Everything You Need to Know About Busy Lizzies
Busy Lizzies are a popular compact annual that produces long-lasting blooms and in my garden, they last throughout summer and well into autumn, often up until the first frosts.
I’ve grown them in pots, troughs and hanging baskets, where they blended perfectly with other popular annuals I grew, such as pelargoniums, petunias and pansies. I’ve also found them to be a great space-filler for borders where they add late-season colour.
Busy Lizzies are susceptible to frost so I usually discard them in late autumn, but their life can be prolonged by relocating them to a sheltered spot as they cope with partial shade.
Busy Lizzies and a Pelargonium (photo taken in early October)
Choose From These Two
Busy Lizzies can be separated into two groups:
- Impatiens walleriana
- Impatiens hawkeri
Impatiens walleriana is the classic Busy Lizzie that has been grown in the UK for decades and produces pale green leaves and pastel-coloured blooms. In my garden, this Busy Lizzie reaches heights of around 35cm and a spread of approximately 30cm.
Impatiens hawkeri produces bold, bright green foliage and much deeper coloured blooms and in my garden, it reaches heights of around 50cm and a spread of about 45cm.
Growing Busy Lizzies from Seed, Small Plugs or Garden-Ready Plugs
I’ve experimented with growing Busy Lizzies over the years and I feel they are best grown from small plugs or garden-ready plugs, but those of you who like a challenge can try them from seed.
Seed – Busy Lizzies are notoriously difficult to grow from seed; I’ve found them very slow to germinate and grow and they hate cold temperatures. You will most likely need a good propagator and a good dose of patience, no pun intended. The Gardeners Corner has an insightful forum post with hints and tips from other gardeners who have grown Busy Lizzies from seed but from experience, I know they aren’t easy to grow.
Small plugs – these are usually available from garden centres and specialist nurseries from spring onwards and I usually keep them under glass or on a bright windowsill and protected until the risk of frost has passed.
Garden-ready plugs – you’ll likely see these in garden centres from mid to late summer, and while they’re the least cost-efficient option, you’ll get plenty of blooms all the way into autumn.
The Best Location For Busy Lizzies
In the UK, I’ve seen Busy Lizzies perform best in a bright spot such as a hanging basket in a south-facing garden, but they’ll still put on an excellent show in partial shade and light shade; they can often be found under tree canopies where they bloom more profusely than petunias, pansies and other tender annuals.
The stems on Busy Lizzies are tender and likely to break if mishandled or grown in an exposed spot, so keep them away from the wind, if possible.
Busy Lizzies can be grown in borders, raised beds, pots, containers, troughs and hanging baskets but should be kept away from overly damp parts of the garden due to the risk of disease/mould.
Some gardeners have reported that Busy Lizzies lack flowers if grown in a crowded spot. Based on my experience, I feel this is most likely due to the plant competing for sunlight, where it has to grow taller at the expense of blooms.
Closeup of a Busy Lizzie petal
Watering and Fertiliser
These annuals will perform best when grown in moist but not waterlogged soil, so pots and baskets should have drainage holes.
If practical, water from the side rather overhead, to prevent splashing and disease transfer – this is a common issues with this plant and one I have experienced.
Busy Lizzies have low to moderate fertiliser requirements, but as with many annuals, they will respond to a dose of general fertiliser containing high amounts of nitrogen (best up until mid-summer). From summer onwards, I usually switch the fertiliser to one with low nitrogen and high potash content.
The nitrogen will help the Busy Lizzies to put on top growth and foliage, while the potash will prolong the blooms and encourage new ones, even into the cooler autumn season.
The Best Soil or Compost For Busy Lizzies
I use fresh compost in my baskets and feeds every year. I never use garden soil due to the risk of disease transfer.
Pruning, Deadheading and Maintenance
The Busy Lizzies have always responded well to regular deadheading as this encourages new blooms.
I suggest gardeners make an effort to remove any mouldy leaves and stems as Busy Lizzies are prone to grey mould.
This annual, like many others, can become somewhat leggy later in the season and I’ve found that it responds well to a good all-around prune to help it maintain a compact shape.
Notable Pests, Diseases and Other Problems
I rarely have problems with slugs or snails on Busy Lizzies later in the season, and I even added this annual to our list of slug resistant plants.
Busy Lizzies grown in hanging baskets and containers are easier to protect from slugs as barriers are more practical here, while organic pellets work best in borders and raised beds.
If you do experience problems with slugs and snails, try these products.
I’ve noticed that aphids can be an issue during the growing season, but they can be treated with readily available products or squashed every few days before they establish a colony.
I’ve prevented the spread of grey mould by using fresh compost, watering from the side and removing dead leaves and stems.
Busy Lizzie Cuttings and Propagation
Propagating Busy Lizzies is easy, watch Daniel’s short video below:
I grow Busy Lizzies as annuals but they can be grown as a houseplant, and there’s no reason why they won’t thrive indoors provided it’s given enough light; a conservatory or bright windowsill out of strong, direct light, would be perfect.
Consider taking late summer cuttings, rooting them in water and transferring them to pots in a warm, bright conservatory. Keep the pots moist, in a sunny spot and above 14°c during the winter months.
Flowering season: Early summer until first frosts.
Fertiliser requirements: Low/moderate.
Water requirements: Moderate.
Location: Sun or partial shade.
Pests: Slugs, snails and aphids.
Diseases: Grey mould.
Poisonous: Non-toxic to cats and dogs.
Busy Lizzies are back – after a notable absence due to downy mildew disease, cultivators have now created a disease-resistant variety and this once-popular annual is well and truly back.
Slight more upright than petunias and producing far more blooms than pelargoniums, Busy Lizzies can add colour and distinctive bushy foliage to any garden right up until the first frosts.
If you’ve never tried Busy Lizzies before, give them a try.
Meet The Author: Hannah Miller
Hannah is a former NHS administrator, mother of two and keen gardener with a horticulture qualification who loves growing new plants and experimenting in the garden.
She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.
This year is all about pollinators, and Hannah has set herself the goal of only buying new plants that attract pollinators; she aims to make the garden as bee and butterfly friendly as possible.
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