Begonias are grown mostly for their eye-catching foliage and are among the most popular of our houseplants.
Their leaves, especially the coloured varieties, remain attractive all year round and if given a little care and attention, plants should also flower during the winter months.
Begonias are classified into tuberous-rooted begonias and fibrous-rooted begonias.
Tuberous-rooted begonias require good lighting to stimulate flowering and plenty of air movement around them.
The pendulous varieties seem to grow and flower indoors better than other types but don't place them in full sunlight.
Tubers are usually prompted into growth in September or October by placing the tuber in a shallow pot of free-draining potting mix. Water moderately at first and only then if the plant needs it.
Overwatering causes the plant to go limp and even die.
Plants can be fed a balanced water-soluble fertiliser once a fortnight while growing, but cease once the plants begin to flower as overfeeding can cause flowers to drop.
Fibrous-rooted begonia varieties love the humidity of summer and will show little growth until the warmer weather arrives, then they will grow quite quickly and will be very well developed by the time winter comes.
These begonias are suited to growing as houseplants but there are many varieties that can be grown in shadehouses or frost-protected verandahs and patios.
The dainty fibrous-rooted bedding Begonia semperflorens is used to great effect planted as a contrast with white alyssum and green-leaved plants in a rock garden.
Propagation of fibrous-rooted begonias is by leaf or stalk cuttings from December till February.
African violets are also popular indoor plants available in a vast range of flower colours from white to deepest purple in single blooms to the spectacular ruffled and fringed doubles.
When first introduced into the home, African violets need a few weeks to adjust to this new environment as the air is usually drier, so it's important to check the soil moisture daily and mist frequently with a fine sprayer to compensate for excessive water loss until the roots have developed sufficiently to supply the replacement water.
African violets like warm daily temperatures with a range of between 18 to 27 degrees Celsius and will tolerate low night-time temperatures as low as 16 degrees Celsius.
Position the plants so that they won't be subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations; avoid window ledges as these areas leave plants open to severe temperature range differences, overheating on sunny days and chilling on cold nights.
When watering it is essential to use room-temperature water as cold water is harmful and when sprinkled into the crown of the plant can cause it to rot.
Feed when the plants are in active growth or are about to commence growth after their resting period.
The soil mix needed for African violets should be open, porous and well-draining.
The fine, shallow, fibrous roots also require a soil that is finely textured. Specific mixes are available.
May 15: Launceston Horticultural Society, St Ailbes Hall, Margaret St, 8.30pm. Heather Pryor on Gardens of Vancover Island, British Columbia, Canada. Visitors welcome.
May 16: Launceston Orchid society meet at Newnham Uniting Church Hall, 7pm.
May 21: The Australian Plant Society, Max Fry Hall, Gorge Road, Trevallyn, 7.30pm. Dr Miguel de Salas from the Tasmanian Herbarium will share the highlights of his many years hunting and collecting plants in Tasmania. Visitors welcome.