Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Plant profile: Impatiens sodenii (Impatiens)

Latin name: Impatiens sodenii (pronounced "im-PAY-shens so-DEN-ee-eye")
Common name: Shrub Balsam, Poor Man's Rhododendron
Originally from: Tropical East African highlands of Kenya and Tanzania.
Blooms: Pink, white, some varieties streaked.
Light: Shade, part sun
Water: Drought tolerant
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 5'+ tall and wide
USDA Zones: 10-11
Where to find in P. Garden: Under the cherry plum trees.

It has taken me a while to write a profile on this plant, but Matt suggested it this morning, and I thought "why not." Why has it taken a while?  Well, this was not one of my favorite plants when we were first given it, for several reasons. None of them particularly good reasons, I admit.

First, it was a bit of a scraggly specimen. Looking at it's tropical foliage I thought "uh-oh, this is a plant that wants lots of water and it going to die gradually and painfully and everyone will think I am a bad person..." Watching plants die is not in my game plan.

Second, it has pink flowers. Pale pink. And froofy. It is the 7 year old ballerina-wannabe of the plant world. Ugh. Speaking as an ex-pale pink loving 7 year old ballerina-wannabe I can safely say this is a phase most girls get past, and don't look back on. Unless they are reminded of it by such plants as this. *grit teeth*

Third, it's old fashioned. This ain't no cutting edge, hybrid Kelly Griffin aloe, impactfully-toothed hard-core agave of awe-inspiring proportions, or stylish, graceful and austere ornamental grass. It's an old lady shrub. WTF! NIMBY, OMG!!!!1! Blech!!!!!! >:x

Fourth, it is called the Poor Man's Rhododendron. If you absolutely love Rhodies and can't grow them are you really going to grow this? I think not - it looks nothing like a Rhodie! Impatiens sodenii is to Rhododendrons what KFC is to chickens, my friend. And friends don't let friends go to the KFC of plants.

However. Here I am writing a profile on it. Why, you ask? One reason.

It loves dry shade.

And if you know anything about gardening, you know that a plant who loves to grow with almost no light or water, and flowers almost all year round in that situation, the very death of normal plants, is a plant to get down on your knees and worship. That's right people, go out to the garden today and see that little bugger flowering in late December and think about it. It's a Christmas miracle. ;)

UPDATE: well as it turns out it does need SOME water - after 5 years of drought it was looking distinctly stringy... it does seed around and perk up with a watering, so we're not removing them.

1 comment:

  1. Well said and it's the reason I'm reluctant to toss mine but it's so tall (like 8 feet) and I'm wondering what I could plant under it as the bottom of this shrub is not so attractive looking


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