Himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a relative of the busy Lizzie, but it reaches well over 6 foot, it is an invasive plant and is a major problem, particularly on riverbanks and waste land, but can also intrude gardens. It grows quick and spreads fast, suffocating other plants as it goes.

What is Himalayan balsam?

Introduced to the UK in 1839, Himalayan balsam is now a naturalised plant, found especially on riverbanks and in waste areas where it has become a real troublesome weed.

Himalayan balsam can stand low light levels and it also creates shade over other plants, so gradually destroying habitats by killing off other vegetation that is in its way. Himalayan balsam is a tall-growing annual and it produces clusters of purplish-pink flowers. The flowers are followed by growing seed pods that open explosively when they are ripe. Every plant can produce up to 800 seeds that are scattered widely as the seedpods shoot their seeds up to 7m away.

The plant is spread by two principal means;

  • The most common method of distribution is by human means where people pass on the seeds to others
  • Once the plant is established close to a river the seeds are carried away by water
JBB GroundcareHimalayan BalsamJBB Groundcare

Plants that grow over other more desirable plants or just invade half the garden are classed as weeds and they require some kind of control.

Non-weedkiller control

The main method of non-chemical control, and generally the most suitable, is cutting the plants before they flower and set their seed. Conservation authorities regularly organise ‘balsam bashing’ work parties to help clear the weed from marshland and riverbanks.

Weedkiller control

Where non-chemical control approaches are not practicable, chemical controls may need to be utilised. Contact weedkillers and glyphosate have low persistence in the soil. Residual weedkillers remain in the soil for a number of weeks or months and can move deeper or sideways along the soil. Before using weedkillers alongside any waterways it is important to contact the Environment Agency.

Take care when applying weedkillers near any ornamental plants. Cover them with plastic sheets while spraying, and only remove it once the spray has dried on the weed leaves.

It may take a couple of seasons to obtain proper control of Himalayan balsam, as other weed seedlings germinate after the parent plant is killed off.

Glyphosate

Himalayan balsam can be controlled with a weedkiller based on glyphosate. Glyphosate is a non-selective weedkiller that is sprayed on the leaves and it is inactive on contact with the soil, so there is no risk of damage to the roots of nearby plants that you do not want to destroy. Glyphosate is most effective when weed growth is strong and it is easier to eradicate the plant.

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“I’d like to recommend Ian for his services on invasive weeds. As a Chartered Surveyor having an expert to turn to for advice and information is crucial. Ian spent time with me and 2 graduates on site to discuss the remediation of knotweed. His knowledge is second to none and the depth of information he provided in his area of expertise is impressive. I would 100% recommend Ian.”

Jonathan Annan MRICS