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Impatiens parasitica

This is definitely not your grandma's Impatiens!  Impatiens parasitica is a fascinating, rare species from India that's almost unknown in cultivation.  It is one of the only fully epiphytic Impatiens species, typically found growing on moist tree trunks.  Its bizarre blooms resemble little tropical parrots, with their lime green hood and bright red, curled "tail".  They appear in large numbers all throughout the year.  This is a very hard to find plant that is rarely seen for sale.

Impatiens parasitica

Impatiens parasitica was originally thought to be parasitic on trees, hence the species name, but it doesn't actually feed off trees.  The stems of this evergreen species are very thick and succulent, and look like wood. They spread about 18 inches in all directions, with the leaves clustering around the ends of each stem. The blooms are also clustered at the ends and are suspended above the leaves to attract pollinators.  The unusual flowers have a "wet look", thanks to their glossy sheen.  This is a true species, not a cultivated hybrid.  Here is a great picture of it growing in the wild.

Impatiens parasitica

The plant comes from mountain forests, where the temperature is mild all year.  I suspect that it might not thrive if the temperature regularly gets above 85 F (29C), particularly if nights are warm.  It grows great for me indoors between 60 and 75 degrees F (18-23C).  I don't know its cold hardiness.  Despite being epiphytic in the wild, it adapts well to a loose soil mix, and looks great in a hanging planter.  A typical mix is 1 part potting soil, 1 part perlite or coarse sand, and 1 part fine-grade bark.  An alternate mix is 2 parts perlite to 1 part coir fiber or peat.  The plant is fairly drought tolerant, but it grows best if the soil is kept consistently moist.  Like most Impatiens, it enjoys regular feeding.  It likes bright, indirect light, and should be protected from strong sun exposure.  Over about 50% humidity is recommended.  This species grows a bit slower than typical Impatiens, but in the right conditions it's an easy and very fun plant.

 

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Turquoise Puya

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