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 ®
Scientific name – Impatiens hawkeri hybrid
Family – Balsaminaceae

Type – perennial indoors, annual outdoors
Exposure – sun and part sun
Soil – ordinary but not soggy

Height – about 16 inches (40 cm)
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 mulch will retain water and slowly convert to humus over the season.
  • 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 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 plant is focusing its energy on root development which is important.

  • Note: Since Sunpatiens is a variety protected by a plant patent, you should only make cuttings for personal use and not for financial gain.

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

  • Like all impatiens, Sunpatiens doesn’t produce a lot of seeds. When it does, seedlings may come out quite different from the parent plant because of cross-pollination by other impatiens.
  • Seeds produced by the Sunpatiens are never true copies of the original. As such, they might turn out to be a new hybrid! Seed offspring aren’t protected by the original patent.

How to grow Sunpatiens 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. For maximum success, check on how to minimize transplant shock.

  • Sunpatiens seeds have not been tested to see if all parent characteristics are transferred to children.
  • It may be that hardiness, heat resistance, and blooming are different in children than they were in parents.
  • Pay attention to how your sunpatiens seedlings develop to learn how they cope with heat, drought, or cold weather.

Caring for and pruning sunpatiens ®

Care for sunpatiens ® is child’s play and no pruning nor pinching 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.

Temperature range for Sunpatiens

Possible growing within the 32°F – 117°F (0°C to 47°C) range.

Thriving only within the 40°F – 95°F range, (5°C to 35°C), its comfort range.

Sunpatiens in the cold

The coldest temperature a Sunpatiens plant can survive is 32°F (0°C), and then only for a couple hours. This plant’s cells have lots of water and don’t have any coping against freezing. Cells burst when water inside them turns to ice. Even an hour at freezing temperature will result in damage to the plant.

  • Parts of the plant damaged by ice or frost will be replaced by new growth when temperatures rise.

Sunpatiens in full heat

Very hot weather, above 100°F (37°C), will almost certainly result in wilting at the hottest hours. This will even happen if you provide constant water through drip irrigation.

  • Irrigating or ensure proper moisture serves to help the plant survive in this heat.
  • Blooming is impaired and flowers wilt much faster.
  • As soon as temperatures go back to the comfort range, blooming will resume in full.

Impatiens naturally evolved as a shade plant. Although sunpatiens is derived from impatiens, it’s astounding to see this hybrid easily take on such full sun and hot temperatures!

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 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 watering to only once a fortnight or 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 beetlePests on Sunpatiens

Although 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.

If you notice leaves disappearing entirely, there might be a few caterpillars hiding below. Impatiens hawkeye moth is a caterpillar is known to favor plants of the Impatiens family. It is normally only found in SouthEast Asia, from India to the Philippines (including Australia and Indonesia).

Diseases that infect sunpatiens

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

Sunpatiens ® rotting from the roots and 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.

  • Poor soil drainage, constantly wet leaves, and high temperatures usually cause fungal infection.

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 young plant 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 resistance to Rhizoctonia .
  • 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 a garlic decoction 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 simple 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‘ – grows up to 2½ feet (75 cm) tall
  • SunpatiensSpreading‘ – reaches heights of up to 3 feet (90 cm)
  • Sunpatiens ‘Vigorous‘ – makes it over 3½ feet (105 cm) high

Where Sunpatiens comes from

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, it isn’t drought-resistant so regular watering is needed.

Why the “®”? Sunpatiens ® was developed by the Sakata Seed Corporation, which reserved the trademark on the name for merchandising. This is the name most horticulture stores will sell the plant under, but the scientific name is Impatiens hawkeri hybrid.

This Japan-based company worked with Indonesian growers to breed the plant. 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 (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Sunpatiens ‘Shell Pink’ by F. D. Richards ★ under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Potted ‘Compact White’ Sunpatiens by Serres Fortier under © CC BY 2.0
Beetle on orange sunpatiens by coniferconifer ☆ under © CC BY 2.0