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Turquoise Puya

Impatiens gomphophylla

Here's an awesome Impatiens that you won't find in the nurseries.  The rare Impatiens gomphophylla has bizarre flowers shaped like tropical seahorses!  These glossy blooms are wonderfully colored in a sunset theme of red, orange and yellow.  It flowers for about half the year, and when it does, it's loaded with blooms!  The plant comes from cool highlands in southeast Africa, and unfortunately it doesn't like high heat.  If you can provide the right conditions, it's a fantastic collector's plant that is almost never seen for sale.

Impatiens gomphophylla

Impatiens gomphophylla is a perennial species that grows from tubers.  It has a slender, upright growth habit, getting about 3 to 5 feet tall, which puts the blooms closer to eye level.  Its foliage is heavily ribbed, looking more like mint leaves than Impatiens.  The flowers are a bit over an inch long, and are crested like an ancient Greek helmet.  This is a true species, not a cultivated hybrid.  You might be able to cross-breed it with certain other African Impatiens, to create interesting new hybrids.

Impatiens gomphophylla

It seems to grow best between 50 and 85 degrees F (10-29C), with nights below 65F (18C).  Consider it experimental in hot conditions, especially if nights are warm.  The tubers reportedly can go dormant in hot weather.  They will go dormant each winter if conditions are cool, but should survive down to at least 25 degrees F (-4C). 

It comes from open grassland, so it appreciates lots of light, and flowers best with at least a few hours of direct sun.  In warmer climates, it will probably need filtered afternoon sun.  Like most Impatiens, it prefers fertile, well-draining soil that's kept evenly moist.  Over about 40% humidity is best.  In the right conditions, it's quite vigorous, and the tubers live for many years.

Impatiens gomphophylla

Photo courtesy of Derick Pitman

 

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