The Q&A Archives: Annual or Perennial Impatiens

Question: I moved to California several years ago but was not especially interested in flowers until I bought my own home. My question is: I have Impatiens growing in the front of my house. At one time they were growing profusely but now look to me like they are dying off. A friend said I could just cut them back and they would start growing again. Can I do this or do I need to dig them up and replant? I know I have a lot to learn yet and appreciate any help you can give me.


There are both annual and perennial Impatiens.

The annual types are Impatiens balsamina. They grow to about 8" in height, are compact and bushy, and bloom in white, pink, rose, lilac and red. Annual plants grow, flower, and then set seed before dying. This is usually over the course of a single season. If your Impatiens are the annual kinds, you might get a second flush of blooms by cutting the plants back. Chances are, though, even in your mild winter climate, that the annuals are spent and should be replaced.

Perennial Impatiens are Impatiens wallerana. These plants can grow to 2', have dark green glossy leaves and 1"-2" flowers in scarlet, pink, rose, violet, orange or white. You can cut these plants back as close as 6" and new growth will emerge in a few days.

By cutting your impatiens back now you'll be able to tell whether they're annuals or perennials. Perennials will surge right back with new growth and flowers.

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