Though I plant SunPatiens every year, I still go through “shock and awe” with their color and performance. Just think — more than 150 days ago we planted several gallon-containers of Compact Orange that were dazzling the moment they entered the ground. That was mid-April, and now they are just over waist high with no signs of letting up.
Though they have been available for several years it is apparent the public still hasn’t tried them. Throughout the week I look out my window and watch the looks of amazement in visitors’ eyes. This planting has become the photo hotspot of the garden. In this particular bed we have them flanking a fairly large red Abyssinian banana, with King Tut papyrus and upright alocasia elephant ears. It seems these are also a favorite nectaring site for the yellow sulphur butterflies, adding to the delight of visiting children.
In another area, we have planted the variegated spreading salmon SunPatiens with more King Tut papyrus, and the iridescent blue violet blooming Tibouchina, or princess flower, for a stunning display. The mushroom or layered shape and texture of these SunPatiens are most picturesque.
Lastly, in front of the 1890s farmhouse that serves as our headquarters, we also have a bed of Vigorous Pink SunPatiens with the purple Adessa Angelonia and the wonderful groundcover-like Illumina scoparia with its hundreds of tiny yellow flowers.
There are so many combinations and possibilities awaiting the adventurous gardener that the landscape becomes a true form of art.
The downy mildew disease that has now run rampant though regular impatiens has not become an issue with SunPatiens, so there is no worry for the gardener. There is one worry, however, and that is just making sure you get yours next spring.
The day you see the color you want at your favorite garden center is the day to buy, because the next day will be too late.
The SunPatiens series now boasts 18 riveting choices so there are surely two or three you will want to repeat around the garden. There are those considered compact, though they will still get quite large; and spreading or vigorous, which are like racehorses.
While SunPatiens look great in the landscape, the compact and the spreading selections also open the possibilities for floral containers or baskets that will look amazing all season as long as they are watered and fed.
SunPatiens will fit any landscape style you might consider, from the tropical to the traditional — and even grandma’s cottage garden. You could not dream of a better plant to grow in front of the old-fashioned white picket fence.
Though the SunPatiens are rock solid, performing all summer in the heat and humidity, these are in no way xeriscape-type plants; they will need water.
When I was with Mississippi State University we had them on raised beds and used a drip system. Now at the Columbus Botanical Garden, we have them growing in beds amended with an organic rich planting mix, and watered as needed.
Our SunPatiens season will wind down and we will transition to the cool season landscape, but you have to admit 150-175 days of breathtaking beauty is very good value for your gardening purchase. Be sure to include them next year in your garden too.
Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus, Ga., and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden.”