I was recently surprised to see a display of large and vigorous impatiens plants, looking so robust that I had to check their tags to be sure I wasn’t mistaken. They were SunPatiens, a new strain of New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) that has been bred with wild impatiens species to produce hybrid plants with an impressive list of assets. SunPatiens thrive in full sun to part shade, bloom from spring to frost, have three-inch (8-cm) wide flowers, and come in a broad range of pastel and vivid colours and foliage designs. They’re also highly resistant to downy mildew and will tolerate heat. SunPatiens could be the answer to all our impatiens woes, since traditional impatiens (I. walleriana) was massively struck with a debilitating water mould infection.
The downy mildew disease (Plasmopara obducens) decimating I. walleriana has reduced their availability in nurseries, leaving gardeners with limited choices and in the lurch. The infection is brought into gardens on infected nursery plants, and is untreatable once it appears on foliage. The disease spores can overwinter in garden soil, and will infect the next season’s plants.
If you’ve grown traditional impatiens in the past couple of years, you would probably recognize the midsummer symptoms: wilting or drooping light yellow or stippled foliage; a fluffy white coating on leaf undersides; and blossoms and leaves dropping off, leaving bare stems that eventually collapse. [How to monitor for downy mildew disease.]
Impatiens have long been shade garden workhorses, bringing brilliant colour and generous flowers to areas where little else blooms. Frequently, impatiens were used as carpet-bedding plants, with dozens of flats purchased to cover expansive ground areas. That over-use may have been the tipping point on the virulent disease that’s now mowing down standard garden impatiens. The monoculture created by hundreds of plants growing shoulder-to-shoulder in many parks and gardens set the stage for swift replication of disease spores that have continued to live in infected soils.
The progression of improved impatiens plant breeding has been accomplished quite quickly over the past two decades. First, we had the standard impatiens (I. walleriana) that excels mostly in shade to part shade and cooler temperatures. New Guinea impatiens (I. hawkeri) arrived, with larger flowers, brightly variegated foliage and ability to accept more sun, though not a hot, full-sun location. Now we have SunPatiens, which will accept both part shade to full sun, tolerates heat and humidity, has strong disease resistance, and carries the largest flowers of all. It seems SunPatiens is the right plant, at the right time. They won’t be the solution for full shade, but are certainly the best impatiens for part shade to full sun. [Editor’s note: In Garden Making’s 15 new plants for 2012 we included SunPatiens Carmine Red.]
I selected white SunPatiens with green foliage, because I’ve been looking for a plant with consistent white presence for the growing season. I’ve put them into a full sun bed with mostly purple and red salvia, penstemon and butterfly bushes. The blazing white flowers are the largest I’ve ever seen on impatiens, and it looks like the plants will be consistently loaded with buds and blooms. They were also available with fancy yellow-and-green variegated foliage, but that was a bit more colour excitement than I need. A look at the breeder’s web site (sunpatiens.com) shows a full palette of flower colours, and I particularly covet the coral and electric orange selections.
Breeders of SunPatiens have one more trick up their sleeves: the plants come in three sizes. My variety is in the compact category (24 x 24 inches / 60 x 60 cm), which is upright and fits well into a bed with perennials. There are also varieties with a spreading, mounding habit (30 x 36 inches / 75 x 90 cm) to fill hanging baskets or bed areas, and a vigorous form (40 x 40 inches / 100 x 100 cm) that grows into an upright vase-shape. The plants are self-cleaning, and like all impatiens, require consistently moist soil.
Here is one small secret to seal the deal on SunPatiens impatiens: they root rapidly from cuttings. Cuttings set thick root clusters, and give you a few new plants to take inside to a sunny window and enjoy over winter.
Enough said. Get some.
My white sunpatiens have black/brown spots on the blooms, not the leaves, just the blooms. What could be causing this?
PJ Hargrove-Bonfield says
My sun patients are vigorous! They do have what I call “bleaching” on the pink ones. Just FYI. They must be watered from that bottom. Water on blossoms ruins them. Mine are in shade and some in full sun. So vigorous I’m thinking I have to cut them back. We are in a drought where I live over 100 degrees every day. Cool nights. I use Miracle Gro Bloom Booster as a fertilizer. They are spectacular to the point people stop to take a look!
Hi there ! I recently planted sunpatients ! They were doing soooo amazing then they started wilting , and leaves were turning brown and almost burnt looking (crispy) and falling off. Also my blooms were becoming discolored and the hit pink has white splotches ! I was watering one a day in the early morning. What is the issue you think ? And what should I do ?
Nancy Duvall says
Did you get an answer? My sunpatiens are doing the same thing.
Beckie Fox says
Are you certain you have SunPatiens and not the traditional impatiens? Regular impatiens can suffer from downy mildew, while SunPatiens is immune to this. Symptoms of downy mildew include a white powdery coating on the leaves and leaf curl. If you still have the plant tags, check to see what you have. Other factors affecting your plants may be due to the incredibly dry, hot, humid weather we’ve been having (at least in Southern Ontario). This can stress container plants.
How long is it supposed to take for the plants to start to “look healthy” after planting? I put some in the ground 2 weeks ago and they haven’t done much- in fact look a little worse.
My flowers are blooming great. I have red and white in a long flower box. It gets sun and shade. It’s been in the upper 80’s to lower 90’s . I’m trying to watch how much I water. That’s tends to be my issue, I over water. My problem my white flowers have brown around the outline of them. Now I’ve seen this when white flowers fade to die. But this as soon as they bloom out. Kinda the way a dogwood looks. The red ones are fine. Seems if it was something I was doing or a fungus the red would be affected as well. Thanks if anyone has an answer.
I paid 90.00 bucks total on Sun patients and some are wilty? And I’m watering them like I should can anyone tell me why this is happening?
Make sure the soil PH is correct, and don’t water them so frequently.
White specks are on some of the flowers,what might be causing this?
Could be White Fly.
Geneva Smith says
My SunPatients have healthy foilage but are not blooming profusely like they were. Have fertilized but have few blooms. What causes this and what do I need to go to correct problem?
Dan Brandon says
I planted an entire Sunpatiens east facing bed under a large tree hoping they would survive the N Texas August heat. I purchased 40 large white plantsm some from catalog and some from local nursery. They looked great through early summer but one week of over 100 degrees did them in. Some just melted and others lost their leaves as bad as Impatiens.
Is N Texas just too hot? Do they need less shade(they got filtered sunlight)?
I would like to try them next year but not if they perform like this again and I have no idea why they performed poorly.
Gregory zeigler says
I like to know the answer to that i stay in fla im having the same problems but they say the flowers love heat & humidity well they got it here in fla that heat did a job on them plants i had to dig them up they looked so bad.
I also had this problem in hot South Florida. They were doing great in the hot summer and then a couple months after planing (still in hot summer), they just started shriveling up and dying. Had to pull them all out.
Debra Connor says
Me too in Key West
Abby Raber says
Having the same issue in Nashville. Just planted them and a 75 and sunny day made them droop and look sad!
Dennis Pulisi says
It is the beginning of August in Amherst, NY (Buffalo) and some of my compact SunPatiens in urns (planted by a reputable nursery and left in nursery pots) have developed mildew-colored leaves, have lost foliage and flowers, have wilted and died. I have cared for them as in previous years, when they thrived until the first frost. I know this has occurred with regular impatiens but not with SunPatiens. What is the problem, and how can I prevent this from happening in the future.
Im a grounds keeper on a beautiful property, I planted over 300 sunbathers, compact and vigorous and im having the same issue they are planted in groups and one will start to get yellow leaves and leaves and flowers wilt then the leaves fall off and stems droop to the ground ( all plants around will look perfectly healthy) I will cut it to the ground do and the plants on either side will start doing the same thing…like whatever is going on is spreading…I would like to continue to plant sunbathers next year but I’m concerned about what’s going on with them…PLEASE HELP
I got 16 sunpatince plants in the ground and a few plants (So far )the leaves are turning yellow
It gets about 6 hours of hot Myrtle Beach SC sun a day I water every morning Do you know what the problem is
Beckie Fox says
Hi Tom, Garden Making is a Canadian-based magazine and website, which means I’m not familiar with growing conditions in South Carolina. My guess is that there might be a nutrient deficiency. Perhaps staff at the garden centre where the Sunpatiens plants were purchased would have some advice for you.
My sunpatiens have white on the flowers Do you know what is happening.
Heather White says
Hi Chris, We can pose the question to an expert. Can you provide a bit more information? Do you mean white coloration as opposed to, say, a mildew? Thanks for your interest.