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On Gardening: This summer head to Rockapulco for shady color

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

The past couple of weeks gardeners have been writing to me asking for ideas for colorful combinations in baskets, window boxes and containers for shady environments. I like to quip back in humor and ask how they would like a rose? Everyone would, of course, except for the thorns, but the rose I am talking about is for the shade, has no thorns and blooms until the first freeze.

Truth be told, it is not a rose at all, though each and every blossom looks just like the perfect miniature rose. They are actually Rockapulco impatiens. I am finding a whole generation of gardeners have had these impatiens slip by unnoticed. So, to bring you up to date There are now eight colors in the Rockapulco series and they have won a whopping 69 awards.

They reach about 20 inches tall with a 24-inch spread, and though they require shadier type environments, they have the ability to brighten those areas with luscious color and texture.

I have grown them easily in fertile organic rich beds, but there is something extra special about them in containers, baskets and window boxes where I can get up close to see their exquisite blooms. Though they don’t require deadheading its easier to do any snipping or tidying up if I am not crawling around on the ground. But their beauty will make you want to feel like you are doing something to help.

Your help will come at the start by choosing a good site with early morning sun followed by shade protection during the heat of the day. High shifting filtered light may be the best of all worlds, giving them light and retreating throughout the day.

For container type growing, choose a really good, freely draining potting mix. This will take away any fears of overwatering. Since you will be watering most days during the long hot summer you will be leaching nutrients. So make plans to feed with a water-soluble fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks.

Rockapulco impatiens, those rose forms, are like any other shade lovers when it comes to companion planting. Heart to Heart caladiums, Shadowland hostas and Primo or Dolce heuchera quickly come to mind as landscape companions and mixed containers too.

But there are other opportunities you don’t want to miss. The Rockapulco Appleblossom, for instance, looks like rare porcelain China. Partner with Diamond Frost euphorbia, Silver Falls dichondra and some small variegated ivy and the look will be worthy of a painting.

But I have had the opportunity to see and photograph baskets where Rockapulco impatiens were partnered with ornamental sweet potatoes. It is hard to choose a favorite but one with Rockapulco Coral Reef was a "holy wow." Its partners were Sweet Caroline Medusa Green sweet potato and Summer Wave Large Violet torenia or wishbone flower.

Then there was another basket with Rockapulco Tropical Shades impatiens, Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime sweet potato and Endless Illumination Browallia with blue flowers.

Proven Winners, however, have recipes that will knock your socks off. One is called Eclipse of the Sun Outside. It features Rockapulco Tropical Shades impatiens, Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime sweet potato, ColorBlaze Chocolate Drop and Wicked Hot coleuses.


Planting season is approaching at warp speed. If you have some filtered light areas that need to come alive with color, put Rockapulco impatiens high on your list. You will no doubt say, where have these been?!



Rockapulco Appleblossom, is an award-winning impatiens, with a look of rare China. Here it is partnered with Diamond Frost euphorbia, Silver Falls dichondra and ivy.

Rockapulco Coral Reef impatiens dazzles in the hanging basket featuring Sweet Caroline Medusa Green sweet potato and Summer Wave Large Violet torenia or wishbone flower.

This hanging basket features Rockapulco Tropical Shades impatiens with Sweet Caroline Sweetkeart lime sweet potato and Endless Illumination browallia.

This recipe is called Eclipse of the Sun Outside and features Rockapulco Coral Reef impatiens, ColorBlaze Wicked Hot and Chocolate Drop coleuses and Sweet Caroline Sweetheart lime sweet potato.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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