The “New” New Guinea Impatiens
I enjoy seeing long beds of well-maintained annual flowers. The intensity of the colors combined with the appeal of seeing hundreds of blooms at one time is hard to beat in a “winter” landscape. Unfortunately, some years ago, a really aggressive disease wiped out most of the regular impatiens that were so much a stalwart of our late fall landscape. The replacement for these tried-and-true plants was the impatiens’ larger relative, the New Guinea Impatiens (NGI).
Larger in all respects (including the price), the NGI hybrids come in richer and more brilliant colors than any flower I know. With flower sizes exceeding 3 inches, and plants that exceed 3 feet tall, this impressive plant is worthy of a prominent spot in your garden. As container plants, bedding plants and focal-point specimens, they fill many landscape needs.
NGIs like a lot of light, but not strong, late-afternoon sun. They are both thirsty and hungry, too. Fortunately, these concerns are easy to address by mixing several tablespoons of Dynamite fertilizer and equal portions of bone meal and Milorganite into the planting hole before setting. There are also nifty water-absorbing gel crystals at most big-box stores that will help stabilize and retain water in the soil area for those dry days in December. Mix these into the soil before planting, and the flowers should be well-tended with minimum fuss for several months. Pinch off the last few leaves on each branch after flowering to accelerate new flower production.
While the New Guinea Impatiens are hardly new, they have seen quite a renaissance in the last few years. They are deserving of your time and a little more attention than the old impatiens because gardens are fundamentally about change and novelty.
Craig Morell is the head horticulturist for Pinecrest Gardens. You can follow his blog “Ask the Plant Guy” at pinecrestgardenguy.blogspot.com.