En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
3 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 Propagation Questions

Planting time for California poppies in Colorado
May 25, 2008 - I live in Colorado and planted California Poppies in my front yard at the end of April. I read that I probably should have planted them in the fall. There have sprouted a little but they don't seem t...
view the full question and answer

I have a plant with plantlets on its leaves. What is it?
April 14, 2008 - Pardon my inexperience. I received a plant as a gift, that is quite similar to aloe, yet smaller. It "bloomed" with tiny paired leaves sprouting from each of the serrations along the larger leav...
view the full question and answer

Encouraging Daisies to Reappear
September 16, 2007 - Having moved into our home in the early spring of the year we hadn't seen any of the flowering plants around the place until we were living here and we were not given any info on care for them. So ...
view the full question and answer

Looking for seeds of Collinsia verna (Mary Blue eyes)
March 27, 2009 - Dear Friends, I am desperately trying to locate (for purchase) seeds for the wildflower "Mary Blue Eyes" or "Spring blue-eyed Mary" (botanical name Collinsia Verna.) Internet searches for see...
view the full question and answer

Seed source for Carex texensis from Louisville KY
May 02, 2012 - Your reply to my question re a grass for my Kentucky home with cistern only water available was much appreciated, Carex texensis was recommended. I am unable to find this product for sale other than ...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center