Keeping Weird Plants Wonderfully Alive

Scilla madierensis in January,
In case you hadn't noticed, I love (can we even say "thrive on?") trying new plants--the weirder, the better.

Late last fall I ordered six bulbs of Scilla madierensis. Five of the bulbs bloomed, which was more than I expected. They came from a place known for its wine and its weather--Madiera--a tiny archipelago consisting of four islands. The tourist attraction is part of Portugal and west of the northwest coast of Africa.
Scilla madierensis in November, 2016.

After blooming in pots through the month of January, I watered them lightly, just enough to keep their leaves growing, and put them outside for the summer. I kept their pots in sun and fed them on occasion with all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer.

I had to finally cut the foliage off the bulb in August, putting the pots under cover so they wouldn't get any water. They started sprouting in October, and finished blooming in early November.

Next spring, I'll put them outside but won't water or fertilize them at all. I think their blooms were on the small side this year, possibly because I didn't let them go dormant earlier.

Begonia 'Dotsey': one of the easiest.
Out of nearly all of the Begonias I bought last year, only two continue to grow. One happily, the other grudgingly. 'Dotsey' is a cane-type with cheery pink dots speckling its angel-wing leaves. It came to live with me in late March and remained indoors when other "houseplants" summered on the patio.

According to the Begonian (a publication of the American Begonia Society), they are called cane types because, with their straight stems and swollen nodes, they resemble bamboo.

Begonia 'Bower's Black' January, 2016.
Begonia 'Bower's Black' arrived at the end of January. By mid-February, I decided it needed a larger pot. Now, nine months later, it's still showing its resentment. It had dried out so quickly, I thought I was doing a good thing to upsize its accommodations. Wrong.

The container it's currently calling home is at least three times as large in diameter than its original pot. It's also too deep.

Begonia 'Bower's Black' November, 2016.
If this Begonia was a person, it could appear in one of those before-and-after photos showing how large its size 22 sweatpants had become.

Some plants are more forgiving than others, and I'm lucky this rhizomatous Begonia species B. bowerae has allowed me a few stumbles.

I felt vindicated about its pokey growth when I learned this particular species is recommended for fairy gardens because it's a slow grower.

No, I won't be posting the obituaries of the plants that didn't make it. I prefer to put those failures (that are in no way my fault) into the "don't ask don't tell" category.


  1. Ha... we all have that 'don't as don't tell' category. The rabbit's foot fern I 'down sized' before bringing inside this fall has pouted in the worst way. It hardly has a leaf on it now. But I noticed that there are a few new fronds popping out of the furry feet. If it doesn't make it I will be a little disappointed but I have a small start in a pot so I can nuture that for awhile. My Black Truffles begonia is tough as nails. It is a some what slow grower too. I think the blooms in the first pictures are gorgeous. Well worth the extra time and effort.

    1. I guess we're bound to have some problem plants. I think I need a "time out" location for those special needs candidates.