Impatiens have about one thousand species and are sometimes known as jewelweeds or touch-me-nots. Most impatiens are less than half a meter tall but there are several species that have been known to grow up to two meters. The leaves of these plants are shiny and a special coating on the underside gives them a very greasy feel.
The leaves are known to reflect light off of the water that collects on the leaf. Many people report the phenomenon as being prism like. Many of the flowers are horn shaped and grow to a few centimeters to an inch in length. However, some species do have flattened flowers with large petals and a tiny spur-like middle. Impatiens can be found in nearly every color.
Growing Requirements for Impatiens
Impatiens need to be sown indoors six to eight weeks before being planted outdoors. Once planted outdoors, around spring time but after the last frost, they should be planted in areas with good sunlight and good soil quality. Impatiens have a rapid growth rate and do very well as houseplants. They flourish in window boxes, hanging baskets, and pots. The flowers will bloom in early summer and last until fall.
Taking Care of Impatiens
The plant, whether being kept indoors or outdoors, should be watered regularly. The soil should be kept moist but not wet, and thus the soil needs be drained well. Also, the water needs to be room temperature. Impatiens should be fertilized once every two weeks.
History and Uses of Impatiens
Impatiens are often used in North American home remedies in order to treat mild afflictions such as insect bites, bee stings, and poison ivy rashes. Also in ancient cultures impatien petals were used as ingredients in nail polish, hair dye, and other beauty supplies.
The plant is native to North America but was imported to Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. The plants are commonly used in home remedies in these cultures as well.
Impatiens Diseases and Pests
Impatiens are susceptible to tomato spotted wilt virus which causes blisters and pustules on the leaf. This particular disease infects upwards of three hundred different plants. However, recent scientific studies show that the strain infecting impatiens is slightly different and therefore has been renamed the Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus. This virus can also cause stunted growth, deformed leaves, collapsing stems, and in extreme cases, death. The virus is most prominent in greenhouse environments. Special sprays can treat this disease.
Spider mites and aphids can severely damage impatiens in the height of the season. However, simple and regular insecticide treatments can keep the problem at bay.
Additional Information on Impatiens
Additional Information about Impatiens can be found on the following websites:
Clemson Cooperative Extension covers Impatiens
PennState Extension covers Impatiens Diseases