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Begonias and Other Houseplants

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/6/2006 | Gardening
Rex Begonias make hardy and showy houseplants, needing little but a light, warm room. Some have gorgeous flowers, but those grown mainly for their leaves make the best indoor plants. They succeed in a poorly lit area that others wont tolerate. Rex Begonias have large heart-shaped leaves of various colors and markings. Some have patches of silver, crimson or maroon on metallic green leaves, with the underneath part velvety red.

Begonia Masoniana or Iron Cross Begonia has smaller leaves with nearly black, cross-shaped markings on them. All begonias need to be kept moist in both summer and winter and their minimum temperature is about 7 degrees Celsius.

Chlorophytum, rheoe, tradescantia and zebrina are all hardy houseplants; thrive in poorly lit areas and with minimum temperature requirements of 7 degrees Celsius. All have attractive leaves of creams, whites, pinks and purples and some are striped. They are trailing in habit and need to be watered freely, but dont let Rheoe get too wet. Feed every 2-3 weeks with a weak soluble fertilizer solution.

If red spider mites attack your indoor plants, sponge the leaves with a weak milk and water solution to which has been added some white oil emulsion.

Ferns are hardy houseplants that require very little attention. They like to grow with their roots crowded, so dont need re-potting very often. They will benefit from being occasionally left outside on a rainy day to thoroughly saturate the roots and wash the leaves clear of dust. The Mother Spleenwort, Asplenium bulbiferum is a great houseplant so long as the air is not too dry. The fronds are delicate and graceful and sometimes youll find tiny plantlets on the upper surface.

Maidenhair ferns are also most attractive with their black stems and bright green tiny leaves that seem to shiver with the slightest air current. Blechnum gibbum makes a plume of fronds on a short stem and is decidedly attractive in spite of an ugly name.

The davallias are all lovely ferns for indoors. D. canariensis and D. pyxidata are both known as Hares-foot ferns. Their shiny fronds are finely divided and grow from brown, furry stems that seem to hug the ground.

The Fishbone Fern has many handsome varieties with a feature of the fronds being its ladder-like growth habit, while the Cretan Brake, Pteris cretica, also has several varieties with narrow, ribbon-fronds that can be crested, waved, variegated or divided.

While many evergreen plants will benefit from having their leaves sponged, those with a velvety texture need to have the dust removes by brushing rather than sponging, which could harm the delicate surface of the leaf. function SubmitRating(btn) { ratingchecked = false; if (btn.form.aRating0.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating1.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating2.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating3.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating4.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (ratingchecked) { btn.form.btnRating.value=btn.value; btn.form.submit(); } else { alert("Be sure a rating value has been selected to continue."); } }