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Impatiens: Made in the Shade : Impatiens: Made in the Shade

If you're thinking pink, a new collection of the popular bedding plants are available to brighten your garden.

July 03, 1999|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

They're the best-selling bedding plant, and they show no signs of waning in their popularity.

Though you see impatiens (I. wallerana) often, it's hard to tire of their cheerful, colorful flowers and rich green foliage.

Shade-lovers, impatiens light up dark corners where most flowers would falter. They grow readily in beds, containers and hanging baskets.

Perhaps best of all, impatiens tend to bloom just about year-round in Southern California's mild climate, says Keith Muraoka at Goldsmith Seeds, a Gilroy wholesale hybridizer and distributor of bedding plants.

This summer, Goldsmith is selling an exclusive blend of pink impatiens known as the Accent Miracle Collection. All participating retailers selling these impatiens are donating a minimum of 10% of the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

There are impatiens in single and double-flower forms. The double flowers look like miniature roses, but they tend not to flower as much as the single flower forms, which create continuous masses of vibrant color.

Impatiens come in shades of red, pink, white, lavender, violet and orange in solid and bicolor patterns. Older varieties tend to reach 2 feet, but most of the newer hybrids are low-growing at just 6 to 8 inches in height.

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Keep the following tips in mind when growing impatiens:

* They need full shade to partial sun. Along the coast, they can be planted in some sun. Inland they need almost a full day of shade.

* Place in-ground plants in rich, well-draining soil. Amend clay soil by 50% with homemade or bagged compost. Containerized impatiens should be planted in a potting mix that is heavy on peat moss. Mix two-thirds potting soil with one-third peat moss.

* Never let impatiens dry out between waterings, but don't keep them constantly soggy. Water when the first inch of soil is approaching dryness.

* Keep the plants bushy and healthy by fertilizing every two to four weeks with a well-balanced fertilizer.

* Impatiens can be grown from established plants, seed and cuttings, although seeds are difficult to get up because they require high heat. Cuttings are fairly easy to grow when the weather is warm. Make sure to keep them moist and protected while rooting is taking place.

* Once established, impatiens aren't susceptible to pests and disease. They do freeze, however, so they must be protected when the temperature dips.

* When impatiens become leggy, cut them back to 6 inches. New growth will quickly appear, and they will become fuller and bushier and flower more readily.

* Each December or January, when growth has slowed, cut impatiens to 2 inches from the ground, which will cause them to come back strong in early spring. (This is not necessary along the coast, where impatiens will continue to flower well year-round. Simply prune back a little if they become leggy.)

If they are unsightly after the December or January pruning, containerized impatiens can be moved to an out-of-the-way site. In-ground plants can be interplanted with winter bloomers such as pansies and begonias.

To find the Accent Miracle Collection of impatiens with sales benefiting the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, visit http: //www.miracleplants.com.

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