Summer shade garden planting wouldn’t be complete without the bold, bright colors of impatiens. These annual natives of East Africa provide season-long color in shaded areas of your yard. What other flowers and plants are the best companions for impatiens?
Impatiens in a Container
Impatiens are a favorite for container planting as well, due to their tendency to mound, then trail. It's not uncommon to have a hanging basket of impatiens that trails two or three feet by summer’s end. Plants that go well in a container include asparagus fern, whose delicate fronds and natural green make a good counterpoint to the color of the impatiens. English ivy is another good choice, as it will trail with the impatiens, and can serve as a base for next year’s planting. White baby's breath is a good companion for a salmon or red impatiens. For a contrast, use a blue lobelia with pink or white impatiens.
In a Shade Garden
Impatiens do best in the shade, and coordinate well with other shade-lovers. One benefit is that many shade-tolerant plants lack color, a problem easily remedied by impatiens. Consider planting impatiens in clusters of three or four in the front of a bed, then backing them up with hosta or elephant’s ear to add scale and a verdant backdrop. Intersperse columbine for the feeling of a natural woodland garden.
Impatiens are also attractive when used to provide splashes of color among ferns. An asparagus fern can be put between mounds, or individual impatiens starts can be placed between fronds of an Australian fern. As the fern grows, the impatiens will use its deep shade to create bright mounds. You can also achieve this look with monkey grass.
When combining colors, remember that warm colors tend to make an area appear closer, while cool colors make it recede.
Since impatiens are usually an annual, consider making special areas in your shade garden for them. A cracked pot, half-buried in the ground, makes an ideal place. Plant a perennial vine or even a succulent such as stonecrop, then intersperse impatiens for color. Use it to cover the legs of daylilies or a rhododendron bush. Impatiens and azaleas are a traditional Southern mix.
For an amazing display, plant impatiens in a container, then surround the container by planting ginger, coleus, caladium and ferns.
Since most shade plants like the same type of soil, you shouldn’t have any problems mixing impatiens with other shade-lovers. Whichever one you choose, plan ahead for the growth of your impatiens. They will usually top out at around one foot, and can spread up to two feet. If you plan your garden design properly, you will be able to enjoy their display without having them overpower the remainder of your plants.
Remember that impatiens do not stand up well to prolonged heat, and will need watering to protect them from wilting.