Keeping Impatiens All Season

October 20, 2017

Sometimes it's nice to do a post that's just for fun, right? Not to do with the business and not really with the garden, per se. If you've been to the farm, it's easy to notice that there are many flowerbeds and we don't just grow things to eat! Though, it has been said that flowers are food for the soul...


The west side of the house is shaded by forest cover with parts of the foundation plantings getting no direct sun even in mid summer. Years of experimenting with what will grow in this shady, damp spot have resulted in a flower bed that is primarily wild flowers, ferns and impatiens.


The impatiens are blooming yet! Despite other tender plants being killed by early mild frost and recently a single night of killing frost (followed by warm weather), the impatiens have been protected on the down hill side and the house bounced the frost over the top of that bed! But, that sure did warn me the time had come to take cuttings for next year!


During the summer, by color, I saved seed for next year. It's pretty easy to save seed on impatiens. Look for the seed pods, carefully remove, then roll between your fingers into a deep enough container so when the seed pod explodes the seeds are caught.

seed pod on impatiens


A good thing to note for having colorful flowers all season: routinely burst these pods. The goal of the plant is not to make flowers for you (sorry!) but to make seed and perpetuate. Continually defeating the formation of seed pods means the plant will continue to flower. A fantastic side effect is more plants as the season goes on! Of all those seeds, many will germinate.


This is what the bed looks like by the end of the season:

Those planted in the spring are the ones in front of the rocks,

those behind are spread from seed!


Once the smaller plants started flowering, I noticed some colors that were not in the originals! Though mostly self pollinated, the bees will visit the impatiens and there was now a plant with lilac colored flowers and a pink with red eye. The only way to take advantage of these colors is by taking cuttings, growing a mother plant during the winter, and taking new cuttings to plant out in the spring. What I promptly did when cool weather warned me!


I realized when I went to plant the cuttings that I had no rooting medium. Usually that's just sand. Having some perlite but thinking it might be too dry...I added some sawdust from under the table saw! My thought was sawdust would stay wet and the perlite would keep it loose for air. In the past I have found impatiens a bit tricky to root, they can often just wilt off. This method worked great! Here is the cuttings:

After just a week, they are sending out new leaves. Never have been so fast! Like the tray? A recycled meat tray works great for just a few cell packs!


These will get potted soon and we'll enjoy the bright colors all winter and have mother plants for the spring.


Oh, and in case you didn't think I would think of it, yup, some of those seeds I saved could very well be crosses as well. Never really know quite what you're going to get. BUT, they will grow on that shady, damp side of the house and greet visitors to the farm!


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