What to Plant in March

Today is the first day of autumn and this is the first Planting Guide of the season.

The following is a list of vegetables and herbs that  you can plant in March in Sydney, a temperate zone. Just click on the name for the growing guide for each vegetable:

Plant of the Month – Costus comosus var.bakeri (Red Tower Ginger)

Costus comosus is a large and spectacular tropical/subtropical herbaceous perennial plant originating in Central and South America. It can also be grown in the warm temperate gardens or in pots.

It flowers nearly all year round from tall red bracts from spring through to late autumn.

The plant forms clumps of long cane stems of 2-3 m that also have a spiral habit that emerge from rhizomes below the ground. Each stem has one long lasting bract that flowers.

The stunning terminal bracts with the true tubular yellow flowers

The bright yellow tubular flower buds emerge a few at a time from the spirally arranged shiny, waxy red bracts that are closely overlapped and form at the top of the stem. The leaf like structures of the bracts turn downwards and look like a tall cone.

The long green leaves are also arranged in a spiral along the stem and have soft hairs under the surface. In fact the name comosus means having hair on leaves.

Birds penetrate the nearly closed flowers with their long beaks

The tubular flowers are nectar rich and in their native South America they are attractive to humming birds. Here in Sydney it is the noisy miners in that seek out the nectar.

Site and Soil requirements:

Costus comosus prefers a light, moist soil that has good drainage but is rich in organic matter. A sloping site allows water to drain and prevent water logging.

Select a site that gets filtered sun or dappled shade as the leaves can burn in strong sunshine. This is especially important in locations like Sydney that get extreme heat in summer.

Water:

Plants should be kept well watered to maintain moisture in the soil. Never let the soil dry out but also do not over water and risk the rhizomes rotting.

The water needs lessen during autumn and winter so check the soil and water sparingly as needed by the plant then.

Mulching away from the stems can also conserve the moisture in the soil around the plant in the summer months.

In winter, after flowering has finished cut the stems that have flowered to ground level. The plant will flower again on the new growth after a year.

Fertilizer:

Fertilize lightly away from the base with a good quality slow release fertiliser three times a year, beginning in the spring when growth occurs.

A beautiful carpet of Costus comosus with their shiny leaves and stunning flowers

Propagation:

Costus comosus can be easily propagated by dividing the rhizomes or by making stem cuttings with the outer layer removed revealing some of the segments and laying them horizontally on prepared humus rich soil or covered in a box of moist coir. The new plants will emerge from each of the segments to form a new plant.

Costus comosus is an easy maintenance plant with long lived colourful red spital bracts that are perfect for a stunning cutting to be enjoyed it indoors in a flower arrangement.

The tall spiralling stems bedecked with the beautiful red bracts and yellow flowers.

Below is another member of the Costus family, native to the foothills of the Andes in Peru. Comosus productus is a more compact plant rarely exceeding 1.5m with smaller bracts and yellow flowers that are edible and sweet.

It prefers a shady location with only 3 hours of sun.

Costus productus showing detail of the flowers

If you live in Sydney you can see both these amazing Costus plants growing at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Its well worth an outing to appreciate these stunning plants.

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