(Impatiens balsamina) is one of the varieties of plants that comprise Impatiens. Members of the family Balsaminaceae, they are also known as Lady's Slipper, Beijo de Frade, Fen Hsien, Hosen-ka, Ji Xing Zi, Kina Cicegi, Snapweed, Spotted Snapweed, Pop Weed, Bang seed, or Touch me Nots.
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Native to the subtropical climates of Brazil, Haiti, Phillipines, Hawaii & China, these tender annuals made their way to colder parts of the world and appeared in many a Victorian garden. They differ from the standard impatiens (Impatiens walleriana, a.k.a. Impatiens sultani) in both growth habit and flower appearance. Garden balsam grows very tall on a central stem, rather tham as a short bushy plant. Blooms of the camellia flowered variety resemble tiny roses and the single flowered types look more like large snapdragon blooms. Flowers have both male and female organs and are easily pollinated by butterflies or bees, which absolutely adore them.
A favorite because of their fast growth and tall elegance, these stately beauties make a wonderful back border for a flower bed or cottage garden or a colorful edging for a pool. They can reach a height of 3ft. and a stem girth of 1 inch, and the colors, ranging from white to pink, purple into a deep burgundy red, are dramatic and create a tropical air even in Minnesota. Newer hybrid types, such as Topknot, have been bred for dwarf growth and maximum size bloom and placement.
We in the US have become so accustomed to pre-packaged and fast food that details about the nutritional and medicinal value of many plants has been forgotten. One of the more interesting and lesser known facts about these plants is that they are entirely edible - from leaf to stem. The leaves and stems are often eaten cooked as a vegetable, tasting rather like asparagus, and the seeds are collected and cooked as well. In many countries the flowers are used as a cooling tonic and as a treatment for burns and to make a tincture to use as an antibiotic. It is even been said that the leaves can cure warts.
Touch me Nots are not grown as often now as in the past and can be an unusual addition to the modern annual garden. Plant them with standard or New Guinea impatiens, with cosmos, or lobelia for contrast and color.
So, where did they get the name Touch me Not? Try picking the seed pods when they are ripe and you'll find out. It used to be a favorite game of mine as a kid to seed if I could pick a seed pod before it exploded and the seeds flew everywhere. Many of these 'seed bombs' wll spring into new plants the following year
(Plant heights are given at maturity)
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Garden Balsam, Double Mixed (Touch-me-Not, Snapweed, Garden Balm, Ladys
Slipper)- Impatiens balsamina - Annual; Upright plants that bear camillia-like
double flowers from June to frost; this lovely heirloom gets its name from
the seed pods, which pop open at a touch. Repays even the harshest conditions
with a bright array of color. Heirloom; drought resistant, full sun or
partial shade; plant height 1-1/2 to 3ft.
|#103 Packet, $3.50, Approximately 100 seeds|
Balsam Single Mix
Garden Balsam, Single Mixed - Inpatiens balsamina - Annual; Identical to above except flower are single. Heirloom, drought resistant, full sun or partial shade; plant height 1-1/2 to 3ft.
|#952 Packet, $3.50, Approximately 100 seeds|
Topknot - Impatiens
balsamina - Annual; A different garden balsam, with tightly wound
double blooms at the top of the plant.
Full sun or partial shade; height: 14in.
|#1362 Packet $3.50, Approximately 40 seeds|
The plants, like other impatiens varieties, can be easily propagated by seed or cuttings inserted into coarse sand. They do well in nearly any soil (even heavy clay), but they really take off when planted in a mix of light fibrous loam, peat moss, or leaf mold, and sand mixed with a liberal amount of compost.
Seedlings can be started from seed in a greenhouse where the temperature does not fall below 55F in a sterile medium in pots or trays. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy and the temperature somewhere between 70 and 75F. When the seedlings emerge, allow then to reach a height of 2-3 inches (which they will achieve very quickly) before you transplant into larger pots or outdoors. To start from cuttings, cut a small side branch at the stem, or a section with leaves. Remove any blooms and the two sets of leaves nearest the bottom of the cutting stem. You can dip the stems into water, then coat the stem up over the bottom leaf nodes in a rooting powder (or not, as you prefer) and simply insert the cuttings into coarse sand. Keep the sand damp and syringe the tops of the plants a couple of times each day to prevent excessive drying. Allow plenty of air circulation to prevent the growth of fungi that can damage the seedlings. Cuttings should root in about 14 days.
To transplant (whether grown from seed or cutting) water the seedlings about thirty minutes before and immediately after transplanting to avoid transplant shock. Move the plants outdoors or transplant them outdoors in spring when the soil has warmed to about 60F and the nighttime temperatures do not fall below 55F. These plant are extremely sensitive to the cold, so don't get too impatient. For the best flower production, keep one center stem and pinch off any side stems that appear, or just let nature take its course. Plant them in an area that has dappled shade or morning or late afternoon sun for best results. They can take a great deal of punishment, including some drought, but in Texas in July, for example, they will probably need some irrigating. You will have better success when planted in the garden than in containers.
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