Begonias spend their entire lives germinating, growing, flowering, seeding and germinating in the twilight zones of the forest. Sheltered mostly from the heaviest rains by the dense canopy of leaves. They have adapted to the shade by developing red pigmented undersides to their leaves. The light passes through the leaves and as soon as it reaches the red leaves of the lower epidermis they are reflected back up to be use in food production. You may have noticed many other plants having red undersides to their leaves, and you can bet that they also have the ability to reflect light back up to be used in food production rather than be wasted.

The Swiss cheese plant on the other hand, has the ability to grow upwards to reach the light, and in doing so helps to provide protection from the low growing plants far below which have had to make special arrangements to use every bit of light possible.

The especially interesting thing about aroids like the Swiss cheese plant is that when their seedlings germinate they tend to grow away from the light at first and grow along the ground until they reach an upwards growing stem. Only then do they start to grow upwards and they keep on growing up until they get to the light, and on the way they produce ever larger heart shaped leaves which absorb light. At the same time they produce small roots which anchor themselves to the trunk of the host tree. As the leaves get larger so they become shredded to help get rid of the huge amount of water they have to bear. Many tall growing aroids flower and fruit in the canopy of the forest and the ripe fruits fall to the ground and the process starts all over again.

Begonia

My preference is to use traditional compost using loam soil, leaf mould and sand. And clay pots with proper drainage and little danger of flooding. A good habit is to water plants in clays thoroughly at the end of the day so that they have the entire evening to drain, and if by any chance any leaves should become wet they have time to dry off during the night. Not so if you water them in the morning when there is a danger of the leaves getting scorched as the sun gets hotter. Of course I am fighting a rearguard action (but not a losing battle) where clay pots are concerned, as most gifts are going to be in plastic pots. The important thing to bear in mind is that the most common cause of plant death is drowning. The golden motto is therefore give a little water, but often.

However, most families are working families with everyone going out to work all day. In that case the person doing the gardening should make absolutely certain that when they get home in the afternoon they look after their plants first. Some of them may be thirsty and deserve to have a really good drink. Of course they should be kept in the shade as much as possible.

And my personal hope for the future is that we can reduce the size of our chemical store and that plants will be developed which will be free of pests and disease, and that fruit and especially vegetables will have taste.

May all your gardening efforts bear just rewards and may your God go with you.

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