Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tropical Balsam (Impatiens balsamina)

It is an annual plant growing to 20–75 cm tall, with a thick, but soft stem. The leaves are spirally-arranged, 2.5–9 cm long and 1–2.5 cm broad, with a deeply toothed margin. The flowers are purple, 2.5–5 cm diameter; they are pollinated by bees and other insects, and also by nectar-feeding birds. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant, and has become naturalised and invasive on several Pacific Ocean islands.

How to grow
Impatiens balsamina need full sun to partial shade, with a rich moist soil mix with well-drainage. As long as the temperatures stay above 55°F (13°C), the plants will bloom all winter long. Plant space 12-14 inches apart. The seed can be sown directly into the garden. Germination takes 8 to 14 days at 70-degrees F.

The plants are always used as shady beds, borders and woodland gardens. Edging along walks or paths. Containers. Different parts of the plant are used to treat disease and skin afflctions; the leaves, seeds, and stems are also edible if cooked. Juice from balsam leaves treats warts and also snakebite, while the flower can be applied to burns to cool the skin.

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