Story and Photography by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon
You’ll enjoy growing garden balsam, an easy-to-grow, upright heirloom Impatiens species that was a favorite in Victorian gardens. Both the showy single-flowered variety and the double camellia-like form are making a comeback. The lovely flowers attract pollinators, including bees and butterflies, to the garden. Balsam does well when started from seed and will even self-sow from the “exploding” seedpods.
The shade-loving plants do well in flowerbeds, woodland gardens, and containers. Good companions include ground covers such as green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), Ajuga, toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta), goldmoss (Sedum acre), maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), and sweet violet (Viola odorata).
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Garden balsam, touch-me-not
Botanical Name: Impatiens balsamina
Varieties/Cultivars to Look For: Bush mix, Double Camellia mix, ‘Peppermint Sticks’, and Tom Thumb mix
USDA Hardiness Zone(s): 2-11
Color: Pink, rose red, purple, white, or bicolor blooms
Blooming Period: Spring to frost
Type: Self-sowing annual
Mature Size: 6-30 inches
Exposure: Partial shade with morning sun
How to Plant: Start indoors six to eight weeks before last frost or direct sow or transplant outdoors in consistently moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil after last frost. Seeds need light to germinate. Plant in groups of five or seven for best effect.
When to Prune: Pinch tops out when plants are small to encourage bushing.
In Your Landscape: This lovely self-sowing heirloom annual deserves a place in the sustainable landscape, as well as the pollinator and wildlife garden.