Difference Between Vinca and Impatiens

In the world of gardening, the choice between plants can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when each offers its unique set of attributes. Among the commonly debated choices is that between vinca and impatiens. This article aims to dissect the vinca vs impatiens debate, providing readers with a detailed understanding of their differences, similarities, and the ideal situations for each.

What is Vinca and What is Impatiens?

Vinca, commonly known as periwinkle, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Apocynaceae. They are native to Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia. These plants have glossy leaves and produce simple, salverform flowers, typically blue or purple but sometimes white or pink. Vinca can be found as both annual and perennial varieties. Besides their ornamental value, some Vinca species are used for medicinal purposes.

Impatiens, often referred to as “busy Lizzies,” are a diverse genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Balsaminaceae. They are predominantly native to the Northern Hemisphere but can be found in various other regions. Impatiens are known for their vibrant, colorful flowers and are popular as garden plants and houseplants. They prefer shade to partial shade and thrive in well-draining, moist soil.

What is the Main Difference Between Vinca and Impatiens?

The main difference between vinca and impatiens lies in their environmental preferences and resilience. Vinca, often recognized for its drought tolerance, thrives in sunny locations and can endure periods of low water, boasting glossy leaves and a relatively hardy nature. In contrast, impatiens prefer shaded to partially shaded areas, requiring consistent moisture to flourish. This shade-loving plant is known for its profuse, vibrant blooms but is more susceptible to diseases like downy mildew, especially when compared to the more disease-resistant vinca.

Key Differences Between Vinca and Impatiens:

  1. Origin and Distribution: Vinca is native to Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia, while Impatiens predominantly hail from the Northern Hemisphere.
  2. Family Classification: Vinca belongs to the Apocynaceae family, whereas Impatiens is a part of the Balsaminaceae family.
  3. Common Names: Vinca is often referred to as periwinkle, while Impatiens might be called “busy Lizzies.”
  4. Preferred Growing Conditions: Vinca is more drought-resistant and can tolerate sunnier conditions. Impatiens, on the other hand, prefer shade to partial shade and require consistent moisture.
  5. Flower Structure: Vinca flowers are usually simple and salverform, while Impatiens flowers can exhibit a more varied structure, often with a spur.
  6. Leaf Texture: Vinca plants typically have glossy leaves, while Impatiens leaves can vary but are often more matte.
  7. Medical Uses: Some Vinca species are known for their medicinal properties, particularly in the treatment of certain cancers. Impatiens are not widely recognized for medicinal uses.
  8. Plant Lifespan: Vinca can be found in both annual and perennial varieties. In contrast, most common Impatiens varieties are annuals.
  9. Disease Resistance: Impatiens can be susceptible to downy mildew, a disease that has affected many commercial cultivars. Vinca is generally more disease-resistant.

Key Similarities Between Vinca and Impatiens

  1. Ornamental Value: Both Vinca and Impatiens are primarily grown for their ornamental value, appreciated for their vibrant and colorful flowers.
  2. Cultivation in Gardens: Both plants are popular choices for gardens, borders, and containers due to their aesthetic appeal.
  3. Toxicity: Parts of both Vinca and Impatiens can be toxic if ingested, so they should be kept away from pets and children.
  4. Propagation: Both can be propagated from seeds, and Vinca can also be propagated from cuttings.
  5. Varietal Diversity: Both Vinca and Impatiens have several species and cultivars available, offering gardeners a range of colors and forms to choose from.
  6. Moisture Requirements: Both plants prefer well-draining soils and are sensitive to over-watering, though Impatiens require more consistent moisture than Vinca.
  7. Growth Habit: Both plants are usually bushy and spread out as they grow, filling in garden spaces effectively.

Pros of Vinca Over Impatiens

  1. Drought Resistance: Vinca plants are more tolerant of dry conditions compared to Impatiens, making them a better choice for areas prone to drought or for gardeners who might not water as frequently.
  2. Sun Tolerance: While Impatiens prefer shade to partial shade, Vinca can thrive in sunnier conditions, providing flexibility in planting locations.
  3. Disease Resistance: Vinca is generally more resistant to diseases, especially when compared to some Impatiens varieties that are susceptible to issues like downy mildew.
  4. Medicinal Uses: Some species of Vinca have been used in traditional medicine and are known to contain compounds used in modern cancer treatments. Impatiens doesn’t have a recognized medicinal use.
  5. Varietal Lifespan: Vinca offers both annual and perennial varieties, allowing for longer-lasting planting options, while most common Impatiens are annuals.
  6. Leaf Aesthetics: Vinca’s glossy leaves can be an attractive feature for some gardeners who prefer this kind of foliage over the often matte finish of Impatiens leaves.
  7. Lower Maintenance: With their ability to withstand various conditions, Vinca might require less overall care than Impatiens, especially in terms of water frequency.

Cons of Vinca Compared to Impatiens

  1. Floral Variety: Impatiens generally offers a broader range of flower colors and structures than Vinca, giving gardeners more visual options to play with.
  2. Shade Growth: While Vinca can handle sun, Impatiens is a better choice for deeply shaded parts of a garden where Vinca might not flourish as well.
  3. Moisture Preference: Impatiens can thrive in consistently moist conditions, making them ideal for garden areas that retain water or are near water features.
  4. Flower Density: Impatiens often produce a denser floral display, which can provide a more vibrant color splash in the garden.
  5. Growth Speed: Impatiens tend to grow and fill out more quickly, making them a favorite for gardeners looking to establish a full-looking garden in a short amount of time.
  6. Toxicity: While both plants can be toxic when ingested, Vinca contains alkaloids that are particularly toxic to pets and humans, requiring more caution.
  7. Cultivar Availability: Impatiens, being a popular choice for many gardeners, often has a wider variety of cultivars available at nurseries compared to Vinca.

Pros of Impatiens Over Vinca

  1. Shade Growth: Impatiens are particularly well-suited for shaded areas, making them a top choice for parts of the garden where many other plants might struggle.
  2. Floral Variety: Impatiens provide a broader spectrum of flower colors and structures, which can cater to varied aesthetic preferences of gardeners.
  3. Flower Density: Known for their profuse blooming, Impatiens often present a denser floral show, creating vibrant spots of color in the garden.
  4. Rapid Growth: Impatiens tend to fill out garden spaces more quickly than Vinca, which can be advantageous for those wanting an immediate lush appearance.
  5. Cultivar Availability: Due to their popularity, Impatiens often boast a more extensive range of cultivars available in nurseries compared to Vinca.
  6. Moisture Loving: For gardens that naturally retain more moisture or areas close to water features, Impatiens can be a better fit because of their preference for consistent moisture.
  7. Versatility: Impatiens are versatile in use, suitable for both garden beds and containers, making them adaptable for various gardening scenarios.

Cons of Impatiens Compared to Vinca

  1. Disease Susceptibility: Some Impatiens varieties, especially the common bedding types, are susceptible to downy mildew, which can decimate plants if not managed.
  2. Sun Sensitivity: Impatiens generally prefer shade to partial shade, limiting their placement in sunnier spots of a garden where Vinca might thrive.
  3. Water Dependence: Impatiens require consistent moisture. If not adequately watered, they can wilt or suffer, whereas Vinca is more drought-tolerant.
  4. Shorter Lifespan: Most common Impatiens varieties are annuals, meaning they complete their life cycle in one season, whereas Vinca offers both annual and perennial options.
  5. Pest Attraction: Impatiens can sometimes attract pests like aphids and whiteflies, which may require intervention.
  6. Less Drought Tolerance: In regions or seasons with limited rainfall, Impatiens might need more frequent watering compared to the more drought-resistant Vinca.
  7. Spacing Needs: To avoid diseases like downy mildew, Impatiens may need more spacing and better airflow than Vinca, which can affect garden design considerations.

Situations When Vinca is Better Than Impatiens

  1. Prolonged Dry Periods: In regions or periods where rainfall is scanty and infrequent watering is anticipated, Vinca’s drought resistance makes it the better choice.
  2. Full Sun Locations: For garden spots that receive a significant amount of direct sunlight throughout the day, Vinca’s sun tolerance gives it an advantage.
  3. Medicinal Purposes: If the intent is to explore traditional medicinal uses or appreciate plants with historically recognized therapeutic properties, Vinca stands out due to some species containing alkaloids used in cancer treatments.
  4. Perennial Preferences: For gardeners looking for plants that return year after year, the perennial varieties of Vinca might be more appealing than the mostly annual Impatiens.
  5. Disease Concerns: In areas prone to downy mildew or when trying to minimize the risk of plant diseases, Vinca, with its general disease resistance, is a safer bet.
  6. Low Maintenance Landscaping: For landscaping projects where minimal care is a priority, Vinca, requiring less frequent watering and care, becomes a preferable choice.
  7. Shiny Foliage Preference: If the garden design prioritizes plants with glossy or shiny leaves, Vinca’s naturally glossy leaves make it a better fit.

Situations When Impatiens is Better Than Vinca

  1. Shaded Garden Spots: In parts of the garden that receive limited sunlight, Impatiens, with their shade preference, are the ideal choice.
  2. Vibrant Floral Displays: When aiming for dense, vibrant, and colorful floral displays, Impatiens, known for their profuse blooming, take the lead.
  3. Quick Garden Fill: For those looking to rapidly fill garden spaces with lush growth, the faster-growing Impatiens offer an immediate solution.
  4. Moisture-Rich Areas: In garden spots that are consistently moist or near water features, Impatiens, with their love for moisture, thrive better than Vinca.
  5. Container Planting: If the intent is to adorn patios or balconies with container plants, Impatiens, versatile in their growth, are a prime choice.
  6. Varied Floral Options: For garden designs that require a broad spectrum of flower colors and structures, Impatiens, with their wider range of cultivars, offer more variety.
  7. Annual Garden Refresh: For gardeners who enjoy changing the look of their garden annually, the predominantly annual nature of Impatiens allows for frequent redesigns.

Vinca vs Impatiens Summary

In the vinca vs impatiens comparison, each plant emerges with its own set of strengths and considerations. The ideal choice largely depends on the specific conditions and requirements of your garden. Whether it’s the sun-loving resilience of vinca or the vibrant shade-friendliness of impatiens, understanding their attributes helps gardeners make well-informed decisions. As with any gardening endeavor, aligning plant choices with the environment and care capacity ensures a thriving garden landscape.

Drought ResistanceHigh, suitable for dry periodsRequires consistent moisture
Sun ToleranceThrives in sunny areasPrefers shade to partial shade
Disease ResistanceGenerally more resistantSusceptible to downy mildew
Medicinal UsesContains compounds used in treatmentsNo recognized medicinal use
LifespanOffers both annual and perennial typesPredominantly annual
Floral VarietyLimited compared to ImpatiensBroader range of colors and types
Flower DensityLess dense displayDenser floral display
Growth SpeedSlower growth rateRapid growth rate
Moisture PreferenceDrought-tolerantThrives in moist conditions
Leaf AestheticsGlossy leavesMatte finish leaves
ProsDrought-resistant, sun-tolerant, etc.Shade-loving, vibrant colors, etc.
ConsFewer flower varieties, toxic, etc.Susceptible to disease, sun-sensitive, etc.
SituationsFull sun, dry periods, low maintenanceShaded areas, vibrant displays, moist regions
Vinca vs Impatiens Summary


How should I care for vinca during the winter months?

Vincas are relatively hardy, but if you’re dealing with the perennial variety in an area with cold winters, it’s essential to provide some protection. Mulch around the base of the plants to protect their roots from freezing temperatures. If you’re growing them in pots, consider moving them indoors or to a sheltered location. For annual vincas, they typically won’t survive the winter, so you may need to replant the following spring.

Are impatiens susceptible to pests, and how do I handle them?

Impatiens can sometimes attract pests like aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. It’s essential to regularly inspect your plants for signs of these pests. If noticed, consider using a mild insecticidal soap or neem oil, ensuring to cover all parts of the plant. Always test a small area first and avoid applying during the hottest parts of the day to prevent leaf burn.

Can both vinca and impatiens be grown indoors?

Yes, both vinca and impatiens can be grown indoors, but they have different light requirements. Vinca prefers bright light, so placing it near a south-facing window would be ideal. Impatiens, on the other hand, thrive in partial shade, so an east or west-facing window or a location with filtered sunlight would be more appropriate. Ensure both plants have well-draining soil and are watered according to their specific needs.

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