By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
Year after year, many of us gardeners go out and spend a small fortune on annual plants to brighten up the garden. One annual favorite that can be quite pricey because of their bright flowers and variegated foliage is New Guinea impatiens. Can you grow New Guinea impatiens from seed? Continue reading to learn about planting New Guinea impatiens seeds.
Several varieties of New Guinea impatiens, like many other hybridized plants, do not produce viable seed, or they produce seed that reverts back to one of the original plants used to create the hybrid. This is why many plants, including most New Guinea impatiens, are propagated by cuttings and not by seed. Propagating by cuttings produces exact clones of the plant the cutting was taken from.
New Guinea impatiens have become more popular than common impatiens because of their showy, colorful foliage, their tolerance of sunlight and their resistance to some of the fungal diseases that can afflict impatiens. While they can tolerate more sunlight, they really perform best with morning sun and shade from the hot afternoon sun.
In a perfect world, we could just fill a part shade bed or planter with New Guinea impatiens seeds and they’d grow like wildflowers. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. That said, certain varieties of New Guinea impatiens can be grown from seed with a little extra care.
New Guinea impatiens in the Java, Divine and Spectra series can be grown from seed. The varieties Sweet Sue and Tango also produce viable seed for plant propagation. New Guinea impatiens cannot tolerate any frost or chilly night temperatures. Seeds must be started in a warm indoor location 10-12 weeks before the expected last frost date in your area.
For proper germination of New Guinea impatiens, temperatures should remain consistently between 70-75 F. (21-24 C.). Temperatures above 80 F. (27 C.) will produce leggy seedlings and they also need and adequate light source to germinate. Seeds are planted at a depth of about ¼-½ inch (approximately 1 cm. or slightly less). Seed grown New Guinea impatiens take approximately 15-20 days to germinate.
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Impatiens seeds are easy to own by cultivating existing plants, or by buying the seeds from a reputable commercial grower. Just follow these few steps to grow impatiens from seeds.
Gardeners who want to grow impatiens from seeds should select and obtain the seeds in advance of planting time, as many desirable impatiens seed varieties may be only available via special order from online nurseries. Allow 2-3 weeks for the seeds to arrive.
If harvesting seeds, be aware that what you get a slight variation from the original plant. Harvest seed pods, pop them open and store the seeds (they should be brown and look like little commas) in an envelope to dry out. Keep in mind that double impatiens varieties are almost always sterile. The only way to get a true duplicate of this type of plant is to take a cutting.
Although impatiens seeds will germinate if planted directly outdoors, they’ll do best if started indoors. It’s also a good idea for impatiens that will serve as houseplants.
Commercial impatiens seed growers recommend using sterilized soil for planting impatiens seeds.
Once impatiens seeds germinate and grow for a few weeks, transplant them to individual or larger containers. They can also be transplanted directly outdoors if the temperature is warm enough in the spring. Space plants a distance of 12 to 18 inches apart.
The reward of planting is certainly worth the effort – a virtually non-stop riot of colorful blooms that last the entire season.
Perfect for a garden, hanging basket or container, New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) were introduced to the United States in 1970. Since then, many cultivars were developed to improve the plants' performance there. New Guinea impatiens often are grown as annuals, but they can be grown as perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12. Because hybrid plants, such as most New Guinea impatiens, do not grow true from seed, which means they may not resemble the parent plant, cuttings is the main method in which they are propagated. Begin the propagation process by taking cuttings the correct way so they are more likely to root and grow well.
Water the New Guinea impatiens the day before you take the cuttings, providing the water at the base of the plants. If the impatiens are in a garden, give them 1 inch of water. If they are in a container, water them until the water seeps out their container's drainage holes. Watering at the base of the plants prevents fungal diseases from forming on foliage.
Mix one part bleach with nine parts water in a bucket, creating a 10-percent bleach solution. Wear plastic gloves while using bleach and the bleach solution. Dip a rag into the 10-percent bleach solution, and use the rag to wipe the blades of hand clippers and the plant container in which you will plant the cuttings. The solution sterilizes the blades and container. Allow the hand clippers and plant container to air-dry before using them.
Moisten a paper towel with water, and place it in a new plastic bag just before you plan to take the cuttings. The moist paper towel and plastic bag will help your cuttings stay hydrated until you plant them.
Examine your New Guinea impatiens in morning, when they are most hydrated. Look for the healthiest plant. It should not appear to be diseased or inflicted with pests. The healthiest plant is the one from which you take cuttings.
Snip 1-inch long cuttings from the tips of your New Guinea impatiens' stems. The top 1/2 inch of each cutting should contain no more than two mature leaves or no more than three or four immature leaves. The bottom 1/2 inch of each cutting should be bare for planting.
Wrap the cuttings in the moist paper towel in the plastic bag. Set the bag in a cool, shady area until you plant the cuttings, which should be as soon as possible.
Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
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Heirloom Seeds are open-pollinated -- they are not hybrids. You can gather and save heirloom seed from year to year and they will grow true to type every year, so they can be passed down through generations. To be considered an heirloom, a variety would have to be at least from the 1940's and 3 generations old (many varieties are much older -- some 100 years or more!).
Hybrid seed are the product of cross-pollination between 2 different parent plants, resulting in a new plant/seed that is different from the parents. Unlike Heirloom seed, hybrid seed need to be re-purchased new every year (and not saved). They usually will not grow true to type if you save them, but will revert to one of the parents they were crossed with and most likely look/taste different in some way.Extremely small seed such as Petunias and Pentas are shipped as pelleted seed to make them easier to handle and sow. Pelleted seed are coated, usually with clay, to make them larger in size. After sowing, the coating will dissolve when wet and the seed will germinate. Pelleted seeds are shipped in vials placed inside seed packets, which protects them from being crushed. When sowing, be certain to use thoroughly moistened soil, to be sure that the clay coating absorbs enough moisture to dissolve. For sowing pelleted Petunia seeds, place the seeds directly on the soil surface and do not cover with soil, as light aids in the germination.