Sunpatiens, a touch-me-not for the sun

Sunpatiens is the answer to all those who love impatiens and wish to see them bask in the sun!

Summary of key sunpatiens facts

Name Sunpatiens ®
Family Balsaminaceae
Type perennial indoors, annual outdoors

about 16 inches (40 cm)
Exposure sun and part sun
Soil ordinary

Flowering May to September-October.

You’ll be able to decorate your beds, garden boxes and pots in the sun for many long months.

Planting and propagating sunpatiens ®

How to plant Sunpatiens from containers

The planting of Sunpatiens ® flowers purchased in nursery pots is performed in spring.

  • Favor sun or part sun.
  • The ground must drain well and have a lot of humus.
  • Plant several specimens together, spaced about 16 inches (40 cm) from the next to create a nice cover.

Then, mix your earth with flower plant soil mix and water often in summer to make the flower-bearing abundant.

Preparing cuttings from your sunpatiens ® plants

You can also prepare cuttings from your favorite sunpatiens ® plants if you want to keep the exact same properties. With cuttings, take care to ensure constant moisture or the blooming of your Sunpatiens may be delayed or it might not bloom at all.

However, overwatering your cuttings will lead to elongated stems with less flowers. The best time to water is when the medium has dried up slightly, just enough to make the leaves sag or wilt a little bit. This shows that the Sunpatiens is focusing its energy on root development which is important.

Lastly, you can let a few flowers turn to seed and collect them for sowing in the following spring.

How to grow Sunpatiens ® from seeds

Sunpatiens ® seeds need light to germinate. Place them atop the soil mix without covering them up.

You can either sprinkle the seeds directly on the growing bed where they’ll sprout and grow, or start them as indoor seedlings 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last frost date in your area.

At that stage they’ll have grown enough to be transplanted without risk of dying off.

Caring for and pruning sunpatiens ®

Care for sunpatiens ® is child’s play and no pruning is required.

  • Water regularly in case of heat waves.
  • Adding flower plant fertilizer will enhance the blooming but you’ll still have flowers if you don’t fertilize.

In pots or garden boxes, you can amplify the aesthetic appeal and stimulate budding of new flowers if you remove wilted flowers regularly.

Sunpatiens ® winter care

A Compact White sunpatiens growing in a potDon’t be surprised if your outdoor sunpatiens ® doesn’t come back from one year to the next because it fears the cold. It will survive winter only where the season is mild.

  • But you can try growing sunpatiens ® in pots to bring it inside your home during the coldest months.
  • If the lowest temperatures in your area are just around freezing, try winterizing your sunpatiens ® in the hope of protecting them.

Uprooting your sunpatiens ® from the growing bed to containers is also possible.

  • Dig the plant out carefully with as many roots as you can.
  • Transfer to a pot with conventional soil mix.
  • Trim the stems back by about one third (leaving two-thirds on the plant).
  • Set the sunpatiens ® indoors near a window that provides a lot of sun.

When you grow the plants in pots, reduce the watering to only once a month during the winter dormant phase, as you would most house plants. If ever you’ve been giving your sunpatiens ® too much water, you might trigger root rot, so water only when the surface of the soil is dry.

Don’t add any fertilizer over the winter.

Diseases and enemies of sunpatiens ®

Electric orange sunpatiens flower visited by a harmless cucurbit leaf beetleAlthough generally not so vulnerable to diseases and parasites, occasionally you’ll notice an invasion of red spider mites and aphids on your impatiens.

If holes appear on the leaves of your sunpatiens ®, be on the lookout for slugs because they love this type of plant and you must act fast. Shown here is the pumpkin beetle, which is quite harmless for sunpatiens.

Unlike common Impatiens, Sunpatiens ® lineage was selected and bred to resist downy mildew.

Sunpatiens ® rotting at the leaves or stems

Allthough it was bred from Impatiens varieties that were resistant to most types of diseases, the Sunpatiens ® plant may get infected by certain root rot fungus when growing conditions aren’t ideal.

Fungus such as Pythium and Rhizoctonia may develop on the sunpatiens due to poor drainage, contaminated soil, and wounds to the roots. To ensure this doesn’t happen, try the following:

  • handle the sunpatiens carefully when planting, especially when disentangling the roots.
  • increase drainage in the soil with sand and organic material.
  • planting in flower beds enriched with green manure has been correlated to higher Rhizoctonia resistance.
  • when planting in pots, use fresh, new soil mix for your Sunpatiens ®.

If ever the disease has already appeared, you can still control it:

  • remove and destroy specimens with the worst symptoms.
  • amend the soil to increase drainage (sand + organic matter)
  • spray natural organic fungicides such as garlic decoctions or fermented horsetail tea, both excellent fungus repellents.

Read more on the topic of how to deal with rotting sunpatiens plants.

Learn more about sunpatiens ®

Being very ornamental thanks to its bursting colors, this perennial or annual blooms remarkably in flower beds and garden boxes.

  • Care is elementary and growth is quick.
  • Resistance to warm weather is what makes this flower stand out.

There are three major types of sun impatiens

  • Sunpatiens ® ‘Compact‘ which grows up to 2½ feet (75 cm) tall
  • Sunpatiens ® ‘Spreading‘ which reaches heights of up to 3 feet (90 cm)
  • Sunpatiens ® ‘Vigorous‘ which makes it over 3½ feet (105 cm) high

This Impatiens hybrid was bred from ‘New Guinea’ Impatiens, which itself was already an improvement over common Impatiens as regards heat resistance.

Indeed, traditional Impatiens varieties would only thrive in the shade but wither away when temperatures increased. Thanks to a dense, fast-growing root system, Sunpatiens ® is able to resist high temperatures. However, sunpatiens ® isn’t drought-resistant so it must be watered regularly.

Why the “®”? Sunpatiens ® was developed by the Sakata Seed Corporation, which reserved the trademark on the name for merchandising.

This Japan-based company worked with Indonesian growers to breed the plant, and they’re constantly adding new colors such as fire red, tropical rose, neon pink, magenta and more colors from the orange to purple range.

Smart tip about Sunpatiens ®

During the blooming, feel free to water your sunpatiens ® regularly but not too much to keep just the right moisture level.

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden under © CC BY 2.0 unless otherwise noted (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Sunpatiens ‘Shell pink’ shared by F. D. Richards under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Potted ‘Compact White’ Sunpatiens shared by Serres Fortier
Beetle on orange sunpatiens shared by coniferconifer

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  • Beresa Barnett wrote on 20 July 2018 at 15 h 20 min

    My sunpatiens are rotting at the top! What is this and what should I do? Thx!!!

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 23 July 2018 at 5 h 27 min

      Dear Beresa, it seems your sunpatiens is under attack by some type of fungus. Two strands are most known to infect the plant, Pythium and Rhizoctonia. Since you mentioned the rotting is starting at the crown or top of the plant, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter. To fend off Rhizoctonia, you should:

      • uproot and destroy the worst-hit specimens
      • avoid overwatering (Rhizoctonia is a type of root rot)
      • increase drainage in the soil (mix sand and organic matter in)
      • spray either a garlic decoction or fermented horsetail tea which are excellent organic fungus antidotes
      • if your sunpatiens are in pots, it means the soil is contaminated. Use fresh, new soil mix and disinfect your pots before filling with white vinegar next time.
      • to be thorough, check with the nursery you purchased the plants from: perhaps they or other customers are experiencing the same issue, which means the whole batch might be infected.

      Hope this helps!

  • Richard Neville wrote on 17 July 2018 at 22 h 40 min

    Hi Gaspard.
    Thanks for your comments and helpful advice regarding my Sunpatiens. At last I now have a fantastic flush of orange, lilac and white from my plants even if it is now mid July here. We are experiencing one of the hottest summers in England for many years, maybe that may have something to do with the late blooming?

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 20 July 2018 at 12 h 06 min

      Hi Richard, thanks for your feed-back! Yes, this heat wave is triggering coping mechanisms in many plants, delaying blooming is a favorite. Just keep them well-watered, because they’re heat-resistant, not drought resistant! Glad to have been of service!

  • Richard Neville wrote on 6 July 2018 at 14 h 57 min

    I have overwintered my sunpatiens cuttings and have lots of plants but not many of them have come to bloom yet (early july?), there are plenty of buds on the plants and some are just beginning to bloom now, is it something I have done during the propagation period?
    Have grown in 3″ pots and in lightly heated propagators.

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 8 July 2018 at 12 h 17 min

      Hello Richard! Congratulations for all your cuttings! Roots start developing within about three weeks when cuttings are started. It may be that during this period, the soil mix dried off a bit too much at a time: water stress during rooting has been shown to delay blooming for sunpatiens. You can also try pinching buds on a few plants, this might jolt them into producing new flower-bearing stems. And definitely mark off plants that did bloom faster with a ribbon: they’ve proven to be more adapted to your way of working and should do even better in the next round of cuttings!

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