The tale of Impatiens tinctoria

calla_lady(Z8b N. Calif)November 11, 2005

A couple of years back I purchased a 4" container of Impatiens tinctoria. At that time I was uncertain about it's hardiness so I planted it in a 5 gallon container. I used a tomato cage that was run through the pot and back out the drainage holes for support (This can easily get 5 - 6' tall). I parked it in a corner of my cool (unheated) greenhouse and have enjoyed it's huge (3" - 4"), fragrant flowers for the last couple of years.

I did some research and found that this one is hardy with enough drainage in my zone and decided that this would be the year that I would plant it out into the garden. When I tried to move the pot it would not budge! Because it was in the corner and had about 6' of sprawling growth I could not see what the problem was until we removed the covering on this greenhouse and I could get into the corner. This is what I found hiding in the back -

I knew that this was a tuberous Impatiens when I planted it but had no idea that it could grow this much! The back of the container had split all the way down the pot revealing the tuber(s) inside.

It had rooted through the pot from every opening, and through the heavy duty landscape fabric on the floor. That corner of the greenhouse floor had Glechoma hederaceae taking over the floor and any of the Impatiens limbs that touched the ground covered in the Glechoma - apparently making a perfect rooting area. I had been told that I. tinctoria could not be started from cuttings, but seems that is not the case at all. The picture below is of one of the unearthed limbs that has now formed new tubers that were quite happily growing in the ground cover. Ultimately I dug up the corner of the greenhouse and found that it had sent roots (that formed new tubers) out as far as two feet away. Looked like a mighty big gopher had gotten into the greenhouse by the time I was done :~).

Finally I drag this massive plant (remember that it had 6' of growth) out into the yard where I begin "surgery" to extract it from it's pot and the tomato cage. It took me a long time! This is what I revealed. Remember - this is just two years growth. The main tuber which did not photograph well was about the size of a soccer ball, then it had oodles of little tubers off of it. Amazing!

Ultimately I ended up cutting off about 2/3 of the top growth as it was wilting so badly. Thought I might have to take even more off. I did end up with an assortment of various tubers and root pieces that broke off in the process and potted them all up. Hoping this isn't a case of the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" (I love this Impatiens!). I did get it replanted in the garden, watered the poor wilted mess well and wished it luck. After cleaning up I went back outside to check on the "poor patient" and was blown away to be greeted by the perkiest, happiest looking Impatiens that I had ever seen, it had fully recovered in less than an hour. You can bet I was kicking myself for having cut off the top growth before giving it a chance to recover (it was loaded with flower buds!). Ah well, live and learn, huh? Today just two short weeks later it is pushing so much new growth that I am floored! I hate to see it with so much new growth going into winter but it is in a pretty protected area so we shall see how it goes.

That is the tale of the my Impatiens tincoria.

:~) Alicia

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gurley157fs(zone 7/8sc)

Those are some amazing tubers. Would love to see a photo of the whole plant.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 4:18AM
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MrImpatiens(Zone 9 CA)

Very nice plant! I'm still waiting for mine to flower. Looks like we may be seeing a bunch of I. tinctorias for sale on ebay in the near furture. Each of those tubers should start a new plant I believe. Good Job. You can do cuttings on tinctoria but side shoot cut at the base of the main stem are always best. It will also set seed which is always nice. How to start them I am not really sure. But I think they would need a cold spell like balfourii.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 10:30PM
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calla_lady(Z8b N. Calif)

Mr Impatiens, my I. tinctoria flowered like crazy last year, it was the most vigorous flowering that it has had since I planted it 3 years ago. I am curious to see how it does this year. It lost most of it's top growth to a freeze a month or so back, but is pushing lots of new growth now.

Thanks for the head's up about stratifying the seed, nice not to have to learn by trial and error sometimes :~).

    Bookmark   January 15, 2006 at 4:14AM
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I would very much like to get this plant for my garden. I keep trying to get it at Annie's Annuals and she is always out. Anyone willing to trade cuttings or plants? I own a 5 acre nursery and garden center. Here's what I have available to trade: Check out my availability page and look through the 4"/5" plants. AAnything else would really be too big to send in the mail. Let me know if interested. Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 10:29PM
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