plants grow 15-20cm (6-8in) high.
‘Super Elfin’ strains grow 20-25cm (8-10in) high and are available as mixtures or single colours.
‘Tango’ bears large deep orange flowers amid bronze-green foliage. Plants are up to 38cm (15in) high.
‘Tempo’, up to 25cm (10in) tall, is of branching and pendulous habit; available in seed mixtures and single colours of white, blush-pink, apricot, reds and lavender.
Impatiens balsamina, otherwise known as rose balsam, has pale green lance-shaped leaves and pink flowers from early summer until early autumn. It reaches 75cm (2-1/2ft) high, and looks most effective in bedding schemes. Two popular varieties have been developed from it.
‘Camellia-flowered’ has white, pink, rose and scarlet flowers resembling those of a camellia. The plant has a spreading habit and reaches 40-70cm (16-28in) high.
‘Tom Thumb Mixed’ has double blooms in shades of red, carmine-pink, salmon-pink, coral and white. The dwarf plants reach just 20-30cm (8-12in) high and are drought-resistant.
Sow seeds in pots or pans of seed compost under glass in early spring, at a temperature of 16-18°C (61-64°F). When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick out into boxes, and then into 7.5cm (3in) containers of potting compost. Harden off and plant out in late spring to early summer, setting them 30cm (12in) apart.
Give busy Lizzies a site in sun or light shade with fertile, well-drained but moist soil.
Pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushy growth.
Busy Lizzies can also be grown from 7.5-10cm (3-4in) long cuttings of tips on vigorous shoots between summer and early autumn. Root at a temperature of 16°C (61°F). When they have rooted, prick them singly into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Harden off before planting out.
Pests and diseases
Aphids may infest leaves and stems, weakening the plants.