Pot Plants for Porches and Patios

BegoniaswebFrom Trevor Nottle

Moving from a big garden to the pocket-handkerchief sized plots attached to retirement villas and home-units calls for a re-think about what flowering plants can be included in the garden.
The temptation exists to plant old favourites from previous gardens but squeezing plants together is a big mistake. Plants do grow to their accustomed sizes and no amount of pinching-out or hard pruning will induce them to adapt to a shrunken garden space.
Pests and diseases proliferate too, in close packed plantings in confined spaces. Better perhaps to re-think what gardening at this point can be. Including potted plants in the planning process can open up a new world of plants not grown before so old-fashioned is the idea of growing plants in containers.
Tuberous begonias are a group of flowers not given much thought by gardeners in SA but they come into their own as subjects for growing in pots and they are easier than their reputation for miffy-ness suggests. Start out with the multi-flora types in which the colour comes from masses of small flowers rather than the huge Ballarat Specials familiar from trips to the festival held every autumn in the botanic gardens of that town. Garden centres and nurseries offer tuberous begonias in flower towards the middle of Summer and this is where to buy them in the colours which will combine or contrast in ways that please the eye.
Tubers will last 5-7 years with no trouble. Plants can be increased by digging up the tubers when they are dormant and cutting them in half, or quarters, making sure each division has an ‘eye’ much like a sprouting potato. Allow the cut surface to thoroughly dry for a week or so and then replant in potting mix with the top of the tuber just below the level of the soil. Once top growth appears manage the plants in the same manner as for older, established plants.
Tuberous begonias with pendant growth and flowers suitable for hanging baskets and window boxes are also available and can be handled in the same manner as outlined above.