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Begonia: How to Grow and Care with Success

Angel Wing Begonia, Rex Begonia, Tuberous Begonia, Wax Begonia, Hardy Begonia, Begonia grandis, Begonia boliviensis

Begonia, Angel Wing Begonia, Rex Begonia, Tuberous Begonia, Wax Begonia, Hardy Begonia, Begonia grandis, Begonia boliviensis

What is Begonia?

Begonia plants are popular flowering plants with over 2,000 species and countless hybrids. They are native to subtropical and tropical regions and can be found growing in a variety of habitats, from rainforests to deserts. Begonias are known for their vibrant flowers, which come in a range of colors and sizes, as well as their attractive foliage.

  • Types: There are many different types of begonia plants, including tuberous begonias, rex begonias, and angel wing begonias. Each type has its own unique characteristics and growing requirements.
  • Flowers: Begonias are popular for their showy flowers, which can range from small and delicate to large and flamboyant.
  • Blooming season: Begonias are indefatigable bloomers, continuously producing myriads of magnificent flowers from spring to frost.
  • Foliage: Many begonia varieties have attractive foliage, with leaves that can be shaped like hearts, stars, or even spirals. Some begonias have variegated leaves or are covered in fine hairs or fuzzy textures.
  • Growing conditions: Begonias thrive in warm, humid conditions in partial shade or filtered light and require well-draining soil and regular watering. They can be grown both indoors and outdoors, depending on the species and the climate.
  • Uses: Begonias can be used in a variety of ways, including as bedding plants, container plants, window boxes, hanging baskets, or houseplants. They are often grown for their ornamental value and are popular in both formal and informal garden settings.
  • Deer/rabbit: Deer and rabbits generally avoid begonias because they do not prefer the taste of their leaves and flowers.
  • Toxic: Many species of begonia are toxic to pets, such as cats and dogs, if ingested.

Overall, begonias are a beautiful and rewarding plant to grow, with a wide range of varieties and growing options to choose from. With proper care and attention, they can thrive and produce abundant flowers and foliage, adding color and interest to any garden or indoor space.

What is Special about Begonia?

  • Vibrant color: They add vibrant colors to your garden with their striking, showy blooms.
  • Unique foliage: Begonias are also known for their unique foliage, which can come in a range of colors, patterns, and textures, adding visual interest to any garden or indoor space.
  • Long blooming season: Some species of begonias, such as the tuberous varieties, are known for their long bloom periods that can last for several months.
  • Undemanding: They are easy to care for and can be grown in a variety of conditions, from full sun to full shade. They are a great choice for gardeners of all levels, from beginners to experts.
  • Versatile: They are versatile plants that can be grown both outdoors and indoors.& They are also commonly used in container gardening, making them a popular choice for balconies, patios, and small outdoor spaces.
  • Edible: The leaves of some begonias are edible and are used in salads and other dishes.
  • Deer and rabbit resistant: Begonias are not the preferred choice of deer and rabbits because of their taste and texture.

Maint Types of Begonia

Begonia can be divided into various types based on their growth habit and leaf characteristics. Here are some of the main types of Begonia and their characteristics:

Tuberous Begonia

Tuberous Begonia

Tuberous begonias have large, tuberous roots that store water and nutrients, allowing the plant to survive in various conditions. They can be upright or trailing and produce large, single, or double flowers in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, and white. The green or burgundy leaves are either round or heart-shaped.

Where to plant: These plants are commonly grown in containers and hanging baskets, and they thrive in areas with filtered sunlight and well-draining soil. They prefer partial shade and well-draining soil.

When to plant: It’s best to plant the tubers indoors in late winter or early spring and then transplant them outside after the threat of frost has passed in the spring.

Wax Begonia

Wax Begonia (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum)

The plant: Wax begonias are small, compact plants with shiny and waxy, dark green or reddish-brown leaves. They typically grow 6-12 inches tall and wide (15-30 cm). They bloom prolifically from spring through fall in shades of pink, red, white, and sometimes yellow.

Where to plant: They are versatile plants that can be used in various ways, including as edging plants, ground covers, or in containers. They prefer partial shade but can tolerate full sun if the soil is kept moist.

When to plant: These are typically planted outdoors after the last frost date in spring or early summer.

Begonia angle wing, angle wing begonia

Angel Wing Begonia (Begonia coccinea)

Angel Wing Begonias, or cane begonias, are prized for their distinctive wing-shaped leaves and showy blooms. The dark green leaves are speckled, and the flowers are typically pink, red, or white. Angel Wing Begonias are easy to care for and tolerate lower light conditions. They also have air-purifying qualities, helping to remove toxins from indoor spaces.

Where to plant: These plants are often grown as houseplants or in protected outdoor locations. They prefer bright, indirect light and well-draining soil.

When to plant: These can be planted outdoors after the last frost date, but they prefer warm temperatures and may not thrive in cooler climates.

Begonia boliviensis

Begonia boliviensis (Begonia boliviensis)

Begonia boliviensis, also known as the Bolivian begonia, is loved for its striking, pendulous flowers that are bright red-orange in color and hang from the tips of long, trailing stems. The plant has dark green, glossy leaves that provide a nice contrast to the vibrant flowers.

Where to plant: It is a popular choice for hanging baskets and container gardens. It prefers well-draining soil and partial shade.

When to plant: These are typically planted in the spring after the last frost date. They prefer warm temperatures and well-drained soil.

Begonia grandis, hardy begonia

Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis)

Begonia grandis, commonly known as hardy begonia, are herbaceous perennial plants that can grow up to 3 feet tall (90 cm) and 2 feet wide (60 cm). The wing-shaped leaves are adorned with red veining and colorful undersides. The plant produces pink or white flowers in late summer or early fall that rise above the foliage on long, slender stems.

Where to plant: Begonia grandis is a popular plant for shade gardens and woodland areas and grows best in rich, moist soils in partial shade.

When to plant: These can be planted in the spring or fall in a location that receives partial shade. They can tolerate cooler temperatures than other begonia types.

Rex Begonia, Summer flower

Rex Begonia (Begonia rex)

These are prized for their stunning foliage, which features an array of colors, patterns, and textures. They are grown primarily for their foliage, although they do produce small, insignificant flowers.

Where to plant: They grow best indoors or in containers placed in partial shade.

When to plant: These are typically grown as indoor houseplants and can be planted at any time of year. They prefer warm, humid environments and well-drained soil.

How to Plant Begonia

  • Choose a well-draining soil: Begonias prefer soil rich in nutrients but also well-draining to prevent root rot. You can use a commercial potting mix or create your own by mixing peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite in equal parts.
  • Select a location with partial shade: Most begonias prefer partial shade or filtered sunlight to direct sunlight, which can cause the leaves to burn. Morning sun and afternoon shade are the best.
  • Plant in the appropriate container: Begonias can be planted in pots, hanging baskets, or directly in the ground. The container should be the appropriate size for the variety of begonia you’re planting. Make sure the container has drainage holes to prevent overwatering.
  • Plant the begonia at the right depth: The planting depth depends on the type of begonia you’re planting. In general, plant the begonia so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
  • Space adequately: As a general rule, for small bedding begonias, spacing them 6-8 inches apart (15-20 cm) is recommended. For larger varieties, the spacing can be increased to 10-12 inches apart (25-30 cm). Tuberous begonias should be planted with a spacing of about 8-10 inches apart. (20-25 cm). For angel wing begonias, spacing of about 12-15 inches apart (30-37 cm) is recommended. Make sure there is good air circulation to prevent powdery mildew.
  • Water thoroughly after planting: After planting, water the begonia thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged throughout the growing season.
  • Mulch to retain moisture: Mulching around the base of the begonia plant can help to retain moisture in the soil and regulate soil temperature.

Guide Information

Hardiness 7 - 11
Plant Type Annuals, Perennials
Genus Begonia
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer
Landscaping Ideas Hanging Baskets, Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage
Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’
Begonia ‘Fireworks’ (Rex Begonia)
Begonia ‘Garden Angel Blush’ (Hardy Begonia)

Caring for Begonia

  • Watering: Begonias like moist soil but not waterlogged conditions. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, and be careful not to overwater.
  • Fertilizing: Feed begonias with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every two to four weeks during the growing season.
  • Pruning: Pinch back the tips of the stems to encourage bushier growth, and remove any dead or yellowing leaves.
  • Repotting: Begonias may need to be repotted every year or two, especially if they have outgrown their current container.
  • Winter care: Some begonias are winter dormant and should be allowed to dry out and go dormant in the winter. Others, such as rex begonias, may need to be kept in a warm, humid environment year-round.
Begonia ‘Picotee Lace Apricot’
Begonia bowerae (Eyelash Begonia)
Begonia solananthera (Brazilian Heart Begonia)

How to Propagate

Begonias can be propagated through various methods, such as stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, division, and seed propagation. Here’s a brief overview of each method:

  • Stem cuttings: Select a healthy stem, remove any leaves from the bottom 1-2 inches (2-5 cm), and place the stem in a pot with moist soil. Keep the soil moist and warm until roots appear, then transplant the new plant to a larger pot or garden bed.
  • Leaf cuttings: Cut a healthy leaf and petiole (stem) from the parent plant, then insert the petiole into a pot with moist soil. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to create a humid environment, and wait for the leaf to root and produce new growth.
  • Division: Gently separate the roots of an established plant into several smaller clumps, each with a few stems and roots. Transplant each clump to its own pot or garden bed.
  • Seed propagation: Sow begonia seeds on the surface of moist, well-draining soil and cover lightly with soil or vermiculite. Keep the soil moist and warm until the seeds germinate, then transplant the new seedlings to their final location.

Regardless of the propagation method, it’s important to keep the soil moist, warm, and protected from direct sunlight until new growth appears. Once the new plants are established, provide them with the appropriate care and conditions based on the begonia variety.

Begonia ‘Picotee Lace Pink’
Begonia ‘Roseform Peach’
Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ (Hardy Begonia)

Pests and Diseases

Begonias can be susceptible to various pests and diseases. Here are some common ones:

  • Gray mold: This fungal disease can cause gray mold to form on begonias. It thrives in cool, damp conditions and can be treated with a fungicide.
  • Leaf spot: The symptoms of leaf spot on begonias include dark or water-soaked spots on the leaves, sometimes with a yellow halo around them. The spots can become larger over time and cause the leaves to drop prematurely, leading to stunted growth and reduced vigor in the plant.
  • Mealybugs: These small, white, cottony pests can cause stunted growth and yellowing of begonia leaves. They can be treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Powdery mildew: This fungal disease can cause a white powdery coating on the leaves, stems, and flowers of begonias. It thrives in humid environments and can be treated with a fungicide.
  • Scale: These small, oval-shaped insects attach themselves to the stems and undersides of the leaves, sucking out sap and causing the foliage to wilt and yellow. You can also use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to treat the infestation
  • Slugs and snails: Slugs and snails can eat the leaves and damage the plant. To prevent this, you can use various methods, such as applying slug and snail bait, setting up beer traps, or using copper tape around the plant.
  • Stem rot: Begonia stem rot is a fungal disease that affects the stems of the plant, causing them to rot and wilt. Overwatering or poor drainage can also increase the risk of stem rot.
  • Thrips:& Thrips are tiny insects that can cause damage to begonias by sucking out the plant sap. Infected begonias may show signs of stunted growth, distorted leaves, and flower buds failing to open. Control thrips by applying an insecticidal soap or neem oil
  • Spider mites: These tiny pests can cause yellowing and stippling on begonia leaves. They thrive in hot, dry environments and can be treated with insecticidal soap.
  • Whiteflies: These small, winged insects can cause the yellowing and wilting of begonia leaves. They can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

It’s important to regularly inspect your begonias for signs of pests or disease and take appropriate measures to prevent or treat them. Additionally, maintaining good cultural practices such as providing proper water and fertilizer can help keep your begonias healthy and strong.

Begonia ‘Silver Jewell’
Begonia boliviensis ‘Bossa Nova Pure White’
Begonia grandis subsp. evansiana ‘Alba’ (Hardy Begonia)

Companion Plants for Begonia

Begonias can be paired with a variety of other plants for a colorful and interesting garden design. Some great companion plants for begonias include:

  • Impatiens: These colorful annuals complement begonias well and thrive in similar growing conditions.
  • Coleus: This foliage plant adds a bold splash of color to any garden and makes a great backdrop for begonias.
  • Lobelia: This trailing plant adds a pop of blue to garden beds and containers and looks great when paired with begonias.
  • Petunias: These colorful annuals come in a wide range of colors and make a great companion plant for begonias.
  • Geraniums: These plants come in a variety of colors and bloom all season long, making them a great addition to any garden bed with begonias.
  • Hostas: These plants have striking foliage that contrasts nicely with the delicate flowers of begonias.
  • Ferns: These shade-loving plants provide a nice backdrop for the colorful blooms of begonias and add texture to garden beds.
  • Caladium: This foliage plant comes in a range of colors and adds a tropical feel to any garden, making it a great companion for begonias.

Companion Plants for Begonia

Lobelia erinus (Trailing Lobelia)
Hosta (Plantain Lily)
Caladium (Angel Wings)
Impatiens
Pelargonium (Geranium)
Coleus scutellarioides (Coleus)

Frequently Asked Questions

Do begonias like sun or shade?

Begonias prefer partial shade, meaning they require some shade during the hottest part of the day. Direct sunlight can cause their leaves to scorch or fade in color. Morning sun or filtered sunlight is ideal for most begonia species.

Do begonias come back every year?

Some begonias are perennials and can come back every year with proper care, while others are grown as annuals and will not survive the winter in colder climates. Tuberous begonias and some fibrous begonias are typically grown as annuals, while some rhizomatous begonias and some types of rex begonias are perennials.

How do you keep begonias over the winter?

Begonias are typically grown as annuals in regions with cold winters, as they cannot tolerate frost or freezing temperatures. However, in regions with mild winters, they may be able to survive outdoors and come back in the spring. If you want to keep begonias over the winter, you can dig up the tubers or rhizomes in the fall after the foliage has died back and store them indoors in a cool, dry, and dark place until spring.

How long will begonias last?

The lifespan of begonias can vary depending on the species and the growing conditions. Generally, begonias grown as annuals will last for one growing season before dying off. However, some perennial begonia species can last for several years with proper care. Indoors, potted begonias can last for several years with the right environment, care, and maintenance. Over time, begonias may become leggy or stop blooming as profusely, indicating that it may be time to replace or propagate them.

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Begonia
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 7 - 11
Plant Type Annuals, Perennials
Genus Begonia
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer
Landscaping Ideas Hanging Baskets, Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage
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