Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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 Transplants Questions

Want a source for Mexican redbud in Houston, TX
October 04, 2010 - I live in west Houston and would like to purchase and plant a Mexican redbud in my yard. I have Googled to find one and also searched the Growit site without success. Where can I find one in Texas? I ...
view the full question and answer

Invasiveness of native Viola sororia
June 13, 2007 - I live in Warwick, RI and have a section of my backyard overgrown with common blue violets. My husband and I would like to relocate them to a more scenic location if possible. The advice the cooperat...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Blueberries in NY State
November 03, 2011 - I would like to ask you about transplanting blueberry bushes. When can I move them? 3 of them are at least 10 years old and haven't done well in their current location. I have built a fence to keep t...
view the full question and answer

Replacing mature Arizona Ash trees in Austin
August 26, 2011 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I have 2 very large, very old Arizona Ash trees in my yard. I want to remove them and replace them with something like Cedar Elm or Chinquapin Oak. The problem is that they are t...
view the full question and answer

Propagating Dakota vervain (Glandularia binpinnatifida)
August 07, 2008 - Dakota Vervain. We recently moved into a new house in Henly--Hays/Blanco county line. Mother nature was kind enough to provide us w/Dakota Vervain in some of our planting beds while we are getting...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.