The Q&A Archives: Impatience with Impatiens

Question: For the past two years we have had problems with our impatiens in our window boxes. We plant them, three bedding plants to a 6 inch clay pot in a mixture of 1/3 compost mix, 1/3 top soil, 1/3 peat moss. The pots hang from a wooden base inside our window boxes so the bottoms are not touching anything. For two years we had beautiful flowers. Then, last year the plants quickly developed spots, turned yellow and shriveled up and died. I know the original flowers were not deseased because the remaining bedding plants were planted elsewhere and did well. Thinking it might be the clay pots, we purchased all new pots this year. We are experiencing some of the same problems. Some of the bedding plants are spotted and not doing well. Although none have died, none seem to be doing very well. The bedding plants have been in the clay pots in the window box for approximately 4 weeks.

Answer: About the only requirement impatiens have is moist soil, so if you let the soil dry out between waterings, that may be part of the problem. Terra-cotta pots are wonderfully porous; good for plants that need a quick drink of water and then dry soil. Perhaps the clay pots are wicking the water away from your impatiens before the roots have a chance to get a nice, long drink of water. If you like the appearance of clay pots, try putting your impatiens into plastic pots and sinking them into the decorative clay pots. Try growing impatiens again - this time in new potting soil, in new plastic pots. Keep the soil moist and you're sure to have success. If leaves are showing spots, it could be from environmental problems like overcrowding or too much sunshine. Try putting only two plants into a 6 inch pot, and providing shelter from hot afternoon sunshine. If you notice a spotted or wilted leaf, pinch it off at once. Keep your impatiens well-watered (sometimes once a day if the weather's hot), and feed every 2-3 weeks with a half-strength liquid fertilizer.

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