A plant of the week – Impatiens

Impatiens     (im-PAY-shuns)

Most gardeners are familiar with ever-popular Impatiens, especially the common bedding flower types and the brightly-foliaged New Guinea impatiens.

Impatiens is one of the few plants whose botanical name is also its common name, which alludes to the way the ripe seedpods shatter when touched, scattering seed up to several feet away. Most modern hybrids don’t bear seed, but the old fashioned Balsam or Bizzy Lizzy impatiens can still be found in many cottage gardens, coming up year after year.

Impatiens originate from east Africa, and the modern bedding hybrids derive from plants first named for the Sultan of Zanzibar (Impatiens sultana), and later changed to Impatiens wallerana, to honor Horace Waller, a British missionary.

Many impatiens naturalized in Central and South America after arriving on trading ships from Africa. In 1970, a team of USDA botanists in Papua, New Guinea discovered an impatiens species with large flowers and variegated foliage. Working in conjunction with Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, they produced what is now known as the New Guinea impatiens.