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CULTURAL DIARY   2016

Tim Jemmott

Begonia Species

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February

I am trying to grow all the species of begonias of section Gireoudia and have just received an order of 15 packs seeds from the French Association of Amateur Begonia Growers.
Begonia seeds are very small, ranging in size between, 0.2mm – 2.3mm [Tebbitt 2005] the packet of seed in the picture below will contain approximately 200+ seeds. [image 1]

The technique for planting seeds for all types of begonias is basically the same.
There are several guides for planting seeds on this website and that of the ABS and AABS. This is what I do:

Prepare the following items: small plastics pots [5cm]; scissors; potting compost; tap water; cling film; plant labels, indelible pen and begonia seed. [image 2]

1.    Wash your hands
2.    Clean/sterilise your tools, pots. Again there are several methods described on this site and the ABS and AABS websites. My preferred method is to wash pots in hot soapy water to remove large particle of potting medium, then, I put them through the dish washer.
3.    Fill the pots with a commercial sterile peat based potting compost. I'm using seed compost from Wicks at the moment. It is important to use a sterilised pot/scoop to fill your pots so that you don't add contaminants to your pots or your bag of compost. I am using small pots because I only want to grow a few plants of each species.
4.    Tamp down the compost gently again I use the bottom of a sterilised plastic pot.
5.    Place the pots on a tray and water with tap water. I always tap water as it is treated with chlorine in the UK and this will kill fungal and bacterial elements which can cuase to damping off. Cover the top of the pots and leave to drain for several hours.
6.    Then I cover the top of the compost with a sprinkling of vermiculite. The theory is that the vermiculite draws off excess water from the compost by capillary action and so provides the ideal moist environment for germination. I'm not sure this really makes any difference.
7.    Sprinkle a little seed on top of the vermiculite. Do NOT cover the seed with soil /vermiculite as begonia seed needs light to germinate. Unless you want to grow a lot of plants [e.g. for summer bedding] you only need a pinch of seeds.
8.    I then seal each pot in cling film and place in a propagator at 16 – 21ēC under light source on a timer to give 12 – 14 hours of light a day. I'm using an ordinary domestic double florescent strip as a light source. An east or west facing window sill should give sufficient light for germination, but, you will have to plant in the spring and summer months. Using an artificial light source gives me much greater flexibility. [image 3]
9.    Label each pot. If planting more than one species label each pot as you go to avoid labelling errors. All begonia seedlings look the same, initially, it takes some weeks before they start to differentiate.
10.    Wait 10 – 14 days for germination although some species may take longer]. [image4]

My Begonias from Mexico and Central America flower between December and April and most of them are starting to produce flower spikes. [image 5] This is a good opportunity to propagate plants by seed. Pollination of female flowers is required to produce seed. A feature of all begonias is separate male [image 6] and female [image 7] flowers. Identifying the male and female flowers is simple the female flowers have a swollen area proximal to the petals the are the ovaries and often have wing structures. Pollination being the transfer pollen from the anther of the male flower to the stigma of the female flower. It is always better to cross pollinate two plants of the same species, but, it is acceptable toself pollinate plants. There are several methods to do this. My preferred technique is to pick the male flowers fold back the petals exposing the stamens. [image 8]. Then brush the pollen over the stigma of the female flowers. Pollinated flowers will loose there petals and the ovaries will swell. The seed pod will mature and dry out over the following weeks. When the pod is dry it can be harvested from the plant and cut open and the seed emptied onto a sheet of paper being careful not to include pieces of the seed pod. The seed can then be planted or put in an envelope, labelled and stored. [image 9]

 


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