Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Ah Impatiens niamniamensis, the plant that really started the fire for strange tropical plants. Little did I know when I found this odd plant at Le Coteau it would spark such a ridiculous obsession. Suppliers in Canada are few and far between but tropical impatiens really fascinate me. Much like orchids they have some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen. I’m excited to find more along my travels.

For the moment, Impatiens niamniamensis is one of two exotic varieties in my possession, and so far so good. I’ve had this one for nearly a year now and it’s pretty easy plant to grow. Throughout the winter I kept it under a grow light, and that may explain why it’s currently so tall at over 3 feet in height. It did get the odd spider mite infestation but being the neurotic plant collector that I am, it got a regular hit of pyrethrin which sorted it right out. I moved it outdoors in mid June and since being outside it’s really started to thrive again. It’s height helps it stand out in the garden and escape the canopy of strange ground dwellers.

The shape of the flower suggests to me that this plant is pollinated by something strange indeed. Moth tongue or strangely curved bird beak? I’m afraid up here in Canada I might never know, haven’t seen any hummers try yet.

These are the buds of of the up and coming “parrot beak” flowers. What’s stranger are the small crystals this plant creates near these clusters of flowers. I’ve still not figured out what they’re for, perhaps to lure in pollinators, or protectors?

Information gained thus far:
The plant roots readily from cutting and if you want more plants, wait for side branch to shoot off, snap off and root accordingly. They have a pretty high success rate. Other notable things I’ve learnt while growing this plant for the last year is that while they survive just fine indoors, and do alright outdoors in the summer, these are still true tropical plants. I have one at the greenhouse and in the humidity and heat it just goes nuts. The growth rate is tripled and the flowering is out of control. The more heat and humidity the better!

For more information on this plant see my post from last September here.

7 Responses to Specimen Update: Impatiens “Congo Cockatoo”

  • Kevin Preddy says:

    Two years on in Cape Town and the Parrots Beak are doing extremely well. Even neglecting them at times doesnt prevent them coming back to give their floral chatter. I too have now witnessed them snapping off side branchlets that if they end up in a favourable position, root of their own and continue their blooming chirpiness. Really amazing plant.

  • The “crystals” produced near the flowers (and around the leaf margins) are sugar crystals produced on extrafloral nectaries. See, for example, http://www.extrafloralnectaries.org/ . Their purpose in the wild is, almost certainly, to attract ants. Ants will aggressively protect their food sources, so this provides protection from potential predators such as caterpillars.

  • KEVIN says:

    Finally in Cape Town a pollinator ? Managed to strike some seed – awaiting to see seedlings flowers shortly.

  • June P says:

    I have had one of these in cold NZ for about 15 yrs now. Like you, I move it inside/outside. It is prone to spider mites for sure. I don’t find it easy to take root from cuttings – very little successin fact so now it is at 5 feet tall and due to come back inside, I worry about its future !

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Mr Nat. Gardener, Plant Nerd
Tips and tales about gardening in one of the most mild climates in Canada. Specializing in rare and strange plants from far out destinations, this is the story of an obsessed young gardener in Victoria B.C. Let's create more tropical gardens in the garden city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.