The word “clone” may conjure hazy images of microscopes, test tubes, petri dishes and gloved, bespectacled scientist types sashaying around importantly in little white coats. In this scenario, they’re performing painstakingly complicated botanical procedures in a please-don’t-touch-me-I’m-sterile lab. If you want to reproduce your impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) via “tissue culture” cloning, that’s the route you’ll have to take. But you don't have to make anything more expensive than it has to be. In reality, a clone is nothing more than a plant that’s an exact genetic replica of its mother plant. The simplest, most reliable method of cloning impatiens for moms on the go is by rooting stem cuttings in water.
1 Use a clean, sharp knife to cut an unblemished 6-inch stem tip from a healthy, mature impatiens plant. The cutting will grow into an exact replica of the mother plant, so pick an attractive one that you like. The best time to clone impatiens is during the spring or early summer when the mother plant is actively growing.
2 Pinch the leaves off the lower half of the cutting. Put it in a small, clear drinking glass. The glass should be short enough to situate all the remaining leaves beyond the rim of the glass. This provides the foliage with good air circulation. Pour water into the glass to a level just below the lowest leaves. Put a dot on the glass at the top of the water line with a marker to denote the original water level.
3 Set the cutting on a brightly lit windowsill in a warm room. Keep it out of direct sun. Your impatiens cutting will begin to show tiny new roots in about a week or so.
4 Mist the cutting with warm water twice every day. This provides the humidity the cutting needs to root efficiently.
5 Add water to the glass as needed to keep it at the original level. Change it every other day to prevent bacteria from developing.
6 Pour about a tablespoon of potting soil into the water each day when the cutting’s roots are about an inch long. Repeat until the soil is evenly moist but not soggy or wet. This eases the cutting gently into a soil environment.
7 Transfer the rooted plant to a 6-inch pot of potting soil when new growth emerges. Move it to a warm windowsill out of direct sun. You can plant it outside in a well-draining, shady spot in the garden, if you prefer. Water impatiens enough to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season.
8 Feed the impatiens plant with a half-strength dilution of all purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of the material in 2 cups of warm water. Pour the solution over the plant’s root zone. Avoid getting any fertilizer on the stem or foliage. Feed once every six to eight weeks throughout the growing season.
Items you will need
- Clean, sharp knife
- Small, clear drinking glass
- Plastic spray bottle
- Potting soil
- 6-inch pot
- All purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer
- Impatiens walleriana thrives as an annual in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 11. You can grow this plant as a perennial if you live in frost-free areas of zones 10 and 11.
- Some gardeners get good results with rooting impatiens cuttings in moist soil or vermiculite.
- Don’t use water that has been processed through a softener. These units replace the minerals present in hard water with others that are often toxic to plants.
- Cornell University Center for Material Research: Plant Clones: An Important Part of Agriculture
- Floridata: Impatiens walleriana
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Impatiens walleriana
- New Mexico State University: New Begonias and Impatiens From Old
- Washington State University: Taking Slips for Propagation
- Walter Reeves: Impatiens -- Rooting Indoors
- University of Florida IFAS Extension Polk County Master Gardener: Plant Propagation for the Home Gardener
- Mr. Impatiens: How to Grow Impatiens
- Yardener: Planting Impatiens
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images