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 – The beautiful Angel Wing Begonia

Begonia is a genus of perennial flowering plants in the family Begoniaceae containing more than 2,000 species, native to moist subtropical and tropical climates of South and Central America, Africa and Asia.

The Angel Wing Begonia is a hybrid cane begonia from a cross between Begonia aconitifolia and Begonia coccinea by California plant breeder Eva Kenworthy Gray in 1926.

With colourful flowers and striking foliage, the Angel Wing Begonia has become a popular for growing both indoors and in outdoor gardens.

The Angel Wing begonia is a cane begonia, one of a group of cultivars that have tough bamboo-like stems that can grow up to 3 m tall, with large nodes that produce symmetrical leaves on either side.The canes grow from a central clump.

In the image below you can see the stems and the shape of the leaves of the Angel Wing Begonia.

Angel Wing Begonias have large leaves that look like folded angel wings. The dark green leaves are lobed, with wavy or notched margins and a contrasting colour on the underside. The beautiful upper surface of different varieties can be spotted, or speckled, banded or splotched in iridescent metallic silvery colours.

In some types, the decorative spotting on leaves appears in the young plant and then disappears as the plant matures.

As well as the beautiful leaves, Angel Wing Begonia blooms in summer with stunning clusters of delicate pendant flowers in white, salmon pink, orange and red, from early spring to autumn.

The plants are monoecious, with unisexual male and female flowers occurring separately on the same plant; the male contains numerous stamens, and the female has a large inferior ovary and two to four branched or twisted stigmas.

In the image below you can see the female flower with its branched twisted stigmas and the large ovary just above the flower, on the left and the smaller male flower with the many stamens, on the right.

The image below shows more detail of the flower structure.

Soil and Site Requirements:

Angel Wing Begonias prefer tropical or sub-tropical climates or warm protected positions in temperate climates

When locating outdoors, Begonias prefer a soil mix that is light, aerated, well- draining, moist, humus rich soil with protection from direct sun.

When growing inside, choose a terracotta pot which breathes and releases moisture and has draining holes to allow water to drain away from the root ball.

Angel Wing begonias prefer to be slightly pot bound. A lot of soil in the pot may hold too much moisture around the plant and create root rot. Choose a good, free draining potting mix. A heavy soil helps support the large root system and tall stems.

The soil’s pH must be maintained as slightly acidic.

Outdoors, locate the pot or the plant in the garden where there is dappled light and protection from the hot sun under trees during the middle of the day. Early morning sun with afternoon shade is preferred.

Indoors keep pots in bright indirect light. Good light allows the leaves and flowers to develop properly. Too much direct light will burn the leaves. If there is not enough light the canes will be leggy and the plant may not flower.

Angel Wing Begonia is a tropical plant that likes a warm, humid environment with good air circulation so let that be your guide when selecting a site for the plant or pot.

These tropical plants need a temperature between 18-23 C and are frost sensitive with the leaves sustaining damage at temperatures below 10 C.

Water Requirements:

Allow the top portion of the soil in pots to dry out before watering and just keep the plant moist to the touch but do not overwater. The plant should never sit in water.

Pots can be placed on top of a pebble tray half filled with water to create a humid atmosphere for the plant.

From spring to autumn water Angel Wing begonia often, especially while it’s in bloom.

During winter allow the top soil to become dry to the touch before watering again. 

General Maintenance:

As Angel Wing Begonia grows, the plant will need staking to support the weight of the plant. The canes can be cut back with careful pruning that will keep the plant compact. When the canes become too long, prune to within 3-4 nodes from the ground. This can be done in winter and early spring. This will encourage new growth at the base of the plant.

Angel Wing Begonia can be propagated from the cuttings if there are 3-4 nodes on the stem. Place them in a pot with mixture of moist coir, propagating soil and sand and locate in a warm site with indirect light misting the soil till roots form.

Fertilize every two weeks from spring to early autumn with a good organic slow release or liquid fertilizer high in potassium to support leaf growth and flowering.

Angel Wing Begonia is a stunning plant for any home or garden. The beauty of the many varieties available with their silver spotted leaves and salmon pink or scarlet flowers make a dramatic statement indoors, grown in pots or outdoors in large pots or as an understory to your warm climate garden.

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