Eyelash Begonia – Begonia X ‘Tiger Paws’

Eyelash Begonia is really a name for a whole group of Begonias with erect white hairs on the leaf margins. These hairs do have an eyelash look and the name is very appropriate. All are valued for their decorative leaves but they also have the bonus of producing clusters of small white or pale pink flowers which bloom during the spring.

‘Tiger Paws’ is a hybrid and was developed in 1977. It has small, brownish leaves which are chequered with yellow paw-like markings. Since its introduction it has shot to prominence and is now one of the most popular Begonias available.

The plant is low growing, 10cm (4in) tall, with leaves and flower stalks rising directly from a thickened rhizomatous stem which creeps over the surface of the potting mixture. Leaves are 25mm-4cm (1-1½in) across, carried on red speckled stalks which are also whiskered with prominent hairs.Eyelash Begonia - Begonia X 'Tiger Paws'

Leaf colouring is very variable and depends on the intensity of the light; very bright light tends to ‘bleach’ the brown part of the leaf but this does result in heavier flowering. Flowers are white, small and borne in dense clusters at the top of 15— 20cm (6-8in) long stalks in spring.

Propagation

Propagating Eyelash Begonias is very easy and can be done in several ways.

Leaf cuttings

This method really is fool proof. Take a single leaf with approximately 5cm (2in) of leaf-stalk attached, and plant it in equal parts of moist peat and coarse sand or perlite. Bury the leafstalk for about half its length. This can be done at any time during the spring or summer months. If temperatures are high then it is best to enclose the pot in a ventilated polythene bag or in a propagator. Leaves may be planted singly in small pots or with several in a small half pot, pan or seed tray.

After 4-6 weeks several small plantlets will push up through the compost. About one month later the leaf and its plantlets can be tipped out of the container, separated and then potted up individually. It is best to use just one small plant per pot, otherwise plants become a great tangle later on.

Division

Sections of rhizome can be gently pulled (or cut) from a plant and potted up in the recommended potting mixture in shallow pans or half pots. Sections of rhizome normally have roots already attached.

Rhizome tips

It is also possible to take away the growing tip of the rhizome, again very often with some or many roots already attached. If well rooted, treat like a division and pot up in the recommended potting compost. If not well rooted, pot in a mixture of moist peat and sand and enclose in a polythene bag or put in a propagator.

Pests And Diseases

Growth is weakened by an attack of aphids which can collect on young growth and on flowerstalks.

Treatment: Rinse off with soapy water or use a spray containing a suitable insecticide.

Sickly plant with wet, ‘mushy’ rhizomes covered with grey mould is caused by stem rot.

Treatment: Correct the amount of water given and ensure that the plant is kept at the correct temperature.

PLANT CARE

Eyelash Begonia is very easy to care for and simplicity itself to propagate. It quickly forms a low-growing clump with striking leaves and will tolerate a wide range of conditions.

  • Potting: Move on into a half pot or pan one size larger each spring, or as necessary. A mixture of equal parts soil-based potting compost and coarse peat is the best growing medium.
  • Water moderately during spring and summer (the active growth period), always allowing some drying out of the compost between applications. Water sparingly during the winter rest period.
  • Feeding: Feed actively growing plants every two weeks with a standard liquid fertilizer. Do not feed in winter.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Eyelash Begonia is able to thrive in a wide range of light levels, but is best grown in bright, filtered light. Leaves will pale a little if the light is too bright but the flowers could be more numerous.
  • Temperature: Grows best in normal room temperatures — a minimum of 10°C (50°F) is recommended. With lower temperatures be careful when watering.

Buying Tips

  • Eyelash Begonia is readily available throughout the year and at most outlets.
  • Buy young plants (they will grow quite quickly) with tight growth and no damaged leaves. Beware of plants with limp leafstalks or any decay around the growing points and along the rhizome.
  • Replace with young plants every 2 or 3, years as they are more attractive.

Easy to grow, Eyelash Begonia is now one of the most popular Begonias available. It has attractive chequered leaves with masses of small white flowers in spring.

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