Balsam flowers were introduced into the west from Asia early in the 20th century. Balsam flowers remained popular through the second World War. After the war, their popularity waned with the introduction of impatiens, an annual hybrid. Although impatiens are, and continue to be popular, to this day, many gardeners, both professional, and amateur, are bringing balsam flowers back.
* Propagating from seed
* Tips on growing from seeds
* Caring for Balsam
* Medicinal uses
«Impatiens balsamini» is the Latin term for balsam. Other common names for balsam include touch-me-not and spotted snapweed. Balsam flowers are annuals. Their height varies from less than 10 inches up to 30 inches. The flowers are red, pink, and lilac as well as white. The flower size varies from 1-2 inches in diameter. The plant grows well in the sun as well as shade. However, the best site for planting is where there is some degree of protection from the hot afternoon sun during the summer months. The intense sun tends to brown the foliage. As an annual, balsam plants go through their complete life cycle in one growing season.
Propagating From Seed
Balsam flowers make a powerful visual impression when they are planted in mass. Although this is a favored way to plant the flower, it can get expensive to purchase plants that have been started in the garden center. You can maintain your landscaping vision and keep the cost in check by propagating balsam plants from seed.
From the time the seeds are sown to the production of flowers is approximately 60 to 70 days, with germination taking place in about three weeks. To enjoy the flowers during the limited growing season, it is essential to get a head start on propagation. Growing from seed is most practical for people who live in an area that enjoys a long growing season.
To reduce the chances of transplant shock, rather than cast seeds over a tray, plant the seeds in individual grow pots or multi-cell grow pots. As the seedlings must be transplanted regardless, there is a far better chance of success by starting them in the home they occupy. It is a small price to pay if a few seeds fail to germinate when those that do, start healthy and sturdy.
Tips on Growing from Seed
Growing balsam flowers from seeds does not take as long as growing impatiens from seed. The process for both is simple. Fill the individual cells in the grow pot with seed-starting mix which is readily available from any garden center. Fill the pots to within one-half inch of the top with soil. Place the filled pots on a tray and then fill the tray with water. Give the potting soil time to soak up water from the bottom of the pot. When the top of the soil is wet, this stage of the process is complete. Dispose of any remaining water.
Place two seeds in each cell or pot. Cover the seeds with a very light dusting of potting mix, then mist the top of the soil cover with a fine spray of clean water. At this stage, cover the pots with plastic wrap. This will retain the moisture. Place the pots in a bright spot and wait until the seeds sprout.
When the seeds have sprouted to the point where they have produced two leaves, remove the plastic wrap and place the trays or pots in a south-facing window where the young seedlings will get the most sun. If your home does not have a window facing south, grow the plants under a fluorescent light, which is kept lit for 16 hours a day.
Like many things, propagating balsam flowers from seed is subject to debate. While some people move the seedlings to a sunny spot, others believe the seedlings will grow stronger when they are moved to a darker place once the seeds have germinated. Regardless of what course you follow, the young plants must get a dose of time-release fertilizer when they are set out in the garden. Set the plants out when they are about 2 inches tall and have established a good root base.
Caring for Balsam
When moving the plants into the garden, choose a spot where the soil is well-drained but moist. You can enhance the beauty of the plant by modifying the soil with compost. Make sure the soil is broken up quite finely before you set out the young Balsam flowers. As they tend to grow quite large, space the plants about 18 inches apart.
Balsam flowers can be a target for powdery mildew and should be watered from below. A soaker hose or a drip line system is ideal. During the dry summer months, the plants will need a supplemental soaking about once a week. If the balsam flowers are growing in a hanging basket or window box, more frequent watering is required to keep the soil moist.
At the end of the growing season, collect the seed pods. The seeds can be propagated the next season, saving you money. Keep the seeds in a tightly closed plastic bag and store the bag in a cool, dark spot in the home.
Caring for balsam flowers is easy. There is no specific need for pruning. The plant needs to be watered frequently in the summer, and the flowers will be prolific when the plant is fertilized. To enhance the visual appeal of the plant, remove the wilted flowers.
Different parts of a balsam plant can be used as a traditional remedy for skin disorders. The leaves contain a juice that is used to treat warts as well as snakebite. The flower is used as a burn treatment. Balsam has been used for millennia in Asia as a treatment for rheumatism, constipation, and gastritis. The Chinese use the plant to treat people who ingested poison. People in Viet Nam wash their hair with balsam plant extract to promote hair growth.
Balsom blooms almost non-stop from late spring right up through the first frost of autumn.