Impatiens are mainstays of the flower garden, much loved for their lush foliage, prolific blooms and easy cultivation. Getting seeds from impatiens flowers is an activity that everyone can enjoy. There is nothing like an impatiens seed pod explosion, with its snapping sound and flying seeds, to delight young and old alike. Harvesting impatiens seeds is a thrifty way to provide masses of colour in the garden without investing in expensive seeds and pre-started plants. Once you select the right types of impatiens to grow for seed and you learn how to harvest the pods, you can perpetuate these prolific plants season after season.
Select the right type of impatiens plant. Look for the standard impatiens types (Impatiens walleriana), as opposed to the hybrid types such as the double-flowering varieties or the New Guinea cultivars. The standard types produce viable seed in abundance, resulting in plants that retain the traits of their parents. The hybrid types, on the other hand, produce little or no viable seed in the open-pollination environment of the outdoor garden, and any offspring that do appear will not resemble the parent.
Find a fully-formed seed pod. Impatiens flowers form seed pods throughout the growing season. When you start to see fallen flower petals on the ground, you can start to look for mature pods. When the seeds inside a pod are ready to harvest, the pod is fleshy, plump, bright green in colour and shaped like a tear drop. Do not touch the pod just yet, as even the lightest touch can cause the pod to explode before you are ready to catch the flying seeds in the container.
Sever the pod from its stem. Use one hand to hold the container under the mature seed pod you found. With the other hand, use your thumb and index finger to grasp the seed pod stem where it joins the plant. Guide the pod into the container and then pinch the pod stem from the plant, letting the pod drop into the container.
Remove the seeds from the pod. Most seed pods that drop into the container will explode on impact; those that don't will need only a light tap or two of the finger to open. Release any seeds remaining inside the exploded pod by scraping them out with a fingernail or butter knife. Remove the emptied seed pods, which now resemble small, curled-up caterpillars, from the container and discard.
Choose the impatiens plants that bloomed the most profusely during the growing season, in order to increase the likelihood that the seeds you harvest will produce plants equally laden with blooms. Impatiens plants aren't known as Busy Lizzies for nothing! Spread the harvested seed out onto a flat surface to air dry for five to seven days. When the seeds are dry, store them in an airtight container. If you want the next season's impatiens display in the same area as the current season's, you can leave the seeds where they fall. They will germinate and grow on their own when temperature and soil conditions are favourable.
Because seed pods can explode unexpectedly and scatter the tiny impatiens seeds in any direction, outfit young assistants with protective eye gear when they are helping to harvest seed.