Preparing Your Impatiens for Winter: A Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting Back for Spring

Impatiens are a gardener’s best friend, brightening shady beds and borders with their cheery blooms in shades of pink, red, white, orange, purple and more. While most impatiens are grown as annuals and replaced each year, cutting back your plants in fall can help them survive the winter in zones 8-11. For colder zones, pruning prepares them for disposal. Follow this simple guide to properly cut back impatiens before winter.

When to Cut Back Impatiens

The best time to prune impatiens is in late fall after the first frost has caused the plants to go dormant. This is usually around the time other tropical plants are being brought indoors or prepared for winter. If cut back too early the plants may put out new growth that will be killed by freezing temperatures.

Plan to cut back impatiens in October or November once nighttime temperatures consistently drop below 45°F. The foliage will blacken and look very dead at this point, but don’t remove it until spring when you can assess which stems and roots survived the winter.

Tools Needed

Cutting back impatiens requires just a few basic tools

  • Bypass hand pruners for smaller stems
  • Loppers for thicker, woodier stems
  • Gardening snips for detail work
  • Disinfectant such as bleach solution
  • Trash bags

Keep tools sharp and clean them with disinfectant between plants to prevent spreading disease. Also have trash bags ready to dispose of spent plants in areas where impatiens are not winter hardy.

How to Cut Back Impatiens Step-by-Step

Follow these simple steps for cutting back impatiens in fall for winter survival:

  1. Assess the Plants

    • Look for leggy, overgrown stems to prune back
    • Identify dead or diseased growth to remove entirely
  2. Make Cuts

    • Use bypasses hand pruners or loppers for larger stems
    • Cut back stems by 2/3 to just above a leaf node
    • Remove dead or diseased stems back to the soil line
    • Disinfect tools between each cut
  3. Clean Up

    • Discard dead foliage, stems and spent flowers
    • Place in trash bags for disposal if impatiens are not winter hardy
  4. Leave Root System

    • Do not dig up roots until spring
    • Allow 3-4” of stem stubble over the roots
    • Roots that survive may resprout in spring
  5. Make Final Checks

    • Scan for any remaining dead growth
    • Remove only if fully dead, not just dormant
    • Ensure 2/3 of each stem is pruned
  6. Store Tools

    • Disinfect all pruning tools with bleach solution
    • Wipe down to remove plant debris
    • Store tools safely for winter
  7. Dispose of Debris

    • Throw away dead foliage, stems and flowers
    • Leave any root balls intact
    • Compost only disease-free trimmings
  8. Check on Roots in Spring

    • Gently dig around roots after last frost
    • Look for new white, plump roots
    • Prune back dead roots and stems
  9. Enjoy Regrowth

    • Transplant vigorous new plants
    • Water and fertilize to encourage growth
    • Enjoy a revived impatiens garden!

Impatiens Pruning Tips

Follow these key tips for success when cutting back impatiens:

  • Never remove more than 1/3 of the total plant when pruning.
  • Make cuts just above leaf nodes where new growth emerges.
  • Use clean, sharp tools to prevent ripping or crushing stems.
  • Remove only dead, diseased or leggy growth – keep any healthy stems.
  • Disinfect tools between plants to prevent spreading issues.
  • Leave root systems intact until spring regrowth is underway.
  • Transplant and replant any vigorous regrowth from roots or stems.

Benefits of Cutting Back Impatiens

Pruning impatiens in fall provides a number of benefits:

  • Encourages bushier regrowth in spring from the roots
  • Removes dead and damaged foliage that can harbor pests and disease
  • Cuts back leggy growth to improve plant shape
  • Allows you to assess which plants roots have survived winter
  • Prepares impatiens for disposal and replacement in cold zones
  • Promotes flowering by redirecting energy into new blooms

With a simple fall pruning, your impatiens will enter winter cleaned up and ready to restart growth. The time invested in cutting back foliage pays off with vigorous, beautiful plants that provided continued years of enjoyment.

Storing Tender Impatiens Indoors for Winter

In zones 2-7 where impatiens are not winter hardy, you have the option of trying to store tubers indoors over winter. Here’s a quick guide to indoor impatiens storage:

  • Cut back foliage by 2/3 in fall after frost kills top growth.

  • Gently dig up the entire plant and root ball.

  • Shake or spray off soil and remove dead roots or stems.

  • Allow tubers to dry for 1-2 days.

  • Pack dry tubers in peat moss or vermiculite. Store in cool basement or garage around 45-60°F.

  • Check monthly and discard any rotten tubers.

  • In spring, replant healthy tubers outside after the last frost. Water well and fertilize.

While this process is possible, success rates are typically low. Storing impatiens tubers often results in rot, shriveling, and low germination rates come spring. For most gardeners, it’s easier to simply start fresh with new plants each year. But if you want to experiment with storing your favorites, cutting back foliage in fall prepares the tubers for lifting and indoor storage.

Overwintering Options by Zone

Overwintering impatiens outdoors requires proper pruning in fall plus selecting varieties suited for your zone:

  • Zones 8-11: Most standard impatiens can remain in the garden year-round in frost-free climates. Simply cut back by 2/3 in fall.

  • Zones 7-8: Try overwintering cold-tolerant varieties like SunPatiens and let foliage die back naturally after frost. Cover the roots with mulch.

  • Zones 2-6: Treat as annuals and replace each spring. Cut back foliage, discard plants, and replant the following year.

  • Zones 9-11 can also sow seeds mid-winter for early spring blooms.

Talk to your local nursery to find out which types of impatiens are perennial or cold hardy in your specific zone. Choose suitable varieties and care for them properly in winter to achieve overwintering success.

Troubleshooting Issues When Overwintering

Overwintering impatiens can be challenging. Here are some common issues and solutions:

Rotting roots – Allow tubers to dry before storage, use new storage media, and discard any rotten tubers immediately. Avoid overwatering.

Tubers shrivel and die – Store tubers in peat moss or vermiculite media rather than plastic bags. Keep humidity around 50-60% and temperatures 45-60°F.

Few or no plants regrow – Expect only about 50% of stored tubers to regrow. Purchase new plants as needed in spring to fill gaps.

Plants regrow then die – Harden off plants before moving outside in spring. Gradually expose them to more sun, wind, and cooler temperatures.

Leggy or sparse regrowth – Cut back any remaining dead foliage to allow for new growth. Fertilize and water transplants well. Move to full sun, if possible.

Flowers but no foliage – This is a sign of stress, likely due to improper hardening off. Pinch off flowers to redirect energy into leaf growth. Move plant to partial shade until established.

Enjoying Impatiens Year After Year

With proper pruning in fall and care over winter, it is possible to get more than one season out of impatiens in warmer zones. But even in areas where impatiens must be replanted annually, cutting back spent plants in fall allows you to start fresh each spring and enjoy another vibrant display.

The Benefits of Pruning: Why Your Impatiens mackeyana Will Thank You

Pruning isnt just a cosmetic fix—its a vital health check for your Impatiens mackeyana. By snipping away dead or dying foliage, youre nipping potential disease in the bud. So think of it as a preventative measure: you’re cutting off the parts of the plant that could be home to bacterial and fungal infections. This simple act of care can significantly reduce the risk of illness, keeping your plant thriving.

Growth Cues: Identifying the Right Stage for Pruning

Keep an eye out for leggy growth, a tell-tale sign that its time to grab the shears. This usually happens when stems stretch out with fewer leaves, making your plant look less than its best. Pruning these parts encourages denser foliage and more flowers. Also, dont hesitate to remove dead or faded growth; its like giving your plant a clean slate. Remember, its not just about the calendar; its about reading your plants cues.

Impatiens for winter


When should you cut back impatiens?

Spring and midsummer pruning sets up Impatiens mackeyana for lush growth and more blooms. Use sharp shears; disinfect to prevent disease when cutting back your plant.

How to make impatiens come back every year?

A: Impatiens do indeed come back from their own seed each year. You’ll realize with experience that the seedlings don’t begin blooming until late May, which is why most folks plant blooming, nursery-grown impatiens plants in April. To get yearly re-seeding, leave the bed alone after winter kills the plants.

When should I pull up my impatiens?

Impatiens should be pruned when they grow to about 3 inches high to help avoid the plants becoming leggy. This usually happens around midsummer, but they can be pruned anytime their colors fade, and they begin to look spindly. Keep impatiens plants short and bushy for the best flowers and color.

How do you prune Impatiens?

Prune your impatiens by using sharp, clean pruning shears. Use sharp pruning shears whenever you are pruning your impatiens. Clean cuts with shears allow your plant to heal quickly. Pulling or twisting dead foliage off your plants can contribute to plant damage and disease. Beginning in midsummer, cut back any impatiens that have become leggy.

Should I cut back my Impatiens?

One thing you may want to do occasionally, however, is pruning or cutting back impatiens. About mid-season, you may notice your impatiens getting a little leggy, meaning their stems get quite long and weak and develop fewer flowers. You’ll see a lot of holes, or empty spaces in your plants as opposed to fullness.

How do you care for Impatiens?

Remember to clean your scissors or garden shears before pruning. Wipe the pruning blades with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol or other disinfectant solution in between plants. By doing so, you prevent spreading disease from one plant to another. Impatiens are colorful plants and easy to grow but they tend to become leggy.

How do you remove dead growth from Impatiens?

Dead growth can be removed from Impatiens at any time. Use a clean pair of pruning shears or scissors to cut away dead growth in its entirety. We recommend pruning Impatiens to prevent the plant from looking overgrown. Cutting back an overgrown or leggy plant will promote new growth and ultimately make the plant look bushy.

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