Summer officially begans last week, and there are so many great plants we can grow during this season. But I really miss one that we can’t grow in the summer: annual impatiens.
I always have impatiens in my late-winter and early spring landscape. I’ve tried to oversummer some — in the same manner as we overwinter plants — in the shady areas of my garden, but this experiment is always met with bitter disappointment.
But all is not lost because I can grow SunPatiens, one of my favorite summer-flowering plants.
SunPatiens, an improvement of shade-loving, New Guinea-type impatiens, love growing in the full sun during the hottest parts of summer.
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They bloom from the time they are planted in late April or May through fall. Because of their superior landscape performance, they were chosen as a Mississippi Medallion winner in 2011.
SunPatiens seem to flaunt their brilliant flower colors and heat tolerance. SunPatiens have 15 selections available in three different growth categories: vigorous growing, compact growing and spreading.
Every year as I grow SunPatiens, I’m reminded of a much-loved plant I grew when living up north, the New Guinea impatiens. These strictly a shade-loving plants can complement their sun-loving cousins, but they are hard get in the extreme Southeast. I have problems finding them for my Ocean Spring landscape, but this spring, I found some at a big box store. They came as an unnamed series, but I didn’t care; I had my New Guineas.
The foliage of New Guinea impatiens — which as you might imagine were originally found in New Guinea — can range from dark green to bronzy reds and even variegated.
I love the flowers, which seem much more flattened than the SunPatiens and are available in a variety of colors from white to pink and magenta red. The individual flower petals have diamond-like sparkles.
New Guineas will not tolerate full sun exposure for very long. A story I like to tell about New Guinea impatiens involves a golf course I worked at during my school days. Tuesday was Ladies Day, and to celebrate, we used New Guinea impatiens in 3-gallon containers as tee markers. For the rest of the week, we had to keep the plants in the deep shade of the course nursery to recover until the next Tuesday.
It’s important to remember that SunPatiens and New Guinea impatiens require consistent moisture during the hot summer months. I use drip irrigation in my landscape beds to keep these plants happy during the heat of summer.
Plant your SunPatiens and New Guinea impatiens late in the spring for your region of Mississippi. This timing allows the root system to become established, ensuring summer tolerance before the high temperatures roll in.
Now, I realize that it’s probably too late to easily find these plants for your landscape this summer, so make a note to pick up some of these great additions for your garden and landscape next spring. The beauty of these plants will make it worth the wait.
Gary Bachman is a professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.