New Guinea Impatiens vs. Traditional Impatiens: Which is Better?


Impatiens are one of the most beloved flowering plants for gardeners around the world. Known for their vibrant colors and ease of care, they are a popular choice for adding a splash of color to gardens, balconies, and patios. However, choosing between New Guinea Impatiens and Traditional Impatiens can be a bit of a challenge. Both have their unique characteristics and advantages, making them suitable for different gardening needs. In this article, we will delve into a comprehensive comparison of New Guinea Impatiens and Traditional Impatiens to help you decide which is better for your garden.

What Are New Guinea Impatiens?

New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) are a hybrid species that originated in New Guinea. They are known for their larger flowers and variegated foliage, which can add a striking contrast to any garden. These plants come in a variety of colors, including shades of pink, red, purple, white, and orange. New Guinea Impatiens have a bushy growth habit and can grow up to 12-18 inches tall and wide, making them perfect for both containers and garden beds.

What Are Traditional Impatiens?

Traditional Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), also known as Busy Lizzies, are native to East Africa. They are one of the most popular bedding plants due to their continuous blooms and shade tolerance. Traditional Impatiens are available in a wide range of colors, such as red, pink, purple, orange, white, and bi-colors. These plants typically grow 6-12 inches tall and spread about 12-18 inches wide, creating a lush, colorful ground cover in shaded areas.

Comparison Criteria

To make an informed decision, it’s essential to compare New Guinea Impatiens and Traditional Impatiens based on various criteria such as climate suitability, light requirements, watering needs, soil preferences, growth rate, bloom time and duration, pest and disease resistance, and maintenance requirements.

Climate Suitability

New Guinea Impatiens thrive in warm, humid climates and can tolerate more sun than their traditional counterparts. They are well-suited for USDA hardiness zones 10-11. In contrast, Traditional Impatiens prefer cooler, shaded environments and are more adaptable to USDA hardiness zones 3-9. Understanding the climate suitability of each type can help you choose the right plant for your specific region.

Light Requirements

New Guinea Impatiens can handle partial to full sun, making them versatile for various garden settings. However, they perform best with some afternoon shade to prevent leaf scorch. Traditional Impatiens, on the other hand, thrive in full shade to partial shade, making them ideal for shady garden spots where few other flowers will bloom.

Watering Needs

Both types of Impatiens have similar watering needs, requiring consistent moisture to thrive. New Guinea Impatiens need to be watered regularly but can tolerate short periods of drought. Traditional Impatiens, being more sensitive to drought, require more frequent watering to keep their soil consistently moist. It’s crucial to avoid overwatering both types to prevent root rot.

Soil Preferences

New Guinea Impatiens prefer well-draining, fertile soil rich in organic matter. They thrive in slightly acidic to neutral pH levels (6.0-7.0). Traditional Impatiens also favor well-draining soil but are more adaptable to a variety of soil types, including sandy and loamy soils. Ensuring proper soil preparation with adequate compost or organic matter will benefit both types.

Growth Rate

New Guinea Impatiens generally have a faster growth rate compared to Traditional Impatiens. They quickly fill out garden beds and containers, providing a lush, full appearance. Traditional Impatiens grow more slowly but steadily, making them a reliable choice for ground cover in shaded areas.

Bloom Time and Duration

New Guinea Impatiens bloom from spring through fall, offering a long-lasting display of vibrant colors. Traditional Impatiens also provide continuous blooms from late spring to the first frost. Both types benefit from regular deadheading to encourage new blooms and extend the flowering period.

Pest and Disease Resistance

New Guinea Impatiens are generally more resistant to pests and diseases compared to Traditional Impatiens. They are less susceptible to downy mildew, a common issue for Traditional Impatiens. However, both types can be affected by pests such as aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Implementing proper pest control measures and maintaining good garden hygiene can help keep these issues at bay.

Maintenance Requirements

New Guinea Impatiens require moderate maintenance, including regular watering, occasional fertilization, and deadheading to promote continuous blooms. Traditional Impatiens are relatively low-maintenance, needing consistent moisture and occasional feeding. Both types benefit from mulching to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

Aesthetic Appeal

New Guinea Impatiens offer a bold, tropical look with their larger flowers and variegated leaves, making them a focal point in gardens and containers. Traditional Impatiens, with their dense, mound-forming habit and abundant blooms, provide a classic, cottage garden appeal. Both types can be used effectively in various landscaping designs.

Cost and Availability

New Guinea Impatiens are often more expensive and less widely available compared to Traditional Impatiens. This is due to their hybrid nature and specific growing requirements. Traditional Impatiens are more affordable and readily available in most nurseries and garden centers, making them a budget-friendly option for large plantings.

Environmental Impact

Both types of Impatiens have minimal environmental impact when grown responsibly. New Guinea Impatiens, being hybrids, are non-invasive and pose no threat to native ecosystems. Traditional Impatiens, while also non-invasive, can sometimes naturalize in suitable climates. Choosing native or well-adapted plants for your region is always a sustainable gardening practice.

Personal Stories or Case Studies

Many gardeners have shared their success stories with both types of Impatiens. For example, a gardener in Florida praised New Guinea Impatiens for their ability to thrive in the sunny, humid climate, while another in New York highlighted the reliability of Traditional Impatiens in shady garden spots. These personal experiences can provide valuable insights for prospective growers.

Expert Insights

Horticulturists often recommend New Guinea Impatiens for gardeners seeking vibrant colors in sunnier spots, while Traditional Impatiens are suggested for shaded areas. Experts also emphasize the importance of proper watering, soil preparation, and pest control to ensure the health and longevity of both types.


In summary, both New Guinea Impatiens and Traditional Impatiens have their unique advantages and are suitable for different gardening needs. If you have a sunny or partially shaded garden and seek vibrant, tropical colors, New Guinea Impatiens may be the better choice. For cooler, shaded areas, Traditional Impatiens offer reliable blooms and classic charm. Ultimately, the best choice depends on your specific garden conditions and aesthetic preferences.


Q: How often should I water New Guinea Impatiens?
A: Water New Guinea Impatiens regularly to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Avoid letting the soil dry out completely between waterings.

Q: Can Traditional Impatiens grow in full sun?
A: Traditional Impatiens prefer full shade to partial shade and may struggle in full sun. If grown in sunny areas, they may require more frequent watering and protection from the intense afternoon sun.

Q: What is the best soil for planting Impatiens?
A: Both New Guinea and Traditional Impatiens thrive in well-draining, fertile soil rich in organic matter. Adding compost or organic matter to the soil can improve its quality and drainage.

Q: How can I prevent pests on my Impatiens?
A: Implementing good garden hygiene, such as removing dead plant material and regularly inspecting plants for pests, can help prevent infestations. Using insecticidal soap or neem oil can also effectively control common pests like aphids and spider mites.

Q: Do Impatiens need to be fertilized?
A: Yes, both types of Impatiens benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks to promote healthy growth and abundant blooms.

Q: How do I extend the bloom time of my Impatiens?
A: Regular deadheading, proper watering, and fertilization can help extend the bloom time of Impatiens. Ensuring they receive the right amount of light and are planted in suitable soil conditions will also contribute to prolonged blooming.

Q: Are New Guinea Impatiens more disease-resistant than Traditional Impatiens?
A: Yes, New Guinea Impatiens are generally more resistant to common diseases like downy mildew compared to Traditional Impatiens. However, both types can be affected by pests and diseases, so proper care and maintenance are essential.

Q: Can I grow Impatiens indoors?
A: Impatiens can be grown indoors if they receive adequate light, such as bright, indirect sunlight, and are kept in well-draining soil. Regular watering and humidity control are also crucial for indoor growth.

Q: What are some complementary plants for Impatiens?
A: Impatiens pair well with other shade-loving plants like hostas, ferns, and begonias. For sunny spots, New Guinea Impatiens can be combined with plants like coleus, caladiums, and sweet potato vines.

Q: How do I prepare Impatiens for winter?
A: In colder climates, Impatiens are typically grown as annuals and will not survive frost. You can take cuttings and root them indoors over the winter or bring potted plants indoors to a bright location to extend their lifespan.

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