What Animal Eats Impatiens Only? You’re Not Alone…

After the second week of attacks on my impatiens, I started asking neighbours if they were suffering a loss of flowers, but nope! One neighbour claimed that even the rabbits have been leaving his veggie garden alone this year. Many of my neighbours must have thought I was crazy, I mean, what animal would want to eat impatiens only? …though it did eat off the tops of white daisies that had already gone to seed.

I spent far too much money on impatiens back in May and June 2011. Then in July, we suffered high temperatures and no rain, forcing me to water my gardens nightly in hopes of saving my flower garden. On the second week in August of 2011, this nightly predator started attacking and eating my impatiens; some were eaten right down to the ground.

The critter would remove all the light coloured blossoms one night, then the leaves the next night, then start on the stems the following night. I have to give the critter credit; it wasn’t wasting anything by eating the plants clear on down to the roots! And though it preferred the lighter coloured impatiens at first, it did start eating the dark red and orange impatiens once they were all that was left.

Suspecting at first that it to be a malnourished rabbit, I purchased a Havaheart trap and stocked it with fresh leaves of lettuce, and then laid fresh pieces of carrots on top of the lettuce. Three nights I set this cage up with fresh veggies… and, for three nights the critter walked right passed the cage and continued devastating my impatiens.

opossum in a tree
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
My Internet searches proved fruitless, and in chatting with a girlfriend who lives out in the country, she suggested it sounded more like something a ground hog would do. Ahuh! Finally… I’m REALLY not going crazy!

So, it was then off to Lowe’s I went. I purchased wire fencing which I attached to the bottom of my wooden fence, all along on the north side of my back yard, as that’s where it looked though this critter was coming into my yard from. For two nights, the critter did NOT return.

On the third night the critter returned and ate with a vengeance! More impatiens were eaten than on previously nightly visits. I wondered if the critter might have brought friends. Worrying about it becoming rabies season, I called City Hall for help, and the receptionist read off a canned statement they’ve given her to read out to those who call for help, which virtually states; “it ain’t their job, call the provincial wildlife authorities”. Wow! Remind me again…. why am I paying property taxes?

Another Internet search today, and voila! I hit the jackpot. I came across Douglas Allen’s story posted at en.allexperts.com that was posted back in 2009. He TOO had been treated though he was crazy… what animal would eat only impatiens. Thanks Douglas!

Between a raccoon trying to chew its way into an outbuilding, leaving poo on the roof of a connected building as evidence… and, what appears to be the work of an opossum (impatiens eaten), I’ve been forced to hire help. Thank God for Stephen Paris at Back To The Wild 905-914-3400, who came to my rescue to remove the raccoon, and, prove Douglas right by capturing on a motion sensitive camera what I’m SURE will prove out to be an opossum!

Steve informed me, opossums climb fences just like cats do. Capturing and relocating them wouldn’t work in the long-term.

Just so you know not to confront an opossum, should you catch sight of one in your yard, check out this video:

UPDATE September 2011: No night critter was captured on the camera placed in my garden for one week. Reason being, impatiens were all but lost before we got to use the camera. Darn!

Next year… NO IMPATIENS in my garden :-(… I’m fed up with opossum damages. Cost is waaaay too high.

I decided to post this in case allexperts.com should remove Douglas Allen’s post. If like me, someone decides to search online for what animal eats impatiens, well, this way at least you’ll know you’re not alone!

UPDATE August 2012: Think I found a resolve to our shared dilemma, so be sure to read through the comments below. Hopefully there’ll be a product on it’s way to Kingsway Greenhouses for 2013!

UPDATE August 2014: Do opossum live in Ontario? You BET they do. To answer your question, here is a local newspaper’s story on this topic.

On the morning of July 31, 2014, there was a dead opossum in the middle of Highway 2, near the Oshawa and Whitby border.

If you’d like to read about other’s experiences with opossums, please, read this: The Straight Dope forum

Do opossums climb trees and/or wooden fences? You BET they do! Read all about it here: Do possums climb trees?

Other’s suggestions
Getting Rid of Opossums for Good

Did You Know?

How opossums help fight ticks and Lyme disease

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Given my passion for genealogy, is it any wonder that I eventually wanted to publish my work? Learning to use a personal computer was a natural step once I was introduced it in the 1990s. Then the internet offered a second means to "publish" and now, here I am with a personal blog.

57 thoughts on “What Animal Eats Impatiens Only? You’re Not Alone…”

  1. I have planted impatiens for years without any problem. This year I moved and have some plants being eaten. The only difference I can figure out is perhaps the neighbors’ big dog would chase off the opossum at night.

    Once in awhile, I would hear him bark in the middle of the night, but could never see anything. Probably an opossum.

    Get a dog. But don’t get a dog if you aren’t going to treat him like family. In when it’s cold and plenty of water in the heat and never ever chained up or caged.

    • Hi Carol,

      Well, I had a dog at that time called Nugget, but I would NEVER let him out at night time. Heck, he slept with me. I mean after all, he was my fur baby.

      Leave him outside… alone… all night? NEVER!

      Nugget is now gone: https://trishparr.com/nuggets-memorial/ and I have Chloe here and, again, I would NEVER let her stay outside… alone… ESPECIALLY not all night. I’d NEVER be able to sleep worrying if I did that.

      So… getting a dog is not the answer for me.

      Not planting impatiens, the opossum does still visit during the early morning hours as I still get SOME damage, just not the amount of damage that was done that summer.

      So, no more impatiens for my gardens anymore.

  2. Thanks for your post!!! Last year (2019) I tested a flower bed with 1 flat of impatiens – primarily for deer attacks. None! So I bought more impatiens and had NO issues all summer. This year (2020), I purchased 6 flats of impatiens and 3 sun-patiens plants.

    I planted the bed only to see no growth after 4 weeks and about half of the plants gone, suspected too much heat then noticed that the remaining base was obviously eaten.

    Deer are prevalent in our area of Northern Ohio. I’ve not SEEN oppossums – but suspect they are around.

    Before they ALL disappeared, I transplanted some impatiens to a more shaded area – they are growing nicely. I transplanted the Sun-patiens plants to a more “protected” partially shaded bed next to our house surrounded by concrete patio – they are flourishing.

    The day after I planted those, I noticed an area about 8″ around that had the mulch disturbed and a shallow area dug out as if by an animal. Interestingly, the ones I left in the original bed, about 8 plants, are growing untouched. I feel like a scientist running an experiment.

    No more impatiens for my yard.

    • Hey Donna,

      Know exactly what you mean about feeling like you’re a scientist… and, ya’ kinda’ are. LOL!

      It certainly was hilarious when my local wildlife rescue fella’ doubted my findings. But in fairness to him, he wasn’t long before coming back and informing me that yes, in fact the opossums are here in Ontario, Canada.

      Heck, those critters are smart. They just hitched a ride with all of the trains that were crossing our borders regularly. And, now with our summers being so much warmer, as is most winters, and southern Ontario has become prime real estate for the opossum.

      Ooooh well, you and I can be thankful for them as they will keep our lawns free from those nasty ticks.

    • Oh no Fran, I sure hope that spray is not harmful to the deer. Where have you hung your baskets that the deer are getting at them? I live dead center of the city, so no deer here… just opossums that love impatiens.

  3. Thank you. Thank you for your wonderful knowledge regarding impatiens and opossums. I too had no idea, especially just planted them 3 weeks ago and now they are gone. So disappointed. Thinking about putting artificial instead.

    • Oooh my Patricia, sorry to hear of your loss. How horrible that made me feel when it happened to me. My little “night stalker” ruined the summer he ate my impatiens. My gardens are the main feature in my back yard “get away” zone.

      You could plant some fall mums, and they’d look great at this time of year. Just be sure to select outdoor mums.

      My little bunny rabbit visitors destroyed what few petunias I planted in my back yard gardens this year. Thankfully, I’ve nearly filled my gardens with a wide variety of different perennials now and the half eaten petunias weren’t very noticeable. Perennials really do make my having lost my impatiens that summer less disappointing.

      Have noticed some local greenhouses are still claiming that impatiens are still suffering a blight. I call that “blight” opossum over population.

      Hope you enjoy what little summer we have left.

    • I mixed peppermint oil with water and sprayed it on my roses in hope of keeping off insects that eat the leaves. The smaller roses had their leaves and blossoms 🙁 both turn brown. Am hoping the plants pull through. Will NOT experiment like that again any time soon.

  4. I think I’ve found the answer to the problem of my impatient’s sudden deflowering! 2 big pots, 3 feet diameter have all the flowers eaten! Happen’s at night, and there are feces around about 2 inches or less in length. I did see an opossum a couple months ago in the evening, thought it was pretty cute. (!) May replace what’s left with mums. Do you think they’ll be OK?

    • Well Chris, I haven’t heard of anyone’s mums being eaten by these critters, so I would assume they’re a safe choice. Am hoping the two plants my little, late-night visitor ate will re-grow next summer. I’ll need to place a cage over each of them to prevent the new growth being devoured again. One was a poppy and the other was a red salvia. So… perhaps I should update the title on my post 😉

  5. Happened to me also. Took me a while to recognize the obvious fact that it was some critter. The only critter I have noticed in the evening is a skunk. I strongly suspect the skunk did it.

    • Hi Dib, just checked to see if you'd have opossum in El Cerrito, United States, and yes you do. If you watch around three o'clock AM, you're sure to see the little critter eating your impatiens. Yup, it's an opossum alright, and Oakland critter control will help you get rid of them, just call 1-800-CRITTER. Thank you for commenting. Hope they'll catch that nasty, little critter before all your blossoms are gone.

  6. I have 4 small impatients I planted last week, they were doing great, 3 had just bloomed. Came home from work today and they were gone! Eaten down to nubs, with just a few leaves left. My hosta beside the impatients were left alone. We do live in the country and I suspected deer, but after reading this, I'm thinking opossums! Anyone know what to put on the plants to keep the opossums away?

    • Hi Annette, if you ever find a potion to keep these critters away from your garden PLEASE, come back here and share with all of us here? So far, I can find no way of even capturing them outside Douglas Allen’s method… and his method I'm to fearful of using for fear a cat… or worse, my little Chihuahua-mix, being trapped in that nasty rat trap.

    • Same problem Annette. We were blaming deer because some of the plants are in bags on posts. Do opossums climb? Some of my ground ones were eaten, and some were just totally dug up, roots and all. As the others, my white ones seemed to be the favorite, followed by purple and finally red. Ugh.

      • Thank YOU Erica & Brad for your comments!

        I have posted an update to help us ALL with getting rid of these nasty vermins, hopefully, once and for all. If anyone can add to this, please do… we’re all listening!

  7. i live in syracuse ny. I have 3 window boxes filled with pink impatients. also have 2 big pots on steps filled with them. these are in the front of my house. one window box is dead, the other 2 okay so far. 1 pot on step starting to look stressed, while other one ok! I don't get it. could spiders be to blame? got plenty of them.

    • Hi mar, some local vendors are calling it a blight, but I still believe it is the work of opossums, as I explained to Pen yesterday (comment above). I quit planting impatiens last year yet had opossums ruin some of my perennial blossoms when they found no impatiens to eat. This spring, I lost about 4" of new growth of a beautiful poppy that had survived the nasty winter we finished experiencing this April. New growth has NOT come back since, and yes, that too I am blaming on opossums as NOTHING touched my gardens before the population boom seen in opossums here in the GTA. Coyotes are even trespassing into our city parks during daylight hours looking for food. One was spotted at 1:30PM on the first of June. Coyote love to eat opossums!

  8. okay. I decided to plant impatients on my back steps and I think the opposums have been visiting. I am getting very disgusted. Can;t have beautiul flowers because of these criters. Thanks for the suggestions. I am going to try something tomorrow.

    • If it makes you feel any better (though it wouldn't me), many professional gardeners are warning us NOT to plant impatiens this year due to a blight …though my money is STILL on the opossum eating them.

      Many city dwellers are totally unaware of the recent population-boom of the opossums within the GTA. We've even got a resident coyote in Centennial Park on Ritson Road North in Oshawa now. After having been spotted in this park by a friend yesterday, I've just learned that he's been around since last year …AND there was an incident with him last year, go figure.

  9. I had the prettiest impatiens – all white and thriving. Something ate them down to the nub. Saw a raccoon in my yard one night so I bet it was them. I was blaming the rabbits and deer.

    • I hear ya' Jason, and those pesky little vermin love other flowers too. One ate a beautiful poppy that was springing out of the ground with new shoots after such a nasty winter. I'm STILL waiting to see it return with new shoots. Then I plan to put a cage type of apparatus around it to see if opossum are STILL attracted to it. If so, it too will have to go 🙁

      Raccoons do NOT eat flowers opossum do. I'm so upset with this vermin that I've been tempted to try Douglas Allen's idea… though still reluctant to try in case any other animal got trapped.

    • I was blaming deer, because some of my impatiens are in bags high up on posts. What the opossums climb like that? Some of my "ground" ones were dug up. My bag ones were eaten all the way to the soil. I thought someone was harassing me last year. Now I realize that it has to be an animal. Seems just the height for deer though. hmmmm

  10. Thanks for this blog Trish! For two years now, impatiens have disappeared in the very same way you and others described. We could not figure out why. Then two opossums were spotted in our and a neighbor's yards. Opossums eating our impatiens only and none of the other flowers in the garden? Hard to believe. Thanks to your blog and comments from all over, we have identified the culprits. Getting rid of them is the next challenge.

    • You're so very welcome Ron, I know EXACTLY how you felt when the impatiens first started to disappear though vaporized bit by bit. As for getting rid of opossums, I don't think any of us will be lucky enough to ever be totally rid of them again 🙁 , though making sure there are no means of "housing" for them in close proximity to your property is highly recommended. I have a neighbour's garage that I'm certain is housing an opossum that's living with the many squirrels that live in the attic of the garage.

  11. my impatiens have been eten one plant at a time first flowers then leaves all thart is left is stems! they go from clump of flowers to next i tried soapy warter spray then house hold raid and puting out dishes of soapy water nothing has helped so far, have seen a few earwigs but not many around andnone in the soapy dishes there are lots of spiders this year 2013 HELP!!

    • Hi Cheryl, I'm betting there are lots of opossums where you are living as it seems you are not that far east from Oshawa. Believe me, opossums are here in southern Ontario.

      I have yet to ever witness earwigs actually eating blossoms They sure love to sleep inside my lily blooms 🙂 but they've NEVER eaten them.

      Try planting other types of impatiens next summer. Personally, I have taken to planting far more perennials than annuals yearly… and I've traded impatiens for petunia wave.

      • Glad I found your post. I live near Sacramento CA and have been wondering what has been eating the impatiens! Yes we have possums here and whatever is eating them is also turning the plants over!! It is also moving the rocks I have used as a border to the flowerbed. Some of the rocks are pretty big (8-10" diameter) and those rascals are making a mess of the rock border! Looks like trapping them will be the only solution at this point. At least 60% of the plants are now damaged and we are having a wedding reception in our yard in one week! I had planted everything early so the beds would be nice and full by now…so disappointing. Since the area is quite shady I'm not sure what I should plant next year!

        • Oh my Eve, I am sooo sorry to hear of the mess the opossums have made of your garden. I would image it will be a very costly "repair" in time for the wedding planned for your back yard. I didn't realize, until your comment, that opossums eat grubs too., so that's why your rocks were turned over. The rocks in my garden are so big they would need a gorilla to turn them over.

          How about planting Wax Begibua, Fuschia, and Lobelia next year? Apparently these are recommended annuals for shaded areas.

  12. Well here to my impatiens look dead headed and there is poop in my garden..We are taking out the plants now..I had seen a young opossum back in July in my bird feeder and got a pic of him..I was told they move on but I guess he must be still be here..

    • Thank YOU Marie for verifying that the opossum is truly "present and accounted for". I never did obtain an actual photo, but went with Doug's proof… being as he'd actually trapped one in his garden. Doug is located in one of the north-eastern States, and I am located in southern Ontario. If you have your photo of the young opossum in your bird feeder, feel free to post the URL in response to this reply. That way, future visitors here can view it too.

  13. I live on Cape Cod and came home from an eight day trip to find not a stub or a root in either of the three beds of impatiens that were happily in bloom when I left. A friend had planted the beds for me as a favor and I actually called her up to ask her if she was mad at me and had removed the plants!
    She then went outside to the bed she had on the far side of her house to find her impatiens gone too. Thanks for the posting. I was beginning to feel like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone!

    PS. I knew it wasnt bunnies because I have two cats and the bunnies dont come around anymore.

    • I know EXACTLY what you mean by wondering if you were in an episode of the Twilight Zone Kathy 🙂 …and, my compliments on your description for that "feeling".

      I sure hope this "blight" (as some nurseries are calling it) soon takes a hike so we can once again enjoy impatiens in our gardens. Until then I'm going for begonias next year… lots and lots of begonias! Sure hope those scamps don't like begonias… time will tell.

  14. Thanks everyone, I too thought I was crazy! I live in Connecticut and have recently noticed the flowers missing. I thought it might be to over watering or my MOLE issue but since we have see the quatra-fecta (opossum, raccoon, skunk and groundhog) all in a night, I too am sure its the opossum! Going to check for Shake-away at the local nursery tomorrow! – Mary

    • Well good Mary, glad this post helped save you the frustration I went through in discovering the problem. I pray there will be enough Shake-Away to go around next year. And, it kinda' makes one wonder how they collect of all the fox and bobcat urine, doesn't it?

  15. I live in Brooklyn, NY, and returned home from vacation to find all my impatiens, not just the two small beds I'd watched slowly disappear, devoured.

    We have a family of raccoons — yes, in Brooklyn (we live between the borough's largest park and its landmark cemetery) — and at least one 'possum.

    I believe this hot, dry summer has made all the furries come down the tree and into the garden for impatiens. Thanks for the information! t

    • I too live in a city C.K. and, yes, I know what you mean about raccoons. There is a very large pair living in Peacock's lumber yard down the street from my home and they visit here often. Our recycle bins tend to attract those searching for food. Also think that like the human population, there has been an increase in 'possum population these past few years.

  16. So I have a similar situation except that it is only happening to my plants that are not close more out in the open. I have impatiens planted along a front flowerbed. The left side has two miniature japanese maples with impatiends in front and partially under. They are HUGE as always. Then I have 7 others that are along the front edge of my bed out in the open. Alternate red and white. ALL the RED ones are wilted and gone ( thought watered every day ) the white one are doing mostly good but for one that is the same. YET they do seem to show as if they are just eat away as well as wilted. Quite perplexing in my case.

    • Hey ewest,

      Think you'll find that the opossum are responsible for the wilting look to your impatiens. Many gardeners STILL think that earwigs are responsible for the damages… but nope. Sure, our summer has been dry and lacking in lots of rain (which impatiens prefer) but, you said you watered yours every day? So… unless you over watered them… you have the same problem as my garden.

      Near the first of this summer (though I swore I wouldn't plant impatiens this year) it was thought that I was over watering them… then the little rascal started leaving more obvious signs that made me realize they're baaaack!

      Keep a watch on your impatiens, and I'll betchya' you'll see them devouring your impatiens more and more every day. My gardens have nice high fences to keep other critters out… dang! I could use a fox or two from 1AM until 4AM nightly. Oh well!

  17. This is the first year I have experienced the exact phenomenon and the same time line as your article! Trust me, the rabbits are so glad I read this before initiating "the plan":-) !Oh yea ,next year I will plant with greater knowledge! Again, much thanks, great article!

    • Oh I know what you mean Susan. I too was told it was rabbits LAST year, but I knew better. Heck, I had a baby rabbit hide in my yard a few summers ago (about 2008) and that little fella NEVER touched my plants EVER, so I knew that wasn't it.

      After I discovered the opossum and shared that knowledge with others… one lady on Park Road South in Oshawa thought someone was going by her home nightly plucking the blossoms one night then the leaves the next night and then the stems the next… until those I shared this story with, informed her. Now she too knows.

      Another friend had his mother phone him screaming that a giant rat was into her tomatoes in her back yard. He giggled and told his mom about my story so she too has come to know the culprit.

      It's pure and simple: Oshawa has been invaded by the opossum and NO newspaper wants to cover this story. Go figure, huh.

  18. I have been baffeled as to what has eaten my impatients this year. Thanks for some insight. Any idea on how to protect these beautiful flowers?

    • Hi Toni,

      The only product I've found so far (but, I have yet to test it) is Shake-Away. It's guaranteed by the manufacturer else I wouldn't even mention it here. All other ideas do NOT work.

      So far, I've only located one Canadian source for Shake-Away and that is http://www.birdxcanada.com/shake_away/shake_away_… but if you can wait until next summer… and if you live close enough to Oshawa… I printed off lots of info on Shake-Away and handed it all off to Kingsway Greenhouses employees in hope that they'll have the product available for the summer of 2013.

      Apparently, there's a nest of these critters in the empty field/lot just east of the 5-Points Mall on Taunton Road. Also, 2 dead babies were recently found on the pathways in Centennial Park at Ritson Rd. and Hillcroft St., so they're here to stay!

  19. You are not crazy! We too have disappearing impatiens. It does not matter if they are in the ground, in hanging baskets or in pots. The light colored ones were the first to go. My theory is that they show up better at night. I suspect the red ones will be next. Sadly, no more impatiens in our garden.

    • A gardener neighbour plants onions amongst his flowers to stave off aphids… and the onions smell, well like onions… (some people may NOT like the onion smell in a flower garden) but that MIGHT work to discourage the delicate aroma (…aroma, do impatiens even have that?) of the impatiens being detected via the wind… maybe?

      Also… last fall, my neighour to the north cleaned up his backyard of the many large trees and shrubs that were badly neglected, and I THINK I might get away with planting SOME impatiens this year. Perhaps the opossum won't come back because so much brush has been removed! Time will tell.

      Either way, if the scamp comes back he'll be captured on video and offered up here as follow-up evidence of my backyard trespasser.

  20. I wonder if that’s what ate MY impatiens this year Trish. Thanks for this info. I too will be reconsidering not planting impatiens this year. Feeding wildlife was not my idea when planting my garden last summer.


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