July 25, 2006

Let me introduce you to balsam

Impatiens balsaminaImpatiens balsamina, also known as balsam, is a versatile and easy-to-grow little annual that doesn't seem to get talked about very much. Sharing many of the characteristics of the other impatiens plants, such as exploding seed pods and easy germination, it will tolerate more sun than the more commonly available impatiens. Commercially available seeds are normally for the double variety but I have the single variety because the seeds were given to me. In the picture to the right you can see the resemblance of the flowers to jewelweed or Himalayan balsam. Watching bumblebees squeeze their fuzzy bulk all the way into the orchid-like bloom in search of pollen is one of those forms of entertainment that only gardeners seem to appreciate.

The plants in the picture are relatively young, but given a fair bit of sun and adequate moisture, they will grow to be quite bushy. On the other hand, I find balsam to be a great filler in shady and semi-shady areas, where they tend to stay narrow and fill in little gaps around developing perennials quite nicely. They will self-seed to some extent, but excess seedlings are easily removed. The seeds will also keep for years in cool dry conditions and have a very high germination rate.

Ideal conditions would be damp, rich soil in a partly shaded environment. They tend to wilt under intense sun, but will spring back once the sun has left them. Powdery mildew can be a bit of a problem later in the season, so care should be taken to water the soil rather than the leaves. I would say to leave good air circulation around them, but seeing as I myself pack my beds ridiculously tight, I can assure you that they will adapt to tight living quarters.

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wenlin said...

dear janet, seeing your lovely balsams emboldened me to ask your advice... im growing balsams in singapore (amateur) and two of my balsams have this "decay" looking areas at the stem area just above the soil. pls help! my email is wenlinc@gmail.com, if you would like to reply... thanks, for the lvoely pic, nonetheless!

Janet said...

I am very sorry, Wenlin, I have no idea what could be causing your problem. A baking soda spray might help if it's a fungal infection. Do make sure you're not overwatering.

petunialee said...

Hi... I borrowed your picture of the balsam in my blog, but I made sure I linked by blog to yours.

Here it is.

Janet Ursel said...

No problem, Petunia. :o)