Sometimes referred to as the spotted touch-me-not, jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) appears to sparkle when wet, which is the source of its common name. Planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed, jewelweed has a fast growth rate. It can reach up to about 5 feet tall with branching, weak stems, and blue-green, oval leaves that are toothed and partially fuzzy. In the summertime, cornucopia-shaped flowers appear, then give way to seed capsules that, when mature, can split at the slightest touch (which is how the plant got the name touch-me-not).
|Common Name||Jewelweed, orange jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not|
|Botanical Name||Impatiens capensis|
|Mature Size||2–5 ft. tall, 1.5–2.5 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial, shade|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Bloom Time||Summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Orange, yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||2–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America|
This North American native plant can flourish in environments that many other plants can't tolerate, including soggy soil and deep shade. Jewelweed is considered an easy plant to grow and requires little hands-on care once it's established. It generally doesn't have any issues with pests or diseases. And the dense growth of jewelweed can actually help to discourage the development of weeds, which will lower your garden maintenance overall. Just make sure the jewelweed is planted in an area where the soil remains moist.
Jewelweed plants grow higher when they are located in clusters. If seeds are sown close together, the plants will help to support each other as they develop taller stems. But if you'd like to keep your jewelweed on the shorter side, space the seeds farther apart.
Jewelweed does well in dappled sunlight to full shade. It can tolerate direct morning sun, but strong afternoon sun can be too harsh for the plants.
Jewelweed prefers organically rich soil that retains moisture. Digging a thick layer of compost into your soil prior to planting is a great way to give your plants a nutrient boost. A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is best.
Jewelweed thrives in evenly moist soil and will wither if the soil becomes too dry. It can even survive occasionally waterlogged soil. Water whenever the top inch of soil dries out. And consider adding a layer of mulch to help retain soil moisture.
Temperature and Humidity
Jewelweed is not hardy to cold temperatures, and exposure to frost can damage or kill it. It can survive fairly hot temperatures as long as it has sufficient shade and soil moisture. Likewise, it can tolerate a range of humidity levels, though it doesn't thrive in very dry conditions.
Jewelweed generally doesn't need supplemental fertilizer. However, if you have very poor soil, it's ideal to add compost at the time of planting and then side-dress with compost in the summer.
It can be difficult to prevent jewelweed from propagating on its own via its explosive seed pods. However, pruning off the seed pods before they mature can help to control their spread if that's what you wish.
How to Grow Jewelweed From Seed
Jewelweed is very easily propagated via its seeds. Immediately plant any harvested seeds into the ground that you have from the plants. By strategically propagating with seeds, it allows you to put plants where you want them, rather than allowing jewelweed to spread on its own. And having more plants near one another will promote taller stems and consequently more flowering.
You can also purchase jewelweed seeds. You'll need to put them through stratification to simulate winter temperatures. Two to three months before your area's projected last spring frost date, put the seeds in the refrigerator.
Then, once the threat of frost has passed, direct sow the seeds in your garden just slightly covered with soil, as they need some light to germinate. Make sure the soil remains moist, and you should see germination within a week or two, depending on soil temperature.
Or, you can start seeds in a small container. But then it's best to transplant seedlings to a container that can accommodate jewelweed's mature size rather than having to repot throughout the season. A 5-gallon container should suffice.
Potting and Repotting Jewelweed
To grow jewelweed in a container, use a plastic pot with drainage holes. Fill it with a good-quality potting mix. Using a plastic pot will help the soil to retain moisture. Note that container plants generally need watering more frequently than those grown in the ground, so check moisture levels frequently on your potted jewelweed.
Jewelweed is an annual plant, completing its life cycle in one growing season. So it doesn't require overwintering maintenance. And typically it will self-seed on its own without any winter help to grow new plants in the spring.
How to Get Jewelweed to Bloom
Jewelweed's unscented flowers appear in the midsummer and continue into fall. They have four to five petals and stretch around 1 to 3 inches across. They're typically orange or yellow-orange with reddish spotting.
Deadheading, or removing the spent blooms, isn't essential, though it can help to promote further blooming. But jewelweed generally blooms readily on its own without any special care from you.
Common Problems With Jewelweed
When jewelweed grows in conditions it likes, it generally thrives and will spread vigorously. However, issues with its environment can be the cause of some problems.
Jewelweed plants will quickly droop if they don't have enough moisture. Especially in hot, dry conditions, it's important to check your jewelweed's moisture levels regularly. You might need to water multiple times per week in some climates.
Plant Leaves Falling Off
Jewelweed might lose its leaves due to prolonged drought. Frost also can cause leaf drop, which is why it's key not to plant until there's no more frost in the spring forecast.
What happens when you touch jewelweed?
If something gently touches a jewelweed's slender seed pod when it's ripe, it splits open and explodes, dispersing seeds in all directions about a foot out which is why it's also commonly called touch-me-not. It's the plant's method of self-preservation since it can happen when birds try to open the pods to extract the seeds.
How can I collect jewelweed seeds?
Collect mature jewelweed seeds from plants in the early fall. Grab the ripe pod and hold it tightly in your hand so it explodes and discharges the seeds into your hand instead of on the ground. You can also try this with a bag over the pod, or hold your hand in a bag to catch seeds. Plant them right away in your preferred location about 1/4 inch deep. This will expose them to the cold winter temperatures that they need to germinate in the spring.
Where does jewelweed grow?
Jewelweed grows best when it fills in shady and/or boggy spots where many other plants won't grow. It can do well along the edges of ponds and other water features, as well as low-lying areas. Plus, it can be used to out-compete non-native species.
What's the difference between jewelweed and yellow jewelweed?
Yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) is a species related to Impatiens capensis, though it's less common than the orange-flower variety. Yellow jewelweed's blooms are yellow with reddish spots, and they are larger than orange jewelweed's blooms.
What are alternatives to jewelweed?
If you're looking for flowers that will grow in shade, there are several other choices besides jewelweed. Consider coral bells, other impatiens species, bleeding heart, lungwort, and rhododendrons.