Impatiens balsamina or Garden Balsam is an annual native from China to India. The plants are freely branching and will reach up to 2.5 feet (75 cm) tall with an equal spread. Alternate leaves are up to 6 inches (15 cm) long and narrowly to broadly lanceolate, with deeply serrate edges. Garden Balsam has been used in the landscape since Victorian times and comes in a wide variety of flower colors and forms, ranging from bright single flowers to double flowers resembling Camellias. They are of easy culture and make a great annual in the landscape.
Blooming: In the greenhouse, the plants bloom with 1-2 inch (1.5-5 cm) axillary flowers on short pedicels overtopped by leafy shoots. Flowers have a spotted spur of variable length. In the landscape, the plants bloom from mid-April through to the first frost. In the greenhouse, plants bloom all year long. Very showy!
Culture: Impatiens balsamina need full sun to partial shade, with a rich moist soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part loam to 1 part sand or perlite. In the landscape, plants are not too fussy about soil type, as long as they are kept moist. In containers in the greenhouse, plants are kept moist at all times and fertilized monthly with a balanced fertilizer. As plants outgrow their containers, we discard the plants frequently and start new ones. As long as the temperatures stay above 55°F (13°C), the plants will bloom all winter long.
Propagation: Impatiens balsamina is best propagated from seed. Although they will propagate from cuttings, a much better plant comes from seed.
Impatiens balsamina was featured as Plant of the Week December 2-8, 2005.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.