Tag Archives: impatiens

Walter Asks About Options for Flower Boxes Mostly in Shade

SunPatiens – hot pink

I received this question from Walter, an old friend from my high school years:

I’d like your opinion on the best flowers to put in my boxes on the porch this summer. I have flower boxes that I put on my porch rails that are about 3′ long and 5″ deep. They will get full morning sun for about 3 1/2 – 4 hours then total shade the remainder of the day.

I had impatiens in them last year and they did well for a while but began to fizzle out in July. I know they don’t like the sun a lot but I didn’t think that much would hurt them. Anyway I wondered if you had any ideas.”

I replied to Walter right away by e-mail, but I’ve just now had time to turn his great question into a blog post. So, here are my suggestions:

Off the top of my head, impatiens do seem like the best choice for planter boxes that get mostly shade. It was probably the intense summer heat that caused them to fizzle out last summer. Impatiens, petunias, and vinca tend to get long and leggy during the hottest part of the summer. I have found that, when they become leggy, cutting them back severely will encourage new growth, and helps them to bush out more. I haven’t had good luck with regular impatiens here in central Florida, probably because I have very little shade, but I’m creating shade as fast as I can. With my lack of shade, I have used SunPatiens (a brand name of sun-tolerant impatiens) and vinca instead, so I don’t have any photos of regular impatiens.  Below are some photos of leggy vinca, showing how beautifully they  recover from severe pruning of the “legginess”. The same effect can be obtained with impatiens.

Near the base of this leggy plant is a lot of new growth that can’t be seen in this photo. That new growth will be encouraged by removing those long, bare stems.

Below is some vinca that I cut back a few months ago. It filled out quickly, and looks better than it did before:

This white vinca in my backyard night garden has filled in beautifully after being cut back when it got leggy.

Another Shade Lover – Waxed Begonias

These waxed begonias would be a beautiful option for your planter boxes. They can take morning sun, but need to be shaded from the afternoon sun. They are available in this darker pink, a lighter pink, white, and red. There is also some variety in the colors of their heart-shaped leaves.

Waxed begonias have either these dark-colored leaves or a lighter, true green. Both are complimentary to your garden.


One More Shade Lover – Caladiums

Another good choice for an area of mostly shade like you described is caladiums. There are some newer varieties of caladiums that can take more sun than the older varieties. Below are some photos of my caladiums that can tolerate partial sun are Red Flash, Gingerland, and Florida Sunrise.

Red Flash

Florida Sunrise


These three caladium cultivars perform beautifully. You could combine them with impatiens for a little variety; and when your impatiens get leggy, the caladium leaves will act as a type of camouflage.

Caladiums in Winter

North of Zone 9, be sure to dig up your caladiums before the first freeze. Wash the bulbs to remove all soil. Lay them out to dry, then store them in a cool, dry, and dark place. A cardboard box or vented or net bag in your basement should be perfect. Replant them the following spring after all danger of freezing temperatures has passed.

A Substitute for Impatiens

Another option is vinca, which likes full sun, but does well in part shade, too — and it comes in lots of colors, just like impatiens. Here are some photos of vinca:

Vinca – hot pink with white center

Vinca – White

Vinca – Peppermint

Walter, be sure to let me know how the flowers in your planter boxes do this summer. See you in the garden.

Crazy Weather, Gorgeous Flowers

Along with much of the eastern United States, central Florida has set record high temperatures lately. While we don’t want cold weather, some cooler temps would be appreciated. The local weather guy says it will cool down to normal temps of high 60s and low 70s this weekend, and that soon, we should see some cold weather. So I thought I would share some of the local beauty before Jack Frost hits, such as these azaleas, courtesy of our weird weather:

Snow Single - mlm c@

Pale Pink - mlm c@

Many of the azaleas around here are the Encore azaleas. These two are not. We had a slight cool spell in November — had to wear a sweater — now they seem to think it’s spring again.

These hibiscus seem to think it’s still summer:

Yellow Hibiscus - mlm c@

Orange Hibiscus - mlm c@

Even my impatiens haven’t missed a beat:

Impatien - mlm c@

Day lilies are blooming right along:


Yellow with Bud - mlm c@

Even the petunias will bloom all winter, assuming no hard freeze comes our way as it did last winter.


Petunias - Red-White mlm c@

There are other flowers, vines, and shrubs blooming, such as firecracker plant, mandevilla, bougainvillea, and lobelia. We are looking forward to some sweater weather, but not coat, hat, & glove weather. Wish us luck, and Happy New Year!

My Plants Survived the Freeze, But Some Did Better Than Others

Everyone around here knows we had a very hard freeze a few nights ago. Here in central Florida, a hard freeze is considered to be temperatures below 32 for four (4) hours or more. Our outdoor thermometer showed 25 degrees. This area sustained below-freezing temps for approximately eleven hours.

Probably the most important thing I can share with you is that, when you cover your plants overnight, be sure to remove coverings as soon after the sun gets on them as you possibly can.

Some of my plants surprised me by surviving the freeze. Some surprised me by succumbing to it. Some looked good the morning after the freeze, but about 36 hours later, showed extensive damage.  Here are some of them. Sob, sniff. All but one of these photos were taken in the 3 days following the hard freeze.

First, the Survivors:

Agave - MLM

Variegated Agave, and its Pups:  This was, by far, the biggest surprise. I ran out of coverings, and decided that some of the plants would simply have to tough it out that night. This variegated agave was one of them. Imagine my delight when, the morning after the freeze, it looked just as happy and healthy as ever. There are zillions of types of agave, so I have provided the Latin name  (Agave americana var. marginata) in case anyone wants this specific type. My agave plants (I have 2) have lots of pups already — 2 of the pups can be seen in this photo. If you live near me, and would like to have one or more, just let me know.

Common Geranium

This geranium was sheltered by the huge leaves of a split-leaf philodendron; otherwise, I suspect it would have bit the dust. The buds of the next cluster of flowers can be seen near the bottom of this photo, directly above my first name.

Geranium MLM 1








Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Daisy - Red 2 MLM

This was another surprise. Even the tender little buds at the center of the photo survived the freeze. This one was moved to the front yard when we had a patio installed in the back. It looks a bit lonely. I believe I will get some more of these tough little plants in a variety of colors. They bloom year-round here, so they really brighten up my garden.


 These Next Plants Were Toast Immediately:   These I knew would be killed back (or almost back) to the ground. Fortunately, from past experience, I also knew they would grow back as soon as decent weather returned:

Impatient Toast MLM

New Guinea Impatiens

This is the only one of a group of impatiens (brand name, Sun-Patiens) that survived both the 2013-14 winter and the heat of the summer of 2014. Many of them survived that winter with some cold-damage, but I could see healthy new growth deep down under the damaged part. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of trimming off the damaged parts. A few weeks later, we had another freeze, and the now exposed tender new growth became damaged, too. I lost a few of those plants, then lost more of them that summer, but this one has hung on all this time. This year, I think I will wait longer about trimming off the damaged stems and leaves, so the new growth underneath will be protected. Here’s a photo of this same plant taken about a week before the freeze. What a difference a day makes!

SunPatiens - MLM1


 Banana Plant The Morning After the Freeze

Banana Plant - Frozen mlm

Even though I covered this small banana plant, it was still too cold for it. I will wait for it to recover, then move it to a large pot that I can take indoors on the few cold nights we have.

My dad and my uncle used to grow these in Alabama, so I knew I could grow them here. In Alabama, however, the growing season is not long enough. Most people left them in the ground, where they would die back each winter, and grow from the ground up each spring, so their’s never got very tall.  Dad got around that by digging up the plants in the fall, putting the root ball in large garbage bags, and keeping them in the basement until about April each year. They hold enough water, that there is no need to water them over the winter if kept in plastic bags as he did. Eventually, of course, his grew too large to be manageable, and he stopped growing them.

Banana Plant One Week Later:

As you can see below, my banana plant is already asserting itself. Soon I can clip off the old brown leaves. Right now, I will leave them to provide protection to the tender part underneath.

Banana Plant One Week Later mlm


A Delayed Reaction:  These next few photos are of plants that either looked good or showed only minimal damage that first morning, but by late the next day, showed considerable damage.

Split Leaf Philodendron

Philodendron - 2 days later mlm

This one looked great the morning after the freeze. The next day, not so much.



Lantana More 2 Days Post Freeze mlm

One day later, the lantana looked dead, except for a perfect green leaf here and there. See the one near the center of this photo? I can’t cut back the damaged “wood” of the lantana plants, because they are hollow. If there were to be another freeze, water and ice would get inside the stems, and the entire plant would be killed.

Lantana - pink & yellow mlm

Lantana in Better Days

If you live in areas where the lantana is killed back to the ground each winter, be sure to cut it back before the first freeze to a height of about 4 – 6 inches. Then mulch it very, very well, completely covering the plant. If you do this, it will come back in the spring.




Hibiscus - frozen MLM

This hibiscus showed very little damage the morning after the freeze, but began looking worse and worse as time passed. Fortunately, the tightest buds were undamaged, and have already opened to show off gorgeous flowers.



Spring is Already Teasing Us

After a high of 87 yesterday, we had a high this morning of 68, with temps falling all day today. We’re told normal temps of mid-seventies will return tomorrow.

I’ve Been Away Too Long, But I’m Back to Gardening Now

I  have been sick, but I’m back to writing and blogging.  Meanwhile, for my friends farther north, here are some of the flowers blooming in my yard now:

Azalea, Pink & White

I bought this white Encore azalea about a year ago. Last fall, I noticed some tiny white stripes in the flowers. It appeared as if someone had brushed across the petals with a tiny artists’ brush. This year, the plant still has mostly white flowers, but has two pink flowers, with buds that hint of more pink to come.


Vinca - Hot Pink

This one little vinca plant is a volunteer that came up from seed dropped by last summer’s flowers. It is near our front door, and is bright and cheerful. I have a lot of white vinca growing in the back yard, but this is the only pink one.


Poinsettia, pink - florettes, MLM 1

The poinsettias are still blooming, too.

SunPatiens - MLM1

This is the only one of my New Guinea impatiens that survived the heat last summer. It has never stopped blooming. I just noticed that all my flowers are some shade of white or pink. There are some bright yellow marigolds that have come up from seed dropped last fall, but I don’t have photos of them yet.

The Sad Sob Story:

Last fall, my husband, Bo, and I left on a trip to tour the New England states. Unfortunately, I got bronchitis, and we had to cut our trip short, and return earlier than planned. In a few weeks I got better, then relapsed, and was sick for quite a while. My husband got sick, too, and even our little dog, C.C., got a case of kennel cough.

I’m back now and ready to answer your gardening questions, and to share photos of my plants, and of interesting plants that I see around our town. While on our trip, we did see some of New England, and I did take some nice photos, which I shared on my blog, Down Hibiscus Lane. I have been away from that blog, too, so I will be posting more photos of New England soon.