Impatiens are a mounding plant with striking, cheerful blooms and lush, glossy foliage. The flowers can have single or double petals, depending on the variety, and can be white or a range of rich jewel tones in pink, purple, or red hues. Impatiens hail from tropical and subtropical mountain forests in Central America, Africa, Madagascar, southeast Asia or other areas. In their native habitat, Impatiens grow under the tree canopy, so this is why the plant prefers filtered light and damp conditions. Are Impatiens annuals or perennials is a common question, and the answer is both.
Are Impatiens a Perennial?
Impatiens are technically a perennial, but only in USDA growing zones 10 and 11. This plant is sensitive to cold weather, and it’s not a deal-breaker, but Impatiens do well in humid environments. This plant can live in drier climates, but it will need help in the form of frequent watering. The warm and humid conditions of zones 10 and 11 provide the right conditions for year-round living for Impatiens.
Can You Grow Impatiens as an Annual?
Most gardeners grow Impatiens as annuals. This plant can be grown outdoors in most areas of the U.S. after the threat of frost or chilly temperatures has passed. The general rule for planting Impatiens is to wait until Memorial Day weekend because the weather is consistently warm enough in most areas by that time. Impatiens prefer temperatures between 65 to 70F. Temperatures in the 50s push the comfort level, and the plant will die back when the temperature plummets into the 30s.
Impatiens Winter Care
In zones 10 and 11, it is possible to overwinter Impatiens outdoors. To prepare the plants for the winter, cut back growth by at least half in the fall. Make sure to use clean shears or scissors to protect against bacterial infections or fungus. Water Impatiens when the soil starts to dry out and hold off on feeding the plant if it goes dormant. Monitor the weather and cover the plants if the overnight temperature is forecast to dip below 50F.
Growing Impatiens as Houseplants
Impatiens can be brought indoors for the winter and grown as houseplants. Moving inside is the only way for Impatiens to survive the winter outside zones 10 and 11. Prepare the plant for indoor living by trimming it back in the fall while the temperatures are still somewhat warm. Trim the stems back by at least half. The stems can be cut back until they are at least 3 inches long. Make cuts at the base of each stem to promote healthy branching and full growth in the future.
If the plant is not already in a container, dig it up and transplant it into a pot. Use rich, well-draining soil, and we suggest using a pot with drainage to minimize the risk of overwatering. Place the potted Impatiens in an area that receives medium indirect light. If new growth emerges and the plant looks leggy, move it to a spot with increased light, but make sure it is still indirect. Water when the top inch of the soil feels slightly damp. Impatiens may go dormant during the winter, so do not apply fertilizer if the plant is not growing.
How to Overwinter Impatiens as Houseplants
Step 1 - Use clean shears to trim the plant back by at least half but leave stems at least 3 inches long
Step 2 - Dig Impatiens up and repot into a container with drainage
Step 3 - Move container inside and place in an area that receives indirect light
Step 4 - Water when the top layer of the soil feels slightly damp
Step 5 - Deadhead and pinch back new growth to promote branching
Step 6 - Hold off on applying fertilizer if the plant is not actively growing
Step 7 - Relocate the plant outdoors in the spring when the temperature is consistently above 55F