Impatiens

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(Family Balsaminaceae)

Known much more widely by its common name 'Busy Lizzie*, this plant has become very popular in the last 20 years and possibly now rivals the geranium as a window-ledge plant. It is not a difficult plant to grow and has the virtue that, given the right conditions, it will bloom almost the whole year round.

The seeds and plants available today are cultivars, which have been developed by hybridising the species Impattens hoist t, I. suhani and I. petersiana. The cultivated Busy Lizzie has been given the specific name Impattens wallerana. Thus we have LW. suhani, from which the cultivars with pale green leaves have been produced; I. II". peter nana, giving the cultivars with purplish bronze leaves and red stems; and /. it", suhani variegata giving plants with white-edged leaves and candy-striped (lowers.

The species are native to Zanzibar and also to tropical East Africa. A comparatively recent

ImfiltlfM nv/lertuut, better known as Busy Lioic, flowers throughout The year

ImfiltlfM nv/lertuut, better known as Busy Lioic, flowers throughout The year

Flowers That Grow East Africa

development has been the introduction of plants from New Guinea, from which cultivars with variegated foliage and larger flowers have been raised.

The Busy Lizzies sold today are mostly cultivars which have a compact bushy growth and a colour range of various shades of red, pink, orange and also a white; in addition there are the striped bicolours, such as red striped with white.

CULTIVATION

The best way to start with a collection of impatiens is to buy the plants and propagate from cuttings, which can be taken at any time of the year. A good time to take cuttings is in the late summer, when the plants are growing strongly, and also because the purpose of taking cuttings is to provide plants for the following season.

Select the most suitable stems and take tip cuttings about 2-3 in (5-7,5 cm) long, cutting the stem below a node, dust with a rooting powder and insert the cutting about l/i in (13 mm) deep into a cutting compost. A lot of people root Busy Lizzies by Standing the cutting in water but, although roots form quite readily by this method, they are always thin and weak with the result that the cuttings do not always survive after being potted in the compost.

Cuttings taken in a mixture of 60 parts soilless cutting compost to 40 parts fine vermiculite produce a much healthier and bushier root system.

Keep the cuttings covered by a plastic bag, or by-similar means, until they are growing away; and when thev are well rooted pot in compost E6, in 3Va-in (9-cm) pots. At this stage the plants need to be watered very carefully to avoid any possibility of the stems rotting. Busy Lizzies have rather soft succulent stems, which will rot if kept too wet, so, after potting the cutting, water once and then allow the compost iust to surface dry before watering again. The frequency of watering will, of course, depend on the weather, but it is essential that the plants are not overwatered at this stage. It is a good idea to take more cuttings than you need, until you become experienced in growing these plants, and you can then afford a few losses. If you do not have any losses

Double-flowered lmpauctti. This variety of Busy Uzme is an easy-to-grow attractive pot plant.

no doubt your friends will be only too pleased to take your surplus plants off your hands.

Busy Lizzies grow well in a temperature range of 60-70°F(15-20°C) which is easily maintained in the summer months. In the early spring and late autumn try to maintain a minimum temperature of 60°F(15°C), as below this plants will cease to grow satisfactorily and will cease flowering. Below 55°F (13°C) the plant will tend to lose its leaves, and if the compost is too wet the stems are likely to rot.

When the plant in a 3'/i-in (9-cm) pot has made good growth, and looks ready for potting on, examine the root system and do not pot on unless it is almost

Flowering Pot Plants

pot-bound. Like many plants the Busy Lizzie flowers more proliflcally when the pot is full of roots, and potting on too soon is one of the causes of poor flowering.

Having examined the plant in its 3l/i-in (9-cm) pot, and found it to be full of roots, pot on into a 4Vi or 5-in (11.5 or 13-cm) pot, again using compost E6. It is not usually necessary to use a larger pot than a 5-in (13-cm) even for the biggest plants.

If cuttings are taken in summer, the young plants can be overwintered in their 3Vj-in (9-cm) pots and will be ready for potting on into larger pots in the spring. When compost E6 is used it will not be necessary to feed the plants until late summer, if at all. On the other hand, if you use a soilless compost, feeding should commence about six to eight weeks after the plants have been potted into their final pots.

Always endeavour to prevent any spindly growth and give the plants regular attention, pinching out any growths as necessary, to produce a bushy plant. Busy Lizzies are not difficult plants to keep alive, once they are established plants, but if you wish to grow really attractive plants they do require cultivating in the manner described.

Poor flowering and loss of flowers can be caused by too little light. Loss of leaves is often caused by

Hot Weather Pot Plants

irregular watering in the summer, and by insufficient heat in the colder seasons of the year. In hot weather the plants will require more water than most pot plants and will probably need watering at least once a day.

Impatiens can be raised quite easily from seed if you have the facilities. Sow in late winter or early spring, in a seed compost, covering the seeds very lightly with the compost. Keep the seed pan in a plastic bag in a temperature of 65-70°F(18-21oC), and germination should take place in two to three weeks. Remove the plastic bag as soon as germination is evident and put the seed pan in slightly cooler conditions, 60-65°F{15~ 18°C), in a good light but protected from direct sunlight. When the seedlings have made some growth and are large enough to handle, they can be potted in 2Vj-in (6-cm) pots using compost E6.

In the right conditions growth is quite rapid and seeds sown in late winter will usually give flowering plants by mid-summer.

The usual procedure with impatiens is to discard plants after a full season's growth but, should you wish to keep the plant, it should be severely cut back in autumn and it will shoot again from the base, in much the same manner as a geranium does. If you decide to do this the plant should be repotted in the spring in fresh compost, removing as much of the old compost as possible.

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  • dale
    What to plant with impatiens in a pot?
    8 years ago

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