Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Filling the Flowerbeds

When we moved into this house nine springs ago, I was absolutely thrilled with all the landscaping that was already in place. Besides loads of trees, there were two large and one tiny flowerbed already laid out, lightly mulched, and planted with mostly bulbs (irises, several varieties of lilies and daffodils) and azaleas.

The problem, though, was that the flowerbeds were really big and relatively empty in spite of the bulbs. But I love gardening and what I saw was potential. Nine years later, I'm still seeing potential. I've transplanted bulbs every year and added various perennials: roses, lavender, bee balm, hostas, Coral Bells, Black-eyed Susans, heather, rosemary, hibiscus, phlox, lantana, chrysanthemums. Still, every year I have empty spaces that have to be filled with either annuals or more perennials, which can be expensive. I can only add a few of those each year.

One of my favorite ways to add to the flowerbeds cheaply is to root impatiens and begonia stems. I always have several vases of stems rooting in my kitchen window, and people invariably ask what I'm doing and express amazement that one can do this. Growing up in a horticulturally obsessed family, I guess I figured everyone knew this could be done. So in case you don't know, here's how to do it.

First, cut about a few 3-5 inch stems from a plant you already have. I like to winter a few pots of impatiens indoors so that I always have some to start with in the spring. I also buy a flat of impatiens each spring to get things started, adding them both to containers and to the flowerbeds.

Now put them into little vases filled with water. These are flasks that Dr. H. brings home from his lab, but you can get cute little flasks at Walmart in the craft section for a couple of dollars. Or just use whatever you have. It's important to always keep the water level covering the stem, so check it each day. They drink a lot.

In about a week for impatiens or a couple of weeks for begonias, if you've kept the water level up, you should see roots. You've done your job.

Now go plant them. It's best to plant in the evening so they aren't attacked by the sun immediately upon planting. Impatiens like the shade; begonias do fine in the shade or the sun. Water thoroughly. You can also buy a bunch of impatiens seeds and sprinkle around, but you won't have the instant satisfaction of free flowers.

As soon as you plant those, go cut some more from your original plant, and start another batch. And ultimately—if you give them plenty of water—you'll have something like this:

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.
~Claude Monet


  1. Okay I have never had any luck with impatienc seeds! Never. I have no idea what happens to them but they never grow. So now I am going to try this method. It looks like it might work better.

    Can you tell me how to get starts from my geraniums. Every year I spend way too much moeny on those things!

  2. Thank you for sharing your horticulture expertise!

  3. Beautiful! My daughter thinks that would be really cool. We plant everything from apples to potatoes, and have even planted herb seeds from the cupboard before. But I am not a huge flower person... although I am becoming a convert, and I am excited to add impatiens to the list. :)


  4. I enjoyed stopping by your blog. Your flowers are beautiful! I too am a homeschool mom and love meeting new friends via blogging. Blessings...

  5. Your impatiens are beautiful. I just discovered basil is also easy to root.


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