En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
4 ratings

Saturday - December 08, 2007

From: Port Royal, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Propagation, Transplants
Title: Division of impatiens grown in a pot
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an impatient and it is growing out of the pot. I was wondering if it were possible to divide it somehow and have two medium size plants.

ANSWER:

Ordinarily, we would remind you that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use and propagation of plants native to North America. Then, ordinarily, we would say that most pot plants for indoor use are non-native tropicals or sub-tropicals, but, because we understand indoor potted plants are very important to many people, that we are always glad to help them with plant care.

That's what we would ordinarily say. But it just so happens that there ARE some impatiens native to North America. Impatiens capensis (jewelweed) , Impatiens noli-tangere (western touch-me-not) , and Impatiens pallida (pale touch-me-not) all are found in shady, moist woodland areas in North America. As it happens, however, we're pretty sure that the impatiens you are seeking to divide is not a native, but probably Impatiens balsamina or Impatiens walleriana, both originally from the mountains of East Africa, or Impatiens hawkeri, New Guinea impatiens from (where else?) New Guinea.

In terms of what you want to do, it really doesn't matter. They are all, native and non-native, members of the Balsaminaceae Family. It is usually regarded as an annual, but actually is what is called a "tender perennial", which means that the first hint of freezing, and it goes to the compost pile. For propagation, seeding in flats and then transplanting to pots is recommended or just going to the garden store in the spring and buying 4 in. pots all ready to put in the ground. But you already have a nice big plant that has run out of room in the pot, and since, in Pennsylvania, it is obviously living indoors, you can certainly divide it, and now is as good a time as any.

Depending on the size of the root ball, you can probably get several starts from your plant, but suit yourself on how many you want. Tug gently on the base of the plant and lift it out of the pot. Shake off as much dirt as you can, and either using fingers or a knife through the root ball, pull the roots apart. Impatiens are pretty soft and brittle, so you may do some damage to the top of the plant, but don't worry, you're going to trim it anyway. First, trim the bottom of the roots, about 1/3 of the way up, and pull off any dead or dying roots. We always recommend using fresh potting soil, something very fine and designed for house plants. Make sure the pots have good drainage holes. Put some soil in the bottom of the pot, and then, holding the plant about at the height you want it to be, put soil in around the roots. About halfway up, we like to put in some slow release plant food, and then finish filling the pot to the level you want it, and pack it lightly. The finished pots should be put somewhere they can drain and stand in the water that drains out, like a basin or sink. The reason for this is that new potting soil is very dry and the water shoots right through it, leaving the plant roots dry. If it stands for a while in the water, the water will draw back up into the soil and get it thoroughly moist. Now, let it drain. With clippers, trim about 1/3 off the top foliage, and return the plants to a light, warm space.

Images of impatiens native to North America:

 


Impatiens capensis

Impatiens noli-tangere

Impatiens pallida

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Starting Yarrow (Achillea) and Daucus from Seed
July 16, 2014 - I need to deadhead my cottage yarrow. I assume it has gone to seed. What do I do to plant it as seed? If I can do it, can I do it now or do I need to wait until spring. If I need to wait until spring,...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Ruellia brittonia in Raleigh NC
August 23, 2009 - I have discovered Mexican Petunias this year. I LOVE THEM! Beautiful plant. However, they are so tall and after a rain are leaning badly. Should I tie them back? Will they get stronger as they ma...
view the full question and answer

Ants and garden plants for Austin
November 03, 2012 - I am needy of companion plants that compliment and work well with the Lantana, Mexican Heather , and in the new beds that I am preparing where I was thinking in part to have passion flower (though is ...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing non-invasive shrub for privacy fence in Sugar Land TX
December 06, 2011 - I live in South Texas in Sugar Land. I was going to plant oleanders in my backyard along the fence as a privacy hedge, about 20 feet from my house. However, I was told they were a bad choice becaus...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
November 02, 2011 - I have a plant that I would like to identify. It is a tall shrub/woody vine? (approx. 8-10 feet) that has very large thorns on its branches and stems. The stems remain green during winter. It loses it...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center