No greater love than to lay down one’s leaf for another…

I bought this Angel Wing Begonia online last year. It was a plant cutting (non-rooted) and has struggled to ‘take hold’. But it held in there and we have formed a nice plant/caretaker relationship.

March 4 – progress on a new leaf

The original two leaves that I received in July of last year have now given all they could to the re-establishment and have now fallen away. It’s strange how attached to these original leaves I am. I let them stay on as long as they could, giving the last of their nutrients to the new leaves. I woke up one morning this week and noticed this one had finally laid down on the shelf below, unable to give any more.

The growth of the newest leaf has been surprising. I first noticed a new leaf coming in on February 21…

By February 25th, it had begun to unfurl…

The stronger and bigger the new leaf grew, the weaker the old leaf looked. At my age, I was impressed with the lengths we go to give all we have to the next generation. Too schmaltzy? Yeah. But I connected strongly with this leaf. We’ve been working together for the past 8 months to root in water and then to establish a new home in dirt. Finding the right light source has been tricky. Too hot at first and then not enough light. We found our sweet spot about 6 months ago yet all along, she’s been working underground to create these beautiful new leaves.

By March 2 (10 days after I first noticed the new leaf nub), the new leaf was really coming alive.

I’m not sure how long this Angel Wing will be able to live in its current situation alongside a Christmas cactus and an African Milk Tree (whew…who has its own story of woe!)

The balancing act game one must play with begonias is all about the spots. The more light they receive, the more silver spots appear and the underneath red of the leaf becomes more vivid. However, I had it in too hot of a spot at first and the leaves began to fade. I quickly moved it but the leaves were struggling to grow without enough light. We finally found the perfect spot with a lot of bright light and a good view of the sky, but not too much overwhelmingly direct sunlight. It did manage to bloom once last year so I’m excited to see what kind of flowers develop this year.

This was actually sold to me as a Dragon Wing Begonia and for the longest time I was confused about the descriptions of each variety. The Dragon Wing stems arch out and make a beautiful hanging plant. The Angel Wing is more of a cane-like structure with stems growing straight up. I had to double-check with a local nursery owner who confirmed mine was an Angel Wing.

Begonias like moisture and humidity but they do not like soggy feet. They need to be planted in a well-draining soil. Begonias originated in the tropics and grew on the ground in their natural state. They have been referred to as semi-succulents since they hold water in their thick stems.

An important note about all houseplants and one that I will probably refer to often because it made a huge difference in the way I began caring for my plants:

For the sake of ease and general care, growers stick the plant instructions into a plant before you buy it in the store. And perhaps, like me, you google further care instructions for the plant. But as a transplant from the Midwest to California, I am well aware that instructions like ‘full sun’ mean two VERY different things depending on where you live. Full sun in California is deadly for most plants. (Ask me how I know! Yikes.) So the BEST way to find out how to care for a plant is to google the plant’s origin. If the plant is originally found in the rainforests of Brazil, that will tell you something about their water needs, etc. A simple wikipedia search will tell you a lot. But to read a blog (yes, like mine even) that talks about specific plant care needs will only work identically if you live in the same area as the blogger. I try to tell you what works for me as a guide as to how to care for your plant. And of course the best advice of all is to talk to your neighbors or a local nursery. They can give you care instructions based on what has worked for them in their similar growing conditions as you.

Back to my Angel Wing. Along with feeling a bond to ‘the old leaf‘, the analogy of fallen wings does not escape me. Sometimes my wings are polished and new and strong and sometimes, they’re broken and wonky. Once again, plants teaching about life. It’s one of the greatest things I enjoy about working with living, breathing, drinking plant life.

Do you have a begonia you’re growing? What have been your successes or oops’es? I’d love to know about your experiences as well.

Begonias will always have the undercurrent of my growing up years (certainly pre-Me Too Movement) when ‘Hey – nice begonias!’ meant something entirely different…

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