Begonias are the sweethearts of many shady, humid garden areas. With their heart-shaped leaves and lovely, delicate flowers, begonias are a long-standing favorite among flower gardeners. While they enjoy shady garden beds, they are also graceful container plants. With proper care, they can be grown as charming houseplants, too. The begonia’s beauty combined with their versatility make them plants you are sure to fall in love with.
Begonias (Begonia) originated in Brazil. They were named after an amateur botanist and Governor of French Canada, M. Begon. Today, there is an immense number of varieties to choose from. Most varieties are suited for tropical and subtropical climates. Consider growing your begonias in containers outdoors or as houseplants indoors in cooler regions. You will surely find a variety suited for your region as well as your personal preference.
How To Grow and Care for Begonias
Begonias are difficult to germinate from seed. Instead, start with a seedling from a nursery. Once your seedling matures and is established, you can propagate more begonias from cuttings.
Some begonias are grown from tubers. Tubers should be planted indoors in early spring. Choose a pot that is a couple of inches wider than the tuber itself. Fill the pot 2/3 full with potting soil mixed with compost. Place the tuber on top of the soil in the pot, and cover the tuber with soil to the top of the pot.
Place your pot on a warm, bright windowsill away from direct light to keep the developing plant warm. After your begonia germinates and the roots have filled the pot, transplant it into a larger pot. When the threat of frost has passed, you can move your plant outside. Enjoy your begonia in a bright but shaded location.
To transplant young begonias into the ground, select a shaded location where they won’t get too much direct sun. Some varieties can handle direct light better than others, so know the needs of the variety you choose.
Place your young begonias 6 inches apart in well draining soil. Begonias need good air circulation to prevent some of the diseases they are prone to, so pinch your plants back as they mature to give each plant plenty of elbow room.
Water your outdoor begonias regularly to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Containers tend to dry out more quickly than the ground, so don’t forget to check on your containers often.
If you would like to preserve your begonias, there are a couple of ways to save them from the cold. If your begonias are tuberous, pull up your plant in the fall. Snap the plant away from the tuber, and place the tuber in a well ventilated cardboard box or paper bag until the next spring.
Begonia plants in containers can be moved indoors for the colder months, too. Place your begonia indoors for a couple of hours each day. Increase the amount of time your plant is indoors to acclimate it over the course of a couple of weeks. Ultimately, your indoor begonia plant will love a north facing windowsill where it can receive bright, indirect light for the winter. Water your indoor plant as you would your outdoor plants.
Pests and Problems
Shade-loving plants like begonias tend to experience more moisture and humidity than their sun-loving cousins. This means they can suffer from a variety of molds and fungi, which lead to rot. To keep these problems at bay, don’t crowd your begonias. Allow them good air flow. The proper amount of water is important, too. Not too much, and not too little.
Indoor begonias are prone to spider mites if the air around them is too dry. Spritz the leaves of your begonia with water to help maintain the level of humidity around your plant. A tray of water next to your plant will evaporate and keep the air moist as well. Or you can place a companion houseplant next to your begonia. Several houseplants together will create a miniature tropical paradise of their own.
Varieties to Try
Here are just a few of the thousands of varieties of begonias to choose from:
- ‘Varsity’ is an especially good begonia to try for containers.
- ‘Crackling Fire’ is a more heat and drought tolerant begonia than most.
- ‘Fireworks’ is a good variety to select as an indoor houseplant.
To learn more about growing a begonia from a cutting, visit:
Plant Propogation – Mother Earth News
For general information on the begonia plant:
Begonia Growing Guide – Cornell University
For demos on how to plant tubers or transplants and how to harvest tubers, check out:
How to Save Begonias Though the Winter (video)
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