Balsam (Impatiens balsamina) is an annual flower that grows on thick, upright stems with light green leaves that have serrated edges. Together with the genus Hydrocera, Impatiens make up the family Balsaminaceae. Impatiens balsamina, commonly known as balsam, garden balsam, rose balsam, impatiens, jewelweed, touch-me-not or spotted snapweed, is a species of plant native to India and Myanmar.
The flowers bear double petals and come in an array of colors but are partially hidden by large attractive leaves with pronounced veins. Balsams come in white, red, orange, yellow, violet, and pink. These flowers resemble mini roses or camellias with the thickly spaced petals and tones.
Table of Contents
6 – 32 inches
6 – 12 inches
5.6 - 7.5
Varieties of Balsam
There are several balsam varieties, including:
Blackberry Trifle: This plant is known for its purple and white variegated petals.
Bush Mix: Some balsam plants can get lanky by the end of the growing season, but the Bush Mix cultivar stays compact and full.
Tom Thumb Mix: Averaging 8 to 10 inches tall, this variety is ideal for the edge of a border or a container garden.
Peppermint Stick Balsam: An heirloom variety of Impatiens balsamina with spotted and striped ruffled flowers in candy-apple red and white.
Camellia Flowered Balsam: Loved by pollinators, clusters of double-flowered blooms that resemble roses or camellia blossoms on this Impatiens balsamina.
Planting and Sowing Balsam
The planting of balsam purchased in nursery pots is performed in spring.
Prefer shade or part shade.
One variety, Impatiens hawkeri or New Guinea impatiens tolerates sun.
The soil must contain a lot of humus.
Plant at least 8 to 10 specimens to a square yard (1 m²) to create amazing ground cover.
Mix your earth with flower plant soil mix and water generously to make the flower-bearing abundant.
For impatiens purchased as seeds, you can sow directly in the plot from April onwards but be careful in case of frost spells to protect your seedlings.
If you want to plant impatiens in the sun, select sunpatiens.
Balsam plants are quite easy to grow with little required maintenance to keep them blooming all season long. They don’t have any serious issues with pests or diseases. And they generally will bounce back quickly from wilting due to hot summer temperatures and strong sunlight. When planting, adding a protective layer of mulch around the plants is ideal to keep the roots cool and retain soil moisture.
It’s recommended to pinch back the stems once the plants are around 4 inches tall to create stronger and fuller growth. Also, be aware that these flowers are quite good at self-seeding in ideal growing conditions. So be ready to pull seedlings if they spread to areas where you don’t want them. Other than that, regular watering and feeding throughout the growing season (spring to early fall) will keep your balsam flowers blooming beautifully.
These flowers grow well in both full sun and partial shade. The best growing site offers some protection from strong afternoon sun, which can cause browning of the foliage. Balsam flowers can survive in full shade, though their blooms will likely be sparse in those conditions.
Organically rich, well-draining soil is best for balsam flowers. A loamy soil is recommended, though they also can grow in sandy and clay soils. A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is ideal, but they can handle slightly alkaline soil too.
Keep the soil of balsam plants consistently moist throughout the growing season. They can continue to bloom even during heat waves but only if they have enough to drink. Conversely, they don't tolerate drought well and will usually stop flowering if they don't get enough water. Water whenever the top inch or two of soil feels dry to the touch, but avoid overwatering and causing your plants to become waterlogged.
Temperature and Humidity
Balsam flowers do not tolerate cold temperatures (32 degrees Fahrenheit or below) well, and they are susceptible to frost. They thrive in warm temperatures, though they can wilt in summer heat waves. Moreover, due to balsam's water requirements, the plants also like some humidity. But they can tolerate drier air if their soil moisture needs are being met.
Fertilize with a balanced, slow-release flower fertilizer during the growing season, following label instructions. It also can be beneficial for healthy growth and flowering to mix some compost into the soil at the time of planting.
You probably won’t find transplants of balsam sold at a nursery, but you can easily grow this annual from seed. The seeds sprout in as little as four days in moist soil at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Start them indoors about six to eight weeks before your area's projected last frost date, planning for about 60 days from seed to first bloom. Light hastens germination, so don’t fully cover the seeds with soil. Just gently press them into a seed-starting mix. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.
When outdoor soil temperatures begin to warm (usually as the average nighttime temperatures reach about 60 degrees Fahrenheit), you can bring your balsam seedlings outdoors for progressively longer stretches. Then, once frost is no longer in the forecast, plant them in a group around a foot apart for the greatest impact.
If you want to collect seeds at the end of the season to plant in other areas, keep a baggie very close. The ripe seed heads will burst and distribute their contents everywhere when you pinch them.
Potting and Repotting Balsam
Balsam flowers can grow well in containers on balconies and terraces. Just make sure to use a large pot with ample drainage holes. The plants need at least a foot of space between one another. If you start out with a large enough container, repotting won't be necessary for these annuals.
Pests and Diseases
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Cucumber Beetles: Beetles may be spotted, striped or banded and can be very harmful. Beetles are usually ¼ to ½ inch in size. Beetles start feeding as soon as they hatch and can kill or slow the growth of the plants. Beetle larva can also bore through the roots of the plants. Beetles can also transmit diseases from plant to plant.
Knock off adults into a jar of soapy water and destroy them. Spade the soil to destroy dormant beetles before you plant. Use a row cover to prevent adults from feeding on young plants. Consult your Cooperative Extension Service for other insecticide recommendations.
Tarnished Plant Bug: These insects cause distorted leaves and flower buds. The adults are about ¼ inch long, oval shaped and flat. They are greenish brown with reddish brown markings on their wings. There is a small but distinct yellow tipped triangle in the center of the back behind the head. Introduce beneficial insects to your garden. Traps are available. Try insecticidal soap.
Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.
Edema (Oedema): Leaves become distorted due to excess moisture in the soil. Plants absorb more water than they can use. Do not overwater plants, keep the soil moist but not wet. If drainage is poor add compost or peat moss to improve drainage.
Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning.
Root Knot Nematodes: Microscopic worm-like pests that cause swellings (galls) to form on roots. Plants may wilt or appear stunted. This is a serious problem in many Southern states. Do not plant into infested soil. Grow resistant varieties. Try planting ‘Nema-Gone’ marigolds around your plants.
Different parts of the plant are used as traditional remedies for disease and skin afflictions.
Juice from the leaves is used to treat warts and snakebite, and the flower is applied to burns.
This species has been used as indigenous traditional medicine in Asia for rheumatism, fractures, and other ailments.
Flowers can be used for herbal remedies.
It is used in Korean folk medicine for treating gastritis and constipation.
In China, the plant is used for treating bites of snakes and who ingested poisonous fish.
The pulverized dried stalks, juice from stalk and paste made from flowers are used for treating various health ailments.
The plant extract is used by Vietnamese to wash their hair in order to stimulate hair growth.
Medicinally, seeds and stem are used to promote blood circulation and to provide relief from sore throats.
In Bangladesh, flowers are used for treating neuralgia, lumbago, scalds and burns.
Apply the white petals juice topically for urticarial and dermatitis.
In Philippines, leaves are used in poultice for dissolve felons.
Leaves are used in Malaysia as a poultice for broken and torn nails.
Root decoction is used in Brunei for irregular menstruation.
Leaf juice is used to treat warts.
Seed powder is provided to women during labor for providing strength.
Flowers are used in Korea to produce an orange nail varnish.