En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - July 14, 2008

From: Fallston, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Transplants, Watering, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Shriveling and dying of non-native impatiens
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Several years now many of my impatiens after a month or so seem to shrivel up and eventually die. They are planted in a row and not all are affected. I am not noticing any slug evidence which I would normally suspect. HELP!! Explanation? What can be done? Thanks!!

ANSWER:

We think the first question we would ask is why do you keep planting the same plant in the same spot if it isn't working out well? The impatiens flowers commonly sold at nurseries in North America are hybrids and treated as annual plants. They are native to tropical Africa and easily damaged by frosts. Our expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is with plants native to North America and recommend planting plants native to your area, for better adaptation to sun, moisture, and soil type. We will first see if we can find some information on why your plants are suffering. Since we don't know how much sun they are getting nor what soil they are trying to grow in, we can only give you general references, and see if you recognize your problem.

Too much sun wilts this plant quickly. It needs a shady spot that gets half a day or less of full sun-preferably morning sun. If you let impatiens dry out too much they will wither quickly and die. One negligent day will do it. Make sure these plants have a moist soil at all times. But not too moist. If you have clay soil, the water you are putting on your plants is probably standing and not draining normally. This will cause root rot and quickly destroy the impatiens. Mulch is a must. We noticed that many of the websites discussed the impatiens as a plant for pots or hanging baskets. This would infer fresh new potting soil each year. If you wish to continue growing impatiens or, in fact, other flowering plants, we would recommend completely refreshing your bed before you plant anything else. Dig in some compost to loosen up that soil and improve drainage. Use a shredded hardwood mulch, which will keep the roots cool and, as it decomposes, provide fresh organic texture to the soil.

Finally, consider using plants native to Maryland. We have selected a few from our Native Plant Database that might be sturdier and more resilient than the impatiens. These are all perennials. They will die down to the base in Winter, but come back in the Spring.

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine) - sun to shade, up to 2' tall, blooms February to July

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed) - up to2' tall, sun to part shade, blooms May to September

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower) - up to 3' tall, sun to part shade, blooms July to November

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed) - up to 2' tall, sun to shade, blooms April to June

Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia) - 1-3' tall, sun to shade, blooms July to October

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm) - 3' tall, sun to shade, blooms July and August

Oenothera fruticosa (narrowleaf evening-primrose) - 2' tall, sun, blooms April and May

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) - 18" tall, part shade to shade, blooms March to May


Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias tuberosa

Conoclinium coelestinum

Coreopsis lanceolata

Lobelia siphilitica

Monarda didyma

Oenothera fruticosa

Phlox divaricata

 

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Overwintering Ruellia brittoniana in Missouri
October 03, 2015 - I live in Missouri and have five beautiful Mexican Petunia or Ruellia brittoniana planted and established in my landscaping. With winter fast approaching, I would love advise on how to winterize the p...
view the full question and answer

Suggested native plants for Katy, TX
March 02, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants I recently moved to Katy, Tx (just outside of Houston) and I would like to know what type of plants and flowers are best for this type of climate. The soil in my flower beds seem...
view the full question and answer

Winter plants for windowbox in Piedmont SC
October 26, 2012 - What kind of outdoor window box spruss can grow in upstate South Carolina in the winter months?
view the full question and answer

Shade Tolerant Groundcover for Texas
July 13, 2016 - I live in Atascosa county in Pleasanton Texas, I have an abundance of Live Oak and Ash trees shading my property and need a groundcover for my backyard which is nothing but sand and where I have dogs ...
view the full question and answer

Insects attacking Gregg's Blue Mistflower from Comfort TX
June 20, 2013 - I have a beautiful stand of Gregg's Blue Mist flower that have been attacked by an unknown insect. The new growth is curled and stunted and it is not flowering. I'm not alone..I've seen the Gregg'...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center