What’s the difference between begonias and impatiens?

Answered by Robert Dupre

Begonias and impatiens are both popular choices for adding color to shady areas in the garden. While they may appear similar at first glance, there are some notable differences between these two types of plants.

1. Flowering characteristics:
– Impatiens: Impatiens are known for their abundant and colorful flowers. They come in a wide range of hues, including shades of pink, red, orange, purple, and white. The flowers are typically small and have a five-petaled shape, resembling a little trumpet or funnel.
– Begonias: Begonias also offer a variety of flower colors, but they often feature larger blooms compared to impatiens. Begonia flowers can be single, double, or even ruffled in shape. They come in shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, and white. Some begonias also have attractive patterns or spots on their petals, adding further interest to their appearance.

2. Foliage:
– Impatiens: The foliage of impatiens is generally green and somewhat plain, with simple oval or lance-shaped leaves. The focus of impatiens is primarily on their flowers rather than their foliage.
– Begonias: On the other hand, begonias are renowned for their ornate foliage. The leaves of begonia plants come in various shapes, including asymmetrical, lobed, or even spiral patterns. They can be glossy or textured and often have interesting color variations, such as silver, bronze, or burgundy. The foliage itself can be a striking feature even without the presence of flowers.

3. Light requirements:
– Impatiens: Impatiens are shade-tolerant plants that thrive in areas with dappled or filtered sunlight. They can tolerate some morning sun but may suffer in intense, direct sunlight. Impatiens are ideal for planting in shady garden beds, under trees, or on covered porches.
– Begonias: Begonias are more versatile when it comes to light requirements. While some begonia varieties prefer shade and are perfect for shady spots, others can tolerate more sun exposure. Fibrous begonias, for example, can handle full sun to partial shade, making them suitable for a wider range of garden conditions. It’s important to select the right begonia variety based on the available light in your garden.

4. Growth habit and care:
– Impatiens: Impatiens are fast-growing annuals that can quickly fill in empty spaces in the garden. They have a mounding or spreading growth habit, with some varieties reaching heights of up to 2 feet. Impatiens are relatively low-maintenance, requiring regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist.
– Begonias: Begonias can be annual or perennial, depending on the variety. They have a more upright growth habit, often forming bushy plants that can reach varying heights, from a few inches to several feet. Begonias generally require well-draining soil and regular watering, but they are also more drought-tolerant compared to impatiens.

While both begonias and impatiens offer beautiful flowers, begonias have a wider range of foliage options and can tolerate more sunlight. Impatiens, on the other hand, are known for their abundant and colorful flowers and are best suited for shaded areas. Considering these differences can help you choose the perfect plant for your specific garden conditions and preferences.