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
1 rating

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

Pride of Barbados seed for Ft. Worth TX
February 07, 2013 - When can you plant the Pride of Barbados plant seeds and how to go about it in Fort Worth Texas?
view the full question and answer

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

Pruning of non-native Mimosa in Topeka KS
April 18, 2010 - Read the Mimosa answer with much interest - other websites are love and hate this tree - we love ours - had one before that was multiple trunk and bought one from local nursery that seems to be single...
view the full question and answer

Spots on non-native naval orange trees from Stockton CA
October 20, 2012 - I have two mature Navel Orange trees. One tree has developed spotty chlorophyl depleted areas that were not on the oranges when they were smaller. In addition, the oranges on both trees are smaller ,...
view the full question and answer

Care for 'Winchester' honeysuckle?
June 05, 2009 - I have a Winchester honeysuckle that is now in full bloom. Do I "deadhead" the blooms after they die off?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center