Related to Busy Lizzie, Congo Cockatoo has the same fleshy, succulent stems and pointed oval shaped leaves with slightly serrated edges, but the flowers are completely different.
Impatiens is a genus of about 600 species of annuals, perennials and short shrubs. Congo Cockatoo, Impatiens niamniamensis, originates in Western and Central tropical Africa.
Flowers and flowering
The unusual flowers of Congo Cockatoo are shaped like a miniature horn and each bloom is red and yellow with a green petal edge. Sometimes called ‘African Queen’, there is also another variety ‘African King’ which has similar shaped plain bright red flowers. A hybrid of the two ‘African princess’, has yellow and red flowers. There are also Red and White and Red and Pink varieties available.
Size and Growth
This is a plant with thick, upright succulent stems, usually Red-flushed. It grows to around 45-60cm (18-24in). Plant several together in a pot for the best display. Pinch out tips and prune lightly to maintain a bushy shape.
Leaves usually appear alternately on the upper part of the stems. These are round-toothed and oval in shape.
Leaves that are distorted and sticky are a sign of infestation by greenfly or white-fly. Inspect the plant regularly and deal with these pets when they first appear.
Treatment : Spray leaves with soapy water. Repeat after a week. If not caught early, spray with a suitable insecticide. Repeat until eradicated.
Leaves yellow and drop off. This could be due to over-watering, inadequate light or both.
Treatment : Place the plant in good, filtered light and water moderately in summer and sparingly during the winter.
Making new plants
Take cuttings in Spring or Summer.
Take 7.5-10cm (3-4in) long tip cuttings. Place 2-3 in each pot and cover them with a polythene bag. Place in a warm position where there is enough bright, filtered light.
When roots are well established, shown by new growth, remove the bag and water moderately.
Re-pot in soil-based potting compost when cuttings are well established and treat as mature plants.
Secrets of Success
This plant is not difficult to grow but it does need warm summer temperatures for continual flowering.
Potting : Re-pot once a year in spring into a pot the next size up. Use a light and fast-draining soil based potting compost.
Water moderately in summer, allowing the mixture to dry out between watering. Water sparingly in water to barely moisten the potting mixture.
Feeding : Use a standard liquid fertilizer once every two weeks during the growing season.
Light : This plant likes good light in a position out of the direct mid-day sun. An east or west facing window would be ideal.
Temperature : Congo Ckockatoo needs constant summer warmth during the daytime of 21°-14°C (70°-75°F) if it is to flower successfully. In winter it does not need such a high temperature, but requires a minimum of 10°-13°C (50°-55°F).
When to buy
Buy this plant when in flower in spring or early summer. Congo cockatoo is an usual flowering plant so look for it in specialist nurseries or catalogues.
What to look for
Choose a healthy looking plant with no sign of pest or disease.
Provided Congo cockatoo is given the right conditions it will live and flower each year for many years.