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Impatiens: the easy garden show-off.

For 25 years a garden mainstay, it's now number one bedding plant

DOES ANYONE NEED an introduction to the flower producer shown here? It's Impatiens wallerana, now the top-selling bedding plant in America. It does everything well and asks little. This month, in recognition of its 25th year of popularity (before that, it was relatively obscure), we tell of nine kindnesses that these shade-loving plants and the gardeners who tend them have come to expect from each other spring through fall.

Selection. Today you can choose from numerous strains and series, shades of every color except yellow and true blue, single and double flowers from the size of a dime to that of a silver dollar, and plants 8 to 20 inches high. Buy them by the color and size you want rather than by name; different growers often give different names to plants that are essentially the same.

Landscape use. Single-flowered kinds make the biggest splash in beds and borders. Double-flowered kinds aren't as showy en masse; plant them in pots. Both kinds combine well with begonias, ferns, fuchsias, and hydrangeas.

How much midsummer shade? Give them a minimum of 2 hours on the coast, 6 in inland valleys, 8 to 10 in the mountains and deserts.

Spacing. Plant dwarf varieties about 6 inches apart, big guys 12 inches apart. Adjoining plants of different varieties and heights always manage to develop into an unbroken, softly contoured leaf-and-flower surface.

Pests. Aphids and mites have been recorded; use diazinon. Snails use impatiens as daytime dormitories and can feed on seedlings.

Fertilizing. Feed often enough to keep plants vigorous, plump, and sassy; use a complete fertilizer. Plot intervals according to how long vigor continues after each application. In frost-free climates where impatiens will grow year-round, reduce or eliminate feeding in winter.

Watering. If a tree supplies the needed shade, its roots may steal moisture; water extra there. In containers or in the ground, timely watering recovers drooping impatiens.

Seed heads. Petals fall to reveal seed pods shaped like little footballs. When ripe, they'll burst in your hand with a muscular twitching motion you don't expect from the plant kingdom. Self-scattered seeds of single-flowered varieties sprout and grow if soil is wet enough.

Cutting back. It's a tonic. Any time during the growing season, you can cut back impatiens as close as 6 inches from the ground. New growth emerges in a few days; flowers cover it in two weeks.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Imaptiens wallerana
Author:Williamson, Joseph F.
Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:407
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