by Carole Schwalm
How many times have you glanced at, but walked by a display of begonias in your garden store? Often it is because you just see a few and sometimes they just aren’t that impressive. We are only seeing a couple of examples of hundreds of varieties. You only need to look at the begonia section of The Random House Book of Indoor and Greenhouse Plants, to get an idea of their beauty and variety. Begonias are perfect plants for containers, in hanging baskets, both indoors and out, providing blooms all summer.
Pay attention to your begonia. Dead-head, remove dead leaves. Keep it looking sharp, trimmed to a more compact condition. Propagate the cuttings.
Begonias are shade-tolerant, in fact they prefer it during a long, hot summer. Begonias are sensitive to cold. Do not take outside until the weather gets warm. Bring the plant indoors as soon as the weather starts to cool. They adjust well to lower lights and dry conditions in house.
Begonias like loose, rich and well-drained soil that the gardener lets dry out a bit before watering again. Fertilize once a month with a liquid fertilizer.
Yes you can start begonias by seed. Sow indoors in January or February. Do read the seed packet to make sure you have the depth correct. The recommended way is to just press the seed into the surface of the soil.
The tuberous begonias are considered to be the most beautiful. Begonia elatior and begonia semperflorens do well indoors.
The winter flowering tuberous species are from the Andes (introduced in 1864). The flowers are large, and there are many colors from which to choose.
Three particularly beautiful:
• “Mr. Steve,” a pure-white with fine picotee edge.
• “Ophelia,” – creamy white with an orange center
• “Falstaff,” – the large flowers are bright red
Rhizomatous begonia is a perennial. The begonia x ricinifolia, a large plant, with beautiful pink flowers (flowers both in winter and spring). There are small tuberous begonias, that are creeping plants.
If contemplating growing them in your greenhouse, or live where there are extremely humid conditions, begonias need ventilation because they are vulnerable to leaf mold.
The American Begonia Society: Since 1932
The Random House Book of Indoor and Greenhouse Plants by Roger Phillips & Martyn Rix (1997)
Share your experience with begonias or if you'd like more information.