Busy lizzies are an all-time bedding favourite. Whether you’re craving a riot of colour in hanging baskets, window boxes, containers or at the front of borders, these easy-to-grow summertime stars come with the promise of a long season of enjoyment.
They’re a doddle to raise from seed, grow rapidly and plants are carpeted with vibrant flowers from early summer through to the first frosts. Depending on the variety or mix, plants bloom in dazzling hues, with red, pink and white tones being the most popular. Busy lizzies are especially versatile, often at their finest in part-shade, unlike most other popular summer bedding staples that demand somewhere in the sun.
However, plants will perform a treat in a fairly sunny spot too, although they appreciate a little shelter to prevent being scorched by the midday sun. Impatiens, to use their botanical name, are a great choice for helping kids to grow green fingers, because plants fascinate and reward by flowering profusely all summer. When it comes to selecting a top-performing variety, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Try Unwins Busy Lizzie 'Bright Shades' – an F1-hybrid blend that fills partly-shaded areas with masses of spectacular colours. Or for something a little different, busy lizzie ‘Campos Rose Splash’ which will delight with its cheerful, pollinator-friendly, two-tone blooms. It’s a versatile all-rounder, thriving in full sun or part-shade.
When to sow
To enjoy a long season of flowers, busy lizzies should be sown indoors between February and April. By getting plants off to an early start, blooms will begin to burst open from June.
How to sow
- Fill a seed tray with Gro-Sure Seed and Cutting Compost and gently firm it down.
- Sow the seed thinly on the surface of the compost, then cover it with a light sprinkling of compost or vermiculite.
- Moisten the compost using a hand sprayer filled with tap water.
- Put the tray in a warm propagator at a temperature of 20-25°C.
- Place the propagator in a bright position and keep the compost moist.
- As seedlings grow, keep them in a light position but provide shade from direct sunlight.
- When seedlings are large enough to handle, hold each seedling by a leaf (never by the stem) and gently prize roots from the compost.
- Fill small pots with peat-free multipurpose compost, use a dibber to make a hole in the centre, and carefully set the seedling into the hole before gently firming in.
- Grow on indoors in a light position, keeping plants watered.
- In late May or early June, when the weather is fair, acclimatise plants by standing them outdoors during the day, then bringing back indoors at night. This process of ‘hardening off’ will need to be carried out for a couple of weeks.
- Busy lizzies thrive in well-drained soil, or pots and baskets of multipurpose compost. Only plant outdoors after all risk of frost has passed, setting plants 20cm apart.
- Keep plants well-watered and, once established, feed regularly throughout the growing season with a balanced liquid fertiliser such as Westland Boost. Deadhead regularly to keep displays looking tidy and encourage more blooms.
Regular deadheading helps to maintain neat displays and prevent plants from looking shabby. Pinching off spent flowers before they rot plays a role in keeping plants healthy, reducing outbreaks of grey mould.
Common problems, pests & diseases
Young busy lizzies can be prone to slug and snail damage. Protect plants using organic slug pellets – or grow in pots and hanging baskets that molluscs find trickier to access.
Plants can be affected by grey mould, but removing spent flowers and yellowing leaves before they rot holds the key to reducing outbreaks.
If leaves and flowers fall, leaving only bare branches with buds at the tip, plants are likely to have succumbed to busy lizzie downy mildew, which affects most selections of Impatiens walleriana. Unfortunately, infected plants must be binned or burnt. Try growing resistant types such as New Guinea impatiens, or mildew-busting Imara busy lizzies, next season.
Stems of busy lizzies can be brittle, so grow plants in a sheltered position to prevent wind damage, and away from paths where they can easily be knocked and damaged.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will busy lizzies grow in peat-free compost? Yes – plants will thrive in eco-friendly growing media but ensure that compost doesn’t dry out.
Are busy lizzies drought-tolerant? No. Like many summer bedding plants, they need regular watering – and daily watering during hot spells.
Will busy lizzies come back next year? These African natives are tender and won’t survive chilly conditions, so treat as annual bedding and compost the fading plants in the autumn.
Back to Learn & Grow