This is the time of year to begin planting some seeds. I like to wait until April 1 to start seeds for tomatoes and other warm season vegetables and flowers, but I’ve already planted some cool season plants in containers, then covered and placed them in the sunny window of my unheated garage. This approach is called winter sowing, which I have written about previously. Seed starting times vary, so it is best to do an internet search on your specific seed.
This time window for me is optimal for tending to my houseplants. It’s a good time to take cuttings to root for new plants, and also a great time to re-pot. I have some rooted cuttings I took last year that I will soon group together in bigger pots, for an improved presence.
My favorite plants over this pandemic winter have been my cane begonias. These plants grow on long bamboo-like stems, most often with wing-shaped leaves, with many of them informally called angel-wing begonias. They are much less fussy than the Rex and other tuberous begonias that I grew indoors a few years ago, and hardly seem related at all to the small wax begonias that are used as bedding plants for shade, except for the similar flower. Other potted begonias require evenly moist soil, but these like to dry out more between waterings.
I bought a small cane begonia a few years ago on a whim at a plant sale. It has an attractive silver-spotted leaf, and has survived a lot of neglect. I’ve taken numerous cuttings, and even planted some near my front door one summer. It didn’t thrive but survived in this dry location, so there were no blossoms but the leaves carried on. Cane begonias root quite easily from stem cuttings, though not from individual leaves.
This fall I decided I wanted a few more canes to nurture over the winter. I could find a spot for a couple more plants. My sunny windows were full, but I could make room for plants that would accept bright window light. I thought I had hit the jackpot when I found a large cane begonia for six bucks at a garden center end-of season sale. The leaves were plain green, but it was covered with blossoms. We enjoyed it for a month or two on our dining room table, then I found a spot on top of a file cabinet where it continued to produce sparse blossoms all winter. I will have numerous cuttings shortly when I cut back the leggy winter growth, to produce a full plant for outdoors.
In spite of this large plant, I wanted to grow some more cane begonia plants with attractive leaves, which I found on Etsy. I couldn’t be happier. The leaves are quite large on the new plants. New leaves emerge in red, and remain red on the undersides. Although they look a little lanky, I’m not ready to cut them back yet.
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County since 2002. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She will answer gardening questions by email: JulieBW48@gmail.com.