The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, August 20, 2000
Garden Life

Experiment with begonia
By Satish Narula

YOU can enjoy gardening more when you experiment with plants. In case you fail, it is the motto "try and try until you succeed," that should guide you. It is the sense of achievement that gives you tremendous satisfaction. The best time when you can work on your plants in any way is now. Do it and show your friends your green fingers.

Leaf cutting of begoniaIt is by exchanging notes with your friends or consulting experts or books that one learns. Most of the books are, however, by western authors who write about gardening in the conditions prevailing in their countries. They are irrelevant in our situation. The best way, therefore, is interaction. A reader, Soumya, of Kurukshetra has desired to know about the propagation technique in begonias and marantas. You are well in time to have asked about this. Before we let you know about the procedure, you must be aware about the kind of begonia you have.

There are begonias that are used for bedding or edging purposes. These are prepared by seeds or cuttings or by the division of clumps. For making plants from stem cuttings, do not select very soft or tender ones as there is every chance of rotting. Though there are different types of begonias viz, the tuberous rooted, the fibrous rooted, the fibrous rooted dwarf bedding types or rhizomatic begonias, one of the most common and the most beautiful, is ornamental leaved Rex begonia.

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This has tremendous range. Ornamental type of begonias are used for almost any location. The foliage of this type of begonias is vividly blotched or colored.

There are hues of various kinds in the leaves. The colour ranges from silvery leaves with pink, white, crimson shades with sometimes unusual star-like blue or light pink or rose coloured flowers that appear well above the foliage in bunches.

Rex begonia provides you with an excellent opportunity to experiment for its propagation. This plant can also be prepared by its leaf cuttings in an interesting way. Every vein of the plant has the potential to give rise to an independent plant. See the accompanying picture.

The leaf of this plant is leathery in texture. Make one-inch square sections with a sharp scissors. Put these sections with their face up on pure sand and keep them moist. After a few days, you will notice that the cut ends start showing very fibrous, tiny roots that enter the sand at the place of contact. Since these roots are very delicate, take care that they do not remain dry at any time. You will also notice the plant emerging at the same spot as the roots. This way you will get a number of plants emerging out of the surface of the pot or dish. Remove each plant and plant in pots separately.

Marantas can be multiplied by way of division of roots. Take the plant out of the pot by inverting it. Remove the soil by striking it gently against the ground or with a jet of water. You will see that the roots are already separate but are strangulating each other. If you gently separate them, you will get independent plants.

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This feature was published on August 13, 2000