SunPatiens are the type of flowering plants that bring joy to every part of your garden. If you have a corner and you don’t know what to grow there, SunPatiens should be your first choice. The delicate flowers and bright colors are almost too hard to resist. Whatsmore, you can grow it in a basket as a perennial indoor plant or as an annual out in the garden. In fact, the adaptable SunPatiens is the perfect landscaping solution for your beds, pots, and garden boxes. Big or small, sunny or shaded, the versatile SunPatiens grow and thrive with little maintenance on your part. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
SunPatiens at a Glance
The scientific name of SunPatiens is Impatiens hawkeri hybrid. That’s because these hardy flowers are hybrids that belong to the Balsaminaceae family. Before SunPatiens made a splash on the horticultural scene, impatiens were the favorite garden plant for hedges and borders. But impatiens downy mildew quickly made it impractical to grow them. So when a hardy and disease-resistant hybrid appeared, gardeners everywhere were eager to plant it. That hybrid is SunPatiens.
The fully-grown plant reaches 16 inches in height making it a suitable option for just about any space you want to decorate. SunPatiens have a robust root system that grows fast and can grow either in the full sun or partial shade. Thanks to its high resistance to heat, it is widely grown in the southern parts of the US from Florida to California.
The flowers appear between May and September and they’re often compared to a burst of colors in your garden. It’s important to point out here that SunPatiens is a trademark name that belongs to the Japanese company Sakata Seed Corporation that developed this hybrid from ‘New Guinea’ Impatiens.
As with all hybrids, they don’t come in a single package. Amateur horticulturalists always are on the lookout for new varieties and improvements either in features of appearances of the current species. This is exactly what happened here with SunPatiens. As a result, you have at least 3 varieties to choose from with more on the way.
- SunPatiens Compact: They resist heat and humidity so well, you won’t have to worry about them in the hot summer months out in the garden. They grow to up to 32 inches high and 24 inches wide if they have enough space and nutrients. Common names include Compact Coral and Compact Orchid. They don’t mind the full sun and are suited for garden boxes and containers.
- SunPatiens Spreading: When you have plenty of space and want to cover it with bright colors, this variety is the go-to option. Fully grown they reach about 36 inches high and the same in width. So you’ll need to plant them apart to allow them enough space to spread out. They also grow well in the full sun or partial shade, unlike the original impatiens. The best commercial names to look for are Spreading Clear White and Spreading Shell Pink.
- SunPatiens Vigorous: A hardy variety that not only can withstand the harsh sun and high humidity, it also has strong stems that don’t snap easily in strong winds. This makes them ideal for parks and municipalities where they serve as a backdrop for more prominent plants. However, since they have aggressive roots, they don’t work well with less hardy plants that can’t handle fierce competition over nutrients. They grow for up to 30 inches wide and 32 inches tall with a unique V shape.
How to Grow SunPatiens
Don’t let the fact that you’re dealing with hybrids put you off planting SunPatiens yourself. Whether you buy them at the nursery or plant them on your own, the process is usually simple. And you can go about in either of two ways.
Once you have a fully grown SunPatiens that you’re comfortable with and want to keep growing, you might want to grow new plants out of it. Rather than take a gamble on seeds or new plants from the nursery, why not use cuttings from the current plant? Just keep in mind that since this is a patented plant, you should only use cuttings for your own use and not to sell them.
The only tricky part of using cuttings is how to get the moisture right. After you plant them in the right flower potting mix, you need to keep the moisture in the soil steady. If you let the soil go dry, the plant will not grow, if you overwater it, the stems become elongated and you get fewer flowers out of them. The rule of thumb here is to wait until the topsoil is dry before you irrigate the plants. You’ll know that it needs water when the leaves droop a little or looked slightly wilted.
Another way to grow new plants from the same SunPatiens that you love is to let it make seeds, collect those seeds, and plant them in new pots or flowerbeds. Unlike other seeds that need soil, SunPatiens seeds need light first and foremost. So don’t cover them with soil. Rather, sprinkle them on top of the pot or garden box. You can also start them indoors in a pot then transplant the seedlings to their permanent spot in the garden later.
However, since this is a new plant we’re talking about here, you shouldn’t expect the new plants to carry the same genetic qualities as their parents. For one thing, neither the flowering nor heat and humidity resistance are guaranteed to be the same with the children SunPatiens. This is a hybrid after all and different hybrids might have been used to produce it. So don’t take anything for granted and keep an eye out for variations in care and maintenance needs.
The same thing applies to SunPatiens care. With so many hybrids in the market, it’s not easy to tell how much sun, humidity, and moisture your plant needs. You’ll have to work on each SunPatiens as if it was a new plant. Generally speaking the main areas of care you need to pay attention to are the following.
As a hardy hybrid that was developed to thrive both in hot and less than moderate temperatures, you have plenty of leeway when it comes to the weather conditions. Reportedly, SunPatiens can grow in temperatures as low as 32 degrees or as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit. But that doesn’t mean that you should grow it in these extreme conditions. For best flowering results, make sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 40 degrees or exceed 95 degrees F. Since the cells of the plant keep water, cold temperatures can freeze this water and kill the plant.
This is where SunPatiens truly shines. You will hardly need to prune it if ever. The plant takes care of itself in just about every way and does its own grooming. However, occasionally you might need to cut away a damaged branch, untangle a few entwined branches or leaves, and get rid of infections. Pay attention to wilted flowers. Pluck them regularly to send a signal to the plant to grow new flowers in their place.
Pests and Diseases
While known for their disease-resistant qualities, from time to time, your SunPatiens will attract the occasional aphids or stray spidery mite. These parasites are common in every garden but that doesn’t mean you should get complacent about them. Manually pick them off one by one and dispose of them safely.
Other common pests that attack SunPatiens leaves are slugs. They make holes in the leaves which ruins the aesthetics of the plant and if left untreated, slugs could kill the plant. Also, be on the lookout for caterpillars that feast on the leaves whole. Look for the caterpillar hiding under the leaf and drown it in a bucket of water.
As for diseases, SunPatiens are notoriously immune to downy mildew which had decimated its parent the impatiens in many gardens before. But you should be wary of root rot and stem rot which are often caused by a fungus infection. The fungus often spreads in poorly drained soil or when the leaves are wet. So avoid spraying the leaves with water when you irrigate the plant. Always aim to the soil to keep the leaves dry and prevent the spread of this fungus.
Winter Care for SunPatiens
While they are hardy annuals when grown outdoors, there’s no guarantee that your SunPatiens will survive a particularly frigid winter. This is why many horticulturalists recommend you grow SunPatiens in pots and containers outdoors. When the weather turns cold, you can bring them inside to protect them and improve their survival. But what if you already have them in beds?
Well, you can try to uproot them and transplant them into pots or containers. It’s a delicate process and the chances of success are not optimal. Since the roots are sensitive and tend to spread out, make sure to dig the plant with as much of the root system intact as possible. Place the plant in a pot filled with a suitable potting mix then water it. Trim the leaves back by about one third to help the plant preserve its energy and nutrients. Finally, keep it by a window that gets plenty of light or in a room with fluorescent lights on.
As for watering, you should cut it down to a minimum during the winter months. Once every two weeks or even once a month should be ideal. Remember, the plant doesn’t need much water since it’s dormant and you wouldn’t want to cause root rot by irrigating it too often.