Saturday, April 23, 2016

Growing succulents at home

What would you be looking for while choosing plants for your garden? In case easy-to-maintain and good-looking top the list of requirements, then succulents totally fit the bill. Plants whose leaves and stems store water to become juicy and swollen are called Succulents. They do this to store excess water which they can use later in conditions of water scarcity. Plants from over 50 families come under this category, and include the ones native to dry terrains as well as some which thrive in rainforests. A few grow along the coast, where their succulent tissue adapts them to the high salinity in soil. Cacti are a subset of the succulents.

Succulents make for great house-plants. Some of the commonly available succulents are Agaves, Aloes, Echeveria, Sedum, Sempervivum, few Euphorbias and some type of Orchids. You can find them in many shades of green to purple to orange and more colours that you can think of! This wide variety in this family makes them favourites to experiment with in the home garden. Trendy planters made of concrete, ceramic or terracotta adds to their elegance.

As with any other plant, Succulents have their list of requirements, which when catered to, produce delightful results!

  • Succulents are from Central and South America. Hence they are not used to freezing conditions. They can tolerate day-time temperatures in the range of 20-35°C.
  • Some hardy varieties can tolerate night-time temperatures as low as 5°C. During harsh winters, the plant can be kept indoors, next to a window, or where it can get ample light. 

  • Succulents prefer bright light. Some species can tolerate harsh sunlight. Some get scorched in extended periods of direct sunlight. Such species prefer conditions of shade with sufficient light like window sills.
  • Low amount of light can cause a phenomenon called Etiolation. The leaves and stems become stretchy and seem to be reaching out to light, or the rosettes (wherever applicable) seem to be thinning and downward-curving. In such cases, a change in location is recommended such that the plant gets sunlight in increasing doses. The container can be rotated periodically for even exposure to the light.
  • Initially, one should carefully observe as to which conditions work best for a particular species. Green coloured succulents can grow in indoor spaces, while those in the orange and purple colour family are better suited for outdoor spaces.

  • Succulents grow well in well-drained soils. A good quality potting soil or a Cactus mix seems to work for these plants.
  • Repotting at least once a year will keep the plants healthy.

  • One should water succulents only when the soil feels dry to touch. They do not like excess water in the soil. The right method of watering is to pour water till it drains out. This should be repeated a couple of times. It should next be watered only when the soil becomes dry again.
  • Wetting the leaves or rosettes must be avoided while watering the plant. Settling of water on the leaves lead to their rotting and at times, irregular white rings caused due to mineral deposits from evaporated water droplets.
  • Underwatering can cause loss of leaf sheen, shrivelling of leaf tips; and wilting and shedding of leaves.

Pest control
  • Succulents are susceptible to mites, aphids and mealybugs. A diluted soap solution or an insecticide specific to the infestation should help.
  • In cases where most of the leaves are affected, they should be pruned and the plant should be replanted in fresh soil.

Succulents can be grown in many ways. Different species with similar requirements can be grown in one large container, to give a gorgeous Mixed Succulent Bowl. It’s alright if a small plant is grown in a large container, provided a well-drained soil has been used. Succulents can be used to decorate indoor and outdoor spaces to create stunningly beautiful landscapes. For the latest in container gardens, visit Mudfingers today! Keep gardening!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The royal one

The name Begonia brings to mind the word ‘royal’. With its large leaves, often seen having a metallic sheen and its beautiful flamboyant flowers, this plant is one royal treat to the eyes. Earlier known for its pendulous flowers (in the case of Tuberous Begonias), today this species is mainly known for its foliage variety which can be grown as ornamental potted plants in a greenhouse or at home.

With 1,795 species, the genus Begonia is one of the largest genera among the Angiosperms. The genus was first identified and documented in 1700 and named in honour of Michel Begon, a French botanist and administrator of Santo Domingo in the West Indies. Begonias are widespread in the world, and have adapted to varying conditions, resulting in the extensive variety seen in the species. They occur in tropical and temperate climates of South America, Central America, Africa and South Asia. Some of the different types of Begonias are:

·      Tuberous with large flowers
·      Rhizomatous with their thickened stems  
·      Rex Begonias, also a type of Rhizomatous Begonias, but with more showy, larger and more colourful leaves
·      Semperflorens, or the wax Begonias

The botanical details of this plant are as follows:
Kingdom: Plantae
Family: Begoniaceae
Genus: Begonia
Begonias can be reared to give colourful flowers throughout the year, provided a few of their requirements are taken care of.

Temperature requirements
·      Begonias grow best in the temperature range of 18°C-22°C. They cannot tolerate very low temperatures.
·      Lower temperatures will result in the soil being wet and the plant rotting or exhibiting slow growth.
·      If temperatures begin to soar, the leaves start to dry up and drop. In cases of very high temperatures the plant should be put under the shade of a tree or any place with a cover.

Light requirements
·      Begonias prefer a few hours of sunlight every day. The beautiful foliage patterns on the Begonia rex come out in their full splendour when the plant is placed under bright indirect light.
·      You can know if the light is too much for the plant, when the leaves turn pale and start showing signs of getting burnt. In spring, the plant can tolerate the morning sun; however, once the summer gets stronger, the plant should be moved to a place with shade.
·      Low amount of light can cause increase in length of the stems as the leaves begin to search for sunlight. The long stems then turn limp and the Begonia loses its bushy appearance. Low light also decreases the frequency of flowering.

Soil requirements
·      Begonias grow well in well-drained soils. Potting mixes generally used in containers seem to work as the best soil for Begonias. Peat moss, perlite or vermiculite can also be used in their soil.
·      Some experts suggest placing of Begonia potted plants in a shallow tray filled with pebbles and water. Water maintains humidity while pebbles prevent the roots from coming in direct contact with the water.

Irrigation requirements
·      Begonias are susceptible to rotting, hence over-watering should be avoided. They should be watered only when the soil feels dry to touch.
·      The foliage should be avoided during watering of the plant, since excess water on the leaves may lead to a fungus attack.

Pest control
·      Begonias are susceptible to aphids and mealybugs. A diluted soap solution smeared over the affected parts should take care of the pests.
·      Begonia rex is prone to attacks from soil parasites like nematodes. Placing mothballs on the soil surface while watering the plant can take care of these parasites.

The vast variety of foliage patterns seen in Begonias make them very interesting ornamental plants to have around the house. They are infamous for being fussy about the conditions required for their growth; but once settled they look great in your garden!  Keep gardening!