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!

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