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Impatiens mirabilis

This is a close look at the amazing Impatiens mirabilis.  This unusual tuberous species from Thailand can become an enormous pachycaul over 10 feet tall, with a massive trunk 2 feet across!  Its exotic flowers appear throughout the year along long racemes.  Their color is usually either yellow or a mix of red, white and yellow.  This species is rare in cultivation and seldom seen for sale.

Impatiens mirabilis

Impatiens mirabilis grows along coastal cliffs in Thailand.  Most Impatiens can't survive this harsh, rocky environment, but this one does thanks to its unusual caudex, which stores water and provides stability among the rocks.  The tuber is hard and rock-like, and is easily mistaken for a boulder!  Each plant takes on a unique shape - some have multiple stems, while others have a single stem, which widens at the base like an elephant's foot.  The rounded leaves are unusually large and thick, with little resemblance to typical Impatiens.  They can grow up to a foot long in mature plants - reportedly the largest of all Impatiens species.  The plant can drop some or all of its leaves if conditions get too cool or dry, but it can stay evergreen if conditions are right.

Impatiens mirabilis

Photo courtesy of Wendy Cutler

Impatiens mirabilis

Impatiens mirabilis

Impatiens mirabilis is a tropical species that does best above 60 degrees F (15C).  It seems to be happiest between about 70 and 90 degrees F (21-32C).  It doesn't need a large pot, due to its small root system.  In fact it does well as a bonsai plant.  It requires very fast draining soil.  A typical soil mix is 2 parts coarse sand, 2 parts pumice rock, and 1 part potting soil or coir fiber.  Mix in a small amount of dolomite lime, to simulate the plant's limestone habitat.  It is fairly drought tolerant, but it grows best if the soil is kept slightly moist.  It does well in varying amounts of light, from bright shade to part sun.  Some protection from strong afternoon sun may be needed.  Over about 50% humidity is preferred.  In the right conditions, it is an easy and long-lived plant.

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Germinating the seeds

 

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Turquoise Puya

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