Impatiens sultani – Busy Lizzie, Balsam

Busy Lizzie are vigorous and easy to grow. These free-flowering plants are very popular, and ideal for children to grow. The leaves are light green and attractive, and the prolific flowers may be red, pink, salmon or white. This plant is very tolerant and will accept a wide range of conditions.

Temperatures:

  • Growing season 15-22 °C (60-72 °C)
  • Minimum winter 12-15°C (53-60°F)

Soil: A soil-less compost.

Impatiens sultani - Busy Lizzie, Balsam

Where to position: In good light protected from strong sunlight.

Watering requirements: Maintain a moist soil condition; do not let it dry out. In summer it grows rapidly and needs frequent watering. Mist-spray daily during warm weather. If the leaves droop, the humidity must be increased.

General care: ‘Pinch out’ when it is young to encourage a good shape and then stop. Remove faded flowers. As it grows, staking is advisable; the stems are brittle and may snap under their own weight. Give a weak liquid fertilizer weekly.

Rest: In winter, keep in a warm, light place and water sparingly, keeping soil just moist. Feed while flowering continues. These plants become unsightly with age. Discard and propagate new ones. Cuttings made below a leaf joint will root easily, even in water.

When it looks sick:

A double flower variety of impatiens.

Image via Wikipedia

  • Leaves yellow and drop : This can result from over-watering or bad drainage. Reduce water and watch to see if the water sinks quickly through the soil. If it does not – re-pot with special attention to drainage.
  • The plant tends to wilt : It is a vigorous grower and probably needs repotting.
  • The plant becomes -leggy and ungainly : Cut back unsightly stems at a leaf joint. Dust cuts with fungicide powder. Pinch out tips to make it bushy.

Named varieties of busy lizzie

Although they are raised from named types, in garden centres you may be faced with rows of plants marked simply ‘Impatiens F1 Hybrid’, giving the colour and brief information on the height, spread and general care of the plant.

However, if you wish to look further into the various varieties, a specialist grower should be able to identify and supply a much wider range of named Impatiens hybrids.

The best way to get a named variety, though, is to raise plants from seed. As a basic bedding plant for borders and large containers, it is difficult to beat the fast-growing ‘Imp’ and ‘Super Elfin’ varieties. Both grow to around 23cm/9in tall and produce large flowers in a full range of colours.

If you have smaller containers, try the dwarf’Novette’ mixture. This free-flowering variety grows to just 10cm/4in tall, making it a good choice for edging a border. The same is true of the slightly taller (15cm/6in) ‘Florette’ series.

The compact colour they provide make busy Lizzies a good choice for window boxes; the semi-pendulous habit of the ‘Futura’ variety makes it ideal for boxes and for hanging baskets, where it makes a good companion for trailing pelargoniums, fuchsias, petunias and lobelia.

Complex double varieties, no less free-flowering, are available for those who want to put on a little more show in their borders.

The camellia-flowered busy Lizzies (which are usually called balsam, the name under which you will find them in some catalogues) are varieties of balsamina, and come in shades of rose, blush pink, scarlet and white. ‘Camellia Flowered Mixed’, one of the largest busy Lizzie varieties, grows to 45cm/18in. The same type of showy flower can be had in smaller plants; try ‘Tom Thumb Mixed’ (25cm/10in).

There are double-flowered forms of the more conventional busy Lizzie, too, such as ‘Confection Mixed’ (20-30cm/8-12in tall, with fine, double and semi-double flowers).

English: Impatiens walleriana (double pink flo...

Image via Wikipedia

Strictly speaking, Impatiens is a perennial. Growers of house-plants will be well aware of the busy Lizzie’s sterling service indoors – a well cared for specimen can be kept at peak performance for years.

However, when grown as a garden plant in temperate conditions it must be regarded as a tender half-hardy annual. Most modern Impatiens hybrids are started off in spring under glass and discarded in the autumn before the first frosts puts paid to them. Young plants can be purchased through mailorder catalogues and begin to appear in garden centres in late spring.

They may, of course, be propagated from seed at home, though this will have to be done indoors, as seedlings must be kept at a minimum temperature of 18°C/65°F.

Seed should be sown on a growing medium based on peat or a peat- substitute in spring and lightly covered. When the seedlings are large enough to handle (about 4cm/ lv2in tall), transplant them into individual pots of loam-based compost. Pinch out the growing tips of young plants regularly to ensure bushiness.

Alternatively, you can take tip cuttings 5-8cm/2-3in long from existing plants in the summer and root them in water. Transfer them to a soil-based compost when roots lVfecm/V&n long have formed, and over-winter them indoors.

Whole plants can also be lifted from the garden and then over-wintered indoors. Usually, though, they have become so leggy by the end of the summer that they are not worth hanging on to.

Planting out busy lizzies

Whichever method of propagation you choose, or whether you simply decide to start again with new plantlets each year, do take care not to plant them out too early. Always harden them off gradually, ac-customing them to lower tem-peratures and more airy con-ditions for a week or two before planting them out in their final positions.

Once the danger of their main enemy, frost, is past, busy Lizzies could not be ea- sier to grow. There are, how-ever, always the usual garden pests around, ready to prey on vulnerable individuals.

Slugs and snails may attack seedlings and young plants, especially in periods of wet weather. A sprinkling of slug pellets from time to time should keep them at bay.

Also, keep an eye out for in-festations of aphids on leaves or stems, which will weaken the plants, make them sticky and encourage mould.

Once summer is under way, all you really need to do is keep your plants well-watered, and they will reward you with a heartening display of colour throughout the season and well into the autumn.

 

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