About five hundred species of annual and perennial plants, originating in Africa and Asia, belong to the Impatiens genus; I. walleriana is an African species, perennial, but cultivated as an annual due to the strong sensitivity to frosts. It produces small, very branched shrubs, consisting of thin, fleshy, almost transparent, light green stems, which bear numerous small, almost heart-shaped, pointed leaves, with a serrated edge, dark green or light green. From March to April, until the first autumn colds, they produce numerous flowers of various colors, from white to pink, from red to violet; there are numerous varieties, hybrid and non-hybrid, with striped, two-colored and even double flowers. The plants of Impatiens walleriana generally reach 30-40 cm in height; I. hawkererii "New Guinea" is a very vigorous variety, with large elongated leaves, dark green in color, and medium-sized flowers, in shades of white, red and pink, generally tolerate the sun better than I. walleriana. These plants in nature in their places of origin are perennial, and bloom almost all year round, producing roundish, evergreen shrubs. In European gardens they are grown as annuals, in the flowerbeds of the garden, or even in pots.
|Family and gender|
Balsaminaceae, from 400 to 500 species, but only about 15 are cultivated
|Type of plant and growth habit||Annual herbaceous plants (in our climate).|
|Exposure||Half shade and shadow|
|Ground||Rich and moist|
|colors||Pink, red, white, lilac|
|Flowering||From 20 cm to 1.5 m|
|uses||Ground cover, flower beds.|
they prefer semi-shady positions or even in complete shade, since the direct sun causes a rapid withering; the cultivation in very sunny areas gives rise to poorly developed plants, which in the summer need very frequent watering. They fear temperatures below 5-10 ° C, therefore they are cultivated as annuals, or they can be cultivated as apartment plants during cold misei; in fact they are generally not preserved from one year to the next, as the rapid seed production makes them inexpensive plants.
water regularly, avoiding leaving the ground dry for prolonged periods of time, fear the drought. For an abundant and constant flowering it is advisable to add a small dose of fertilizer for flowering plants to the irrigation water every 7-10 days, or it is possible to mix a slow release granular fertilizer to the soil; if you decide to cultivate the Impatiens in your house water a little less during the short winter days.
The impatiens are part of a very large family that has at least 400 species. Most of these have no horticultural applications and only about fifteen are in cultivation for ornamental purposes. Almost all the plants we find on the market originate from the tropical areas of Asia and Africa and, in general, their habitat is the mountain areas. The only representative of this great family that grows in Europe is the Impatiens noli-me-tangere which grows spontaneously from 500 to 1000 meters of altitude in shady exposures. In Italy it is not in cultivation, but is widely used in Northern Europe. The name impatiens refers to the impatience of these plants in scattering seeds. We can in fact see that, in late season, it is sufficient to touch the flowers so that the seeds are thrown away with a certain violence. Since the species are many and with different habit, uses and needs, we analyze and describe them one at a time.Impatiens noli-me-tangere
It is, as we have said, the only member of the family that we can find spontaneous in Italy. It usually lives in the woods or on the mountains in a generally humid and shady environment. Carries on a central stem of light green lanceolate and toothed leaves. The flowers, which come from the leaf axil, are light yellow. With us it is not much appreciated, but it can find its place in the less illuminated corners of the garden and it will give us satisfactions (especially if planted in a group) since it has a rather long flowering that goes from June to September. It multiplies by seed and in any case it is very easy for it to self-disseminate (and it must be carefully monitored if we want to keep it at a certain border).
Also called simply balsamina or begliuomini, it is a plant of oriental origin that came to Europe in the 16th century. The first varieties had not very exciting colors and shapes, but over time there were several breeders who dedicated themselves to creating new varieties and cultivars. Richer forms were introduced (such as the camellia one) and more vivid colors (deep pink, streaks and pitting). The plant develops around a thick central stem from which branch the leaves, alternate, lanceolate and toothed. Also in this case the flowers depart from the leaf axils. The dimensions are various: the research has developed dwarf varieties and more slender and floriferous varieties. Unfortunately the cultivars rarely maintain their characteristics generation after generation. It is therefore advisable to always buy the seeds in order to have plants that meet our expectations in terms of size and abundance of blooms.
They are of extremely simple cultivation. They can be obtained either by sowing or buying them directly from retailers of annual plants. Being plants that germinate with great ease anyone can delight in their culture. They should be sown at the end of winter (depending on the region from February to April). If you want to be sure of having blooms until late autumn we can do it again in the middle of May. The seeds should be mixed with fine sand as they are very small and we risk growing the seedlings too close together. They should be spread on a very light peat mixture and kept moist and exposed to the South. Usually we will see them appear within 10 days: we wait for them to issue the second pair of leaves and we can move them directly to their home. Transplantation is usually very simple and absolutely not traumatic. This is because balsamina develops many and fine roots that incorporate a good earthen bread. This favors the transfer and allows the plant to recover in a very short time if not immediately. For the rest it is very simple to make them remain beautiful: they need regular and abundant waterings and equally important and regular fertilizations with a product suitable for flowering plants, therefore with a high content of potassium and phosphorus. The ideal exposure is half-shade-shadow. They can also withstand the morning sun, the important thing is that the substrate is always very moist. Plants can be grown in various ways: stimulating or not the lateral jets. In the second case we will obtain a single large central stem and much larger flowers. It is also possible to intervene by removing the first buds and thus allowing the plant to concentrate more on vegetative growth and then giving better results.
Impatiens sultanii and impatiens hostii
They are similar species and over time they have only come closer and closer to their characteristics.
It is also called a glass plant and is native to central Africa. It is very appreciated in the horticultural field for its ability to be in bloom from spring to late autumn and also in winter (if grown as a houseplant). Depending on the cultivar it can range from 30 to 60 cm in height and is formed by a very vigorous central stem and, over time, by other lateral stems. The leaves are alternate and lanceolate, medium green with reddish veins. The flowers in the species are deep red, but are available in cultivation from white to crimson. They should be sown at the end of winter by mixing the seeds with fine sand and using a very light substrate composed of sand and peat, preferably in lettorino, without covering them. Always keep the substrate moist using a vaporizer, but do not overdo it because the seedlings are easily the victim of rot. As soon as they are ticked, they must be exposed to light (not direct) and after a short time transferred to the home. They can also be multiplied by herbaceous cutting to be carried out in perlite kept constantly moist or in water. Adult plants need shaded exposure and above all avoid direct light at all. The substrate must be rich for the addition of mature manure and maybe a slow release granular fertilizer for flowering plants.
Watering must be constant and the soil must always be kept moist.
These are the plants that are most commonly found on the market at nurseries. They are usually sold in jars of about 8 cm in diameter in various colors. They are commonly used for making flower borders and flower beds because they bloom from spring to autumn with continuity and need (apart from the irrigation that, today, is often automated) of very little care. These hybrids are of Dutch origin and derive from the cross between the impatiens sultanii and the i. hostii. Already since their appearance on the market we have seen that they had exceptional characteristics that would have led them to supplant other commonly used plants such as geranium and surfinie.
They are extremely simple to cultivate and have a greater tolerance of the sun than the other exponents of the family. This has made them plants loved by everyone and used in various situations. They usually have a compact habit ranging from 15 to a maximum of 40 cm in height. The leaves, alternate and toothed, oval, have very different colors that can range from very light green to reddish brown and can also be variegated. The flowers have an enormous variability of color: from white to red, to orange to salmon with lilac.
It is necessary to proceed at the end of the winter in a heated greenhouse at least at 20 ° C in a very light compound of peat and sand. The seeds, being very small, should be mixed with fine sand and then spread on the ground. They must not be covered and must be kept in the light, but not direct. The substrate must also be constantly humidified. Usually we will see them germinate within ten days. They can then be kept at a temperature of 15 to 20 degrees until complete growth (it takes about 2 months). It is very important at this juncture to give them an ever richer soil that can easily be kept moist. It is therefore advisable to add clay and mature manure, as well as fertilizer granules for flowering plants. At the end of the two months they can be planted. The operation is simple and rarely involves problems because they create a very compact cluster of roots. The ideal exposure is the partial shade, although many cultivars also tolerate full sun well, provided that the substrate is always moist. Problems can only occur if we expose them to violent changes in temperature or humidity. So if we keep them in the greenhouse (or we've bought them for you), let's keep them indoors for several days to acclimatize them before finally settling them in the garden.
If we particularly like a plant because of its color, we can try it at the end of the summer and then keep it in a cold greenhouse or at home during the winter (minimum temperature 10 ° C).
It is sufficient to take a stem at least 3 mm thick and place it to root in a very light mixture of sand and perlite kept constantly moist or in water, in a dark glass bottle. Within two weeks, a sufficient amount of roots should have formed to allow planting in a richer soil.
As we have said, these are polyhedral plants. We can use them in the flower beds (especially in the lower ones), as a ground cover or, the higher varieties, also in mixed borders. They can be perfectly matched to all shade plants: begonias, at the base of the hydrangeas, hosta, alchemilla, astilbe, and autumn anemones. Fine also as a shielding base for climbing plants such as clematis.
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