Impatiens mirabilis Hook.f.
Giant Impatiens, Giant Balsam, Gouty Balsam
Impatiens mirabilis is one of the several caudiciform Impatiens. It is a semi-succulent plant, up to 10 feet (3 m) tall, with a swollen stem-base that grows up to 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter. Leaves are up to 1 foot (30 cm) long and up to 4.4 inches (11 cm) wide, with a thick, fleshy midrib and 13 or 14 pairs of faint pinnate nerves. It can drop some or all of its leaves if conditions get too cool or dry, but it can stay evergreen if conditions are right. Flowers are yellow or pink and appear in summer.
USDA hardiness zones 11a to 11b: from 40 °F (+4.4 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Most people, when they think of Impatiens, think of Busy Lizzie, but there are over 1000 different species spread around the globe, except for South America and Australia. Giant Impatiens originates from Thailand, where it grows in warm tropical conditions. Most Impatiens can't survive this harsh, rocky environment, but this one does thanks to its unusual caudex, which stores water and provides stability among the rocks.
Giant Impatiens grows best above 60 °F (15 °C). It seems to be happiest between about 70 and 90 °F ( (21 and 32 °C). It doesn't need a large pot, due to its small root system. But it does require fast-draining soil. It is fairly drought tolerant, but it grows best if the soil is kept evenly moist. It does well in varying amounts of light, from part sun position to bright shade. Some protection from strong afternoon sun may be needed.
Propagation is mainly by seed, but cuttings, although difficult, are also possible. If you want to catch the seed, make sure to put something around the seed pod, or they will spring all over the place. The seed can be kept up to 3 months before sowing but can lose viability quickly after that.
Impatiens mirabilis is native to Thailand.
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