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"Growing the Many Different Types of House Plant Begonias"

In the world of house plants, there are plenty of choices. There are flowering house plants; there are foliage house plants; there are house plants that offer both flowers and foliage. However, one group of house plants in particular offers a wide array of leaf colors, shapes, sizes, flowers, and plant habits. That group of house plants is begonia. House plant begonias are grown either for their colorful flowers or for their brilliantly-colored, unusually-shaped foliage. A few varieties have the benefit of interesting flowers as well as unusual foliage.

Begonia is a diverse group of indoor plants. There are between 1,000 and 2,000 hybrids, some small enough to grow in a teacup, others five- to six-foot-tall plants. Plant habit varies with begonia. Some varieties are mound-forming plants that make desirable table-top plants. Others have long, trailing stems and look best grown in a hanging basket. Still others are tall, upright-growing varieties that can reach four feet tall or more.

Begonias grown just for their foliage don't need flowers for color. The kaleidoscope of colors on a single plant provides all the color needed. In fact, even though all begonias flower, the flowers produced on the varieties grown for their foliage can detract from the overall attractiveness of the plant.

The group of begonias known as "rex begonia" (Begonia rex) has some of the most striking combination of foliage colors in begonias. Rex begonia has heart-shaped, smooth- or jagged-edged leaves with red, pink, silver, maroon, gray, and lavender in different patterns on the leaf. Some varieties have a silvery sheen which adds luster to the leaf. Most rex begonias are mound-forming varieties growing a foot or so tall with leaves up to eight inches long and four inches wide. There are also dwarf rex begonia varieties as well that are more compact, growing only several inches tall with much smaller leaves.

Iron cross begonia, eyelash begonia, and beefsteak begonia are three other species of begonia grown for their showy foliage.

Iron cross begonia has large, puckered, light-green leaves that bear a brown mark in the center of the leaf that resembles the German iron cross medal. Its leaves, up to seven inches long and nearly five inches wide, also have red hairs standing on edge along the surface of the leaf.

Eyelash begonia has an unusual leaf characteristic that earned it the common name. Along its jagged leaf edge are small, upright-growing white hairs shaped like eyelashes. Its foliage is bright green with brown spots lining the edge.

Beefsteak begonia is so named because of its size and coloring. Each leaf is the shape of a steak with a bright red underside. Its rounded leaves are up to five inches across and are glossy green. This begonia grows up to a foot tall, but it can spread as much as two feet across.

One of the showiest-flowered begonias is tuberous begonia (Begonia tuberhybrida hybrids). Normally grown as an outdoor bedding plant for shade, tuberous begonia can also be grown indoors as a flowering house plant. As its name implies, tuberous begonia is grown from a type of bulb called a tuber. Tuberous begonia bears large, single, semi-double, and double flowers in a myriad of colors including red, yellow, pink, orange, white, rose, cream, as well as blends. The flowers are up to five inches across. The flowers of the double-flowered varieties resemble carnations or rosebuds. The leaves of tuberous begonia are nearly heart-shaped with a pointed tip and serrated edges. Tuberous begonia is an upright grower, forming a one-foot-tall plant.

Begonia fuchsiodes is an upright-growing begonia with small, lance-shaped bright-green leaves. It bears dangling reddish-pink flowers that resemble fuchsia flowers. It forms a bushy plant that grows about a foot high.

Many of the "cane-type" begonias bear colorful flowers. The cane-type begonias are upright growers and can reach up to 10 feet tall, but most are in the four- to five-foot range. They can be pinched to keep their height under control and to induce more branching. The stems of these types of begonias are green with brown bands, resembling bamboo.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Use Animal Repellent to Protect Garden"

Q. I am having a problem with rabbits eating my beans and carrots down to the ground. How can I stop them from eating them?

A. I use Animal Repellent to keep hungry rabbits from devouring my vegetable garden. This repellent repels rabbits, along with deer, squirrels, raccoons, dogs, cats, and more from vegetable gardens, flower beds, lawns, landscaped areas, bird feeders, and garbage. This unique product is an organic, natural repellent. Its unique formula repels both by odor and taste. It has a pleasant lemon scent for humans. In a recent university trial, this animal repellent was rated the number one deer repellent. Spray the repellent on the plants the rabbits are eating and I also recommend spraying a perimeter around the garden to keep them from getting to the plants.

Click here to read more about Animal Repellent and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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