All about Impatiens – History, Meaning, Facts, Care & More

Impatiens is the name of a genus that includes more than 1,000 flowering plant species, which are widely distributed across the tropics and the Northern Hemisphere. The common names of these species, as known in North America, are impatiens, touch-me-not, jewelweed, patience, and snapweed. It is a beautiful annual flowering plant that makes a great houseplant and is suitable for summer bedding as well. Impatiens produce bright and colorful flowers and can be grown quite quickly.

Facts about Impatiens (Impatiens)

There are many varieties of Impatiens, of which one of the most common species include Impatiens walleriana. It consists of a series of cultivars named ‘Super Elfin,’ which is more commonly known as ‘Busy Lizzy.’ The Impatiens are a part of the balsam family. Some of the exciting facts about Impatiens are as follows –


  • The closer you keep your impatiens, the taller they will grow.
  • If exposed to too excessive water, for example, if there has been a long and dry spell, then the Impatiens might look wilted. However, they will regain their usual composure quite soon.
  • Since the Impatiens are tropical plants, they would turn into mush after the first frost arrives. However, they would be quite useful in humid weather conditions.
  • You don’t need to deadhead your Impatiens. They are self-cleaning plants that remove their spent blooms themselves and would come up with fresh blooms throughout the season.
  • Some Impatiens species have the strange capability of changing their sex. The flower remains male when they first bloom, and later, a few days after the pollen cap sheds off, they start revealing female organs.


History of Impatiens (Impatiens)

Impatiens are native to Eastern Africa. This species is among those groups of plants whose genus name is so popular that it became a familiar name. Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, human beings transported the orange jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), which originated in North America, to England, France, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, and Finland. These were later propagated to other areas like Central and Northern European countries as well. This is the reason why, for example, the Impatiens were not found in Germany until late in 1996.


The man who is responsible for the popularity of Impatiens is Claude Hope. The plant was first collected in 1865 in Zanzibar in Central Africa. Originally. The plant was named I. sultana as an honor given to the Sultan of Zanzibar, which was later revised and changed to I. walleriana, given in tribute to Horace.

Characteristic of Impatiens (Impatiens)

  • Life Cycle: Impatiens are generally annual plants; however, a few perennial species do exist.
  • Height and Width: Impatiens can grow up to a height of 10 to 16 inches, and can be about 10 to 15 inches wide.
  • Flowering Season: Spring
  • Flowers: The flowers of this species vary from white, pink, red, coral, lilac, violet, purple to yellow. Each of them is about 2-5 cm in diameter and has five petals. The plants are found in a wide variety of colors, either in single or in double blooms. While the single-bloom species generally have a flattened look, the double-bloom types have a more ruffled appearance.
  • Seeds: The flowers of Impatiens are named after their seeds, which appear impatient to escape from their pods. These pods consist of cells that are under high pressure, thus causing them to burst open, even on the slightest touch, after the pods have ripened. Impatiens have a shoot dispersal mechanism to prevent overcrowding in and around the parent plant. The seeds are shot out up to 24 inches away from the plant.
  • Foliage: The leaves of the Impatiens grow in an alternative order, the upper one being opposite to each other at times. The leaves are green or even reddish-green on either of the surfaces.


Use of Impatiens (Impatiens)

  • You can use the Impatiens either as border plants or bedding plants. You can even keep them as houseplants and plant them in containers for ornamental purposes.
  • Impatiens contain an anti-inflammatory and fungicide substance – 2-methoxy-1,4-naphthoquinone. It is an active ingredient of several medicinal formulations of Preparation H, a brand of medications by Pfizer Inc, which are used to treat hemorrhoids.
  • Some North American species are used as herbal remedies to treat insect bites, bee stings, stinging nettle rashes, and other skin issues. For example, Impatiens balsamina is useful in treating skin diseases, wounds, and torn nails. Impatiens are also used if a person came in contact with poison ivy to help prevent the development of a rash.
  • In ancient China, the petals of Impatiens were mixed with orchid and rose petals, along with alum, to use it as nail polish or hair color.


Impatiens (Impatiens) Flower Meaning

The terminology of Impatiens originates from the Latin word ‘impatiens,’ meaning ‘impatient.’ These species are so-named because the ripe seed pods of these plants can even sometimes burst open on receiving even a light touch stimulus, seeming as if these were impatient to open.


Impatiens carry a symbolic meaning of motherly love. However, in some cultures, much as the name suggests, Impatiens do represent impatience.


How to Care For Impatiens (Impatiens)

To ensure a proper growing environment for your plants, you must take care of the following –


  • Impatiens grow well in moist and well-shaded soil that is rich in humus and is well-drained too. Also, ensure that your plant is kept under good shelter from the wind.
  • Place the plants close enough, since they grow taller the closer they are to each other. If you want to plant them as flower beds, place them about 8 – 12 inches apart. This way, they will stay low to the soil.
  • Water your plants regularly and keep them moist at all times. However, you must avoid making them too wet. Don’t let the plants dry out as it will make them lose their leaves. Also, overwatering might lead to fungal diseases.
  • These plants are quite sensitive to heat. If your Impatiens are exposed to temperatures of more than 85° Fahrenheit (or 29° Celsius, they would need a minimum of 4 inches of water every week.
  • It is recommended that you must plant transplants of Impatiens after the final spring frost.
  • Before transplanting, you can mix in a slow-release fertilizer or compost at the beginning of spring to encourage the plants to grow more healthily.
  • If you plant your Impatiens in containers, such as in hanging baskets or window boxes, use the soil-less or sterile growing mixture to make sure that there is better drainage for your plants.
  • You can also trim off the top third portions of their vegetation if your Impatiens appear leggy in the late summer. This encourages your plants to emerge new blooms, thus improving their overall appearance.
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