Busy Lizzie – Impatiens walleriana

Busy Lizzie is a popular and undemanding plant. Its strong growth and profuse blooms in riotous colours make it a very decorative choice.

The botanical name impatiens comes from the explosive and impatient way the seeds are expelled from the pods. This is a characteristic of Balsam family members to which Busy Lizzie belongs.

The plant has crisp and juicy succulent leaves that are oval shaped and pointed with slightly serrated edges. The leaves vary from light to dark green and some forms are variegated.Busy Lizzie - Impatiens walleriana

Flowers and flowering Busy Lizzie flowers for most of the year indoors and all of the summer outdoors. Flowers may be in shades of pink, red, white and orange.

Busy Lizzie makes a truly splendid house plant. The flowers come in shades of red, white, pink, lilac and orange. Some are bicoloured and some have a double layer of petals.

Growth and size

New compact varieties are very popular. They rarely grow higher than 30-38cm (12-15in) and make low-growing and bushy plants that flower profusely. They are free branching and very free-flowering. These newer varieties do not need to be pinched out to encourage bushy growth.

Display ideas

  • Busy Lizzie looks right in most situations. Indoors this cheerful plant does best in bright but filtered light.
  • Outdoors Busy Lizzie looks good in containers like tubs and window-boxes. Keep the plants in well-lit but shady situations and don’t let them dry out completely in the heat of the day.

Plant Problems

  • Distorted and sticky leaves are a sign of greenfly (aphid) infestation. Treatment: Spray the plant with soapy water or use a pyrethrum-based or systemic insecticide. 2. When roots are well established, pot the cuttings into individual pots using a soil-based mixture.
  • Leaves drop if the plant is too cold. Treatment: Move it to a position where the temperature is well above 13°C (55°F).
  • Mottled markings on leaves indicate red spider mite attack. Treatment: Keep the humidity high to discourage red spider mites. If the attack is severe, spray the plant with a suitable insecticide.

Making new plants

Growing from cuttings

Take tip shoot cuttings about 7-10cm (3—4in) long in spring. You can root them in water or in a rooting mixture.

Growing from seed

  • Mix the tiny seeds with fine sand to make sowing easy. Sprinkle this over a moistened seed compost in a propagator or a pot.
  • If you buy seedlings pot them up into 10-12cm (4-5in) pots filled with an equal-parts mixture of a soil-based compost and coarse peat.
  • Place them in a sunny window on a moist pebble-filled saucer Cover with glass or polythene and newspaper and keep at 22°C (73°F).
  • As soon as the seeds germinate (after 3-4 weeks) remove the paper and glass or polythene. Place the seedlings where they will get bright filtered light.
  • When they are large enough to handle, plant them in pots and give them a liquid feed every second time you water.
  • And water well. Do not allow potting mixture to dry out.
  • Once the plants are well-established start feeding them every 2 weeks and position them where you want them to grow.

GENERAL CARE

This is a very easy plant to grow and is ideal for beginners. Cut it back if it gets leggy and keep a close watch for aphid attack. Remove faded flowers and dead leaves. Pinch out non-compact varieties to encourage bushy growth.

Potting: Pot seedlings in an equal-parts mixture of a soil-based compost and coarse peat. Repot in spring but do not overpot as this plant blooms better if it has crowded roots.

WATERING

In summer water generously. Do not allow the compost to dry out between waterings. In winter water moderately, allowing the compost to dry out a little.

Feeding: Apply a standard house plant fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing period.

CONDITIONS

Light: Avoid placing this plant in direct sunlight but do give it as much bright filtered light as possible.

Temperature: Normal room temperatures are adequate but if the temperature goes above 24°C (75°F) increase the level of humidity. In winter do not let the temperature fall below 13°C (55°F).

Buying Tips

When to buy

  • Buy plants in spring from garden centres and nurseries.
  • What to look for Choose healthy plants that are about to flower, or have plenty of buds. Check carefully for signs of greenfly or red spider mite.

Lifespan

Busy Lizzie will last for many years. If it gets straggly, renew it from cuttings.

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