Sunpatiens vs. Impatiens: What’s the Difference?

impatiens
© Aria Pearlilla/Shutterstock.com

Written by Peyton Warmack-Chipman

Updated: November 18, 2022

Share on:

Advertisement


Listen to Article

Impatiens are a very popular annual flowering shrub that’s grown all over the U.S. for its stunning blooms. These shrubs are also loved for being one of the few flowering plants that grow perfectly in the shade! However, the Sunpatiens totally changes that.

Sunpatiens are a new hybrid of Impatiens that love the sun and are the only type of Impatiens that grow in full sun. This greatly increases where you can plant Impatiens in your garden, allowing you to have these amazing flowers everywhere.

There are a few more differences about the way Sunpatiens grows versus Impatiens, so keep reading to learn more about this new hybrid!

Sunpatiens vs. Impatiens at a Glance

SunpatiensImpatiens
Botanical NameImpatiens hybridImpatiens walleriana
FlowersLarger; shades of purple, red, orange, pink, or whiteEvery color except for blue
Size2-3 ft tall by 2-3 ft wide1-2 ft tall by 1-2 ft wide
GrowingStronger, more disease resistantLow maintenance
Sunlight NeedsFull sunFull to partial shade

About Sunpatiens Plants

Sunpatiens are a cultivar of Impatiens that was recently developed by the Japanese seed company Sakata. Sunpatiens are a hybrid between Impatiens that are native to Indonesia and Impatiens hawkeri which is native to Papa New Guinea.

New Guinea Impatiens, Impatiens hawkeri, are also grown in the U.S., but aren’t as popular since they tend to struggle in such a different climate. Thankfully, that difficulty wasn’t passed on to Sunpatiens in the breeding process and Sunpatiens turned out to be one of the most robust cultivars of Impatiens!

Sunpatiens are resilient growers, have gorgeous flowers, and get quite large- all great things if you’re looking for a reliable flowering plant to add to your garden!

red sunpatiens

Sunpatiens are a beautiful cultivar of impatiens.

©John R Martin/Shutterstock.com

About Impatiens Plants

Impatiens, also known as touch-me-nots, are most commonly grown as the species Impatiens walleriana. However, Impatiens is also a genus that involves many varieties and cultivars of Impatiens- including Sunpatiens.

These plants are really common in the U.S. because they grow in almost every part of the country and give such a gorgeous display of flowers. Impatiens don’t grow very tall but spread out several inches, making them perfect for a large flower bed.

These are some of the few flowering plants that really thrives in the shade, so they’ve also gained popularity for being the go-to plant to fill in shady spots.

pink impatiens

Impatiens are also referred to as “touch-me-nots.”

©Loveischiangrai/Shutterstock.com

Plant Description

Impatiens are small shrubs that only grow a foot or so tall and grow wide, like most shrubs do. In the spring, these plants bloom with flowers that almost completely cover them.

Sunpatiens look more like New Guinea Impatiens than they do common Impatiens, but they’re not too far from the original Impatiens. Although, they do have darker leaves, as most Impatiens have bright green leaves.

It’s also interesting that some varieties of Sunpatiens have variegated foliage, with a variety of different colors.

Flowers

Impatiens and Sunpatiens have beautiful blooms that last all summer long, making them favorites for landscaping and ornamental gardens. The flowers will stay until the first frost so if you live somewhere warm enough they could last through the fall or even be perennial flowers!

Sunpatiens flowers are a bit larger than most Impatiens’ blooms by an inch or two. The flowers range from red, orange, pink, purple, or white and many varieties have nice blends of color.

Impatiens flowers can be found in pretty much any color you can think of! They don’t produce bright blue flowers, but there are some varieties with deep indigo or violet flowers.

purple impatiens

Impatiens come in countless colors, including purple.

©AkwaN/Shutterstock.com

Size

Sunpatiens can be found in three types: Compact Sunpatiens, Spreading Sunpatiens, and Vigorous Sunpatiens. As the names suggest, these varieties grow in different ways, so each of them has a different size.

The Compact Sunpatiens grows to be 1 to 2 feet tall by 1 to 2 feet wide- the same size as most Impatiens. The Spreading Sunpatiens has the same height but stretches much farther, with a spread of 3 to 4 feet.

A Vigorous Sunpatiens grows to 2 to 3 feet tall by 2 to 3 feet wide- double the size of most Impatiens! These plants really thrive in southern states with tropical climates and can grow so well that they’ll take over your garden!

Impatiens grow to be about 1 to 1.5 feet tall by 1 to 1.5 feet wide.

Growing Zones

Both Sunpatiens and Impatiens grow in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 11, which includes almost all of the U.S.! Although, they grow as annuals in most parts of the country and will only grow as perennials in zones 10 and 11.

These plants love humidity and do best in the semi-tropical southeastern states. They’re not at all cold hardy, so they’ll die with the first frost, which is why they’re annuals in most parts of the country.

Growing Sunpatiens vs. Impatiens

The greatest difference between Sunpatiens and Impatiens is that Sunpatiens grows in full sun- something that no other Impatiens cultivars do!

Impatiens are known for loving the shade and growing well in partial to full shade, especially since not many plants can do this. But the Sunpatiens totally flips that idea!

Sunpatiens are also really strong growers and are usually more robust than Impatiens. They’re also highly resistant to downy mildew, a disease that often affects Impatiens in the fall.

It’s common that Impatiens are hit with downy mildew, which covers their leaves in late summer or fall and causes them to wilt. But other than downy mildew, Impatiens are generally really low-maintenance plants!

Both Sunpatiens and Impatiens should be planted in mid-spring and can be grown in the ground or in containers.

Soil Type

Sunpatiens have the same soil needs as all other Impatiens: moist and well-draining. However, these plants are highly adaptable to many types of soil and won’t have any problem growing in loam, clay, or chalky soil.

They’re not picky about the pH level either, the most important requirement for the soil is that it drains excess water easily so the plants aren’t sitting in soggy soil.

They’ll also really appreciate nutrient-rich soil that has some compost added in and a layer of mulch on top to keep the soil moist.

Water Needs

Sunpatiens and Impatiens are also similar in how much water they take. They both have average water needs and are often completely healthy just from rainfalls.

Both Sunpatiens and Impatiens will wilt a little when they’re ready to be watered again and you should follow this sign. It’s best to let them dry out a bit between watering and plant them in moist soil rather than constantly watering.

Sunlight

Last but definitely the greatest difference between Sunpatiens and Impatiens is their sunlight needs. Sunpatiens are full sun, Impatiens are full shade- completely opposite!

Through selective breeding, we now have full sun Impatiens, hence the name Sunpatiens. They’re the only cultivar of Impatiens that grows like this and they’ll actually suffer quite a bit when growing in shade.

Whereas Impatiens thrive in full shade and can only handle a little bit of sun. They will be okay if growing in indirect sunlight, but direct sun will burn their leaves!

Impatiens for Every Part of the Garden

For a long time, Impatiens have been loved for being the go-to, shade-loving flowers. There aren’t many plants that grow so well in the shade and have such stunning flowers, so Impatiens have won lots of popularity for this.

But the new Sunpatiens totally changes this! Now you can plant full Impatiens flower beds in full sun. This means you can plant these flowering bushes in any part of your garden or landscaping!

Impatiens are beautiful and easy-to-care-for plants that provide fresh flowers all summer long- there’s no reason not to plant them!

Up Next


Share this post on:
About the Author

Peyton has always loved playing outside, as a kid and still well into her 20's. The connections between our lives, other animals, and all the plants around us has always fascinated her and fueled a drive to learn so much about the natural world. Through curiosity and experience, her knowledge has grown, specifically on medicinal plants and regenerative agriculture. Her favorite animal is the Holland Lop rabbit, after learning they're the greatest pet you could ever have.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.