Food & Garden: Jewelweed deserves a spot!

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By Andrew Padula, Contributing Columnist and owner of Greer-based Padula's Plants:

Being a native plant to South Carolina along with a great medicinal herb, jewelweed deserves a place somewhere in or around your garden area. This beautiful annual/herb plant reaches 2'-5' tall by up to 3' wide and loves moisture.

Usually growing in damp/part sun areas along creeks here in the Upstate area, jewelweed has long been known to help those affected by the itch from poison ivy/oak. Some other benefits of jewelweed include helping to increase bloodflow and to help relieve the pain from bruises and inflamed joints.

Besides being a beautiful garden plant, this wild Impatiens is a major attractor of hummingbirds. Since one jewelweed plant can have between 20-40 separate orange spotted flowers hanging from it, one plant can keep a hummingbird busy for a while. Many types of bees love this plant and it is considered a great native plant for attracting pollinators, especially for damp shady areas where other wildflowers have a hard time growing.

When it comes time for growing jewelweed, try to copy the plant's growing conditions in the wild. Jewelweed is usually found growing in a damp soil mix heavy in coarse sand/clay/decaying plants. Jewelweed also does not transplant well past the seedling stage, one main reason is the high water content in the plant. If you are transplanting a larger jewelweed it is important to try not to break any of the roots, also keep it wet and in the shade for at least a week after transplanting.

Jewelweed looks great as both a specimen plant for the shade garden or as a mass planting. Something to keep in mind when planting jewelweed is the method that it spreads it seeds. Being an annual plant, jewelweeds main goal is to set as many seeds as possible before it dies, also to help the seeds land in the best possible conditions for later germination. It does this by having "exploding seed capsules". When the seed capsules are ripe then touched or moved by the breeze, they burst open and send seeds flying out. Sometimes 6' from the mature jewelweed plant. So it is a good idea that if have jewelweed as a specimen plant, or are doing a mass planting of jewelweed. You plan for that increase of space around it next season, or cut it down before it sets seed.

There is a native yellow flowering jewelweed called Pale Jewelweed. However, here in the Upstate area the Orange Jewelweed is the more common of the two seen. The Pale Jewelweed can also grow in slightly drier areas than the moisture loving Orange Jewelweed.

Because of it's beauty and many herbal benefits that jewelweed has to offer us all, finding a damp place at the edge of the woods or in the garden should be a breeze.

Learn more about Andrew Padula and Padula's Plants here.

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