Begonias (Begonia) are a genus from the family of the schiefblattgewächse (Begoniaceae) and cover approximately 900 different types and varieties. Begonias originate from tropical and subtropical areas along the equator and have been bred for about 200 years. Meanwhile, depending on species and variety, simple small or large double flowers shine in almost all colours – but pure blue is not found in them.
Appearance and growth
Begonias can show a very different growth-form depending on the type. There are hanging, upright, shrubby, climbing or climbing species that can be divided into seven larger groups: trunk begonias, tuberous begonias, winter flowering begonias, shrub begonias, Begonia-Rex hybrids, Begonia semperflores hybrids, rhizome begonias. Tuber begonias, for example, are perennial plants that can survive worse weather conditions with their tubers. The group of tuber begonias is now so diverse that it fulfils almost every design wish.
Also the icebergonies (Begonia-Semperflorens-hybrids) can show a large variety meanwhile. They are only about 25 centimeters high and tolerate shade, heat, rain, wind and dry periods. In addition, withered flowers fall off on their own, so there is no need to clean them out. The leaves are either green or bronze to brown in colour, creating exciting contrasts with the pink, white and red flowers. By the way, the name of the slate leaf family refers to its brittle leaves and not to its frost resistance. Because if temperatures drop below zero, the plants from Brazil freeze to death.
Location and substrate
Begonias usually prefer a semi-shady to shady location without direct midday sun. There are also some varieties, such as Begonia x benariensis ‘Big Pink Green Leaf’, which tolerate both sun and shade. A warm, fresh, loose and nutrient-rich soil is ideal.
Sowing and planting
As different as begonias may look: They all don’t tolerate waterlogging. They are planted in the middle of May in fresh potting soil and make sure that there is a good water outlet in the pot. Instead of buying finished plants, you can prefer tuber begonias from February onwards. They are only allowed outdoors after the ice saints, when there is no frost anymore. In the balcony box you should keep a plant distance of 20 centimeters, because begonias grow strongly and a too dense stand easily leads to rot.
Leaf begonias such as ice-begonias can also be sown without any problems. Since the seed is very fine, it should be mixed with sand. This makes it easier to spread when sowing. As begonias are light buckets, the seeds are only covered with a very thin layer of sand, pressed down well with a board and kept moist. The shell is covered with a transparent hood or foil to keep the humidity high.
Regular nutrient application during the season encourages begonias to flower permanently, but they need less fertilizer than most other balcony flowers. It is best to fertilize them every 14 days with a liquid balcony flower fertilizer, which is mixed into the watering water. After budding, the young shoots should be deweeded. This delays flowering a little, but the plants become bushier.
Wintering or winter protection
In autumn, the green of the begonias is removed and the tubers are kept cool and dark. After the overwintering in the house one drives the tubers from February on in a bright and warm place in the house. After the last frosts, the plants are allowed out again.
Begonias cause a sensation especially with their garland shapes. In sunny yellow, fiery orange and temperamental red, her flower-set hanging shoots are highlights in hanging baskets and balcony boxes. The selection of Begonia species and varieties is huge. They differ in leaf and flower form as well as in their growth. Hanging shapes are ideal for hanging baskets and tall tubs, and in balcony boxes and smaller pots the upright varieties cut a good figure – as soloists or in combination with other balcony flowers. Varieties with small, unfilled flowers survive heavy rains best.
Begonias are not only a pretty decoration for pots, plant boxes and hanging baskets. Some species are also suitable for bedding. Ice begonias have been planted in flower beds, pots or on graves for more than 100 years. BIG” Begonias (Begonia x benariensis) are also something special. They grow to a height of around 60 centimeters and look magnificent in vessels with rural charm, such as zinc tubs or willow baskets, as well as in borders. In hanging baskets and planting columns, the character of “Summerwings” begonias comes into its own particularly well.
Important species and varieties
The filled pile of variants from the “Gumdrop” series is reminiscent of mini roses. The powerful tuber begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida) are versatile permanent bloomers. The colourful varieties are descendants of plants imported from the Andes of Peru and Bolivia in 1865. Your advantage: You have a preference for shady locations.
In addition to traditional ice and tuber begonias, there are new overabundant flowering varieties for all locations: In the meantime, attractive variants of the “Summerwings” Begonias are attracting attention. They are the result of crossbreeding the undemanding Begonia boliviensis. Whether ‘Apricot Improved’, ‘Deep Red’, ‘Vanilla’ or ‘White’: The well-branched, predominantly orange-red and creamy forms bloom reliably in the sun as well as in the shade. In hanging baskets and on plant columns, their expressive growth form is particularly effective. The varieties of the “Belleconia” series, which feel at home in semi-shade, are also abundantly flowering. On short, hanging shoots, they bear half-filled flowers reminiscent of peonies. The leaf begonia is an extravagant houseplant.
Begonias are best propagated by cuttings and by dividing the tubers. For the propagation of cuttings, strong shoots with two to three leaves are used and put into moist, nutrient-poor breeding soil. You can cut the leaves in half if they take up too much space in the seed tray. With 20 to 25 degrees on the bright, absonnigen window-sill, the cuttings form roots quite fast. The root formation also usually works without problems in the water glass. The propagation by leaf cuttings is particularly productive: One simply removes a strong leaf from the mother plant and cuts the protruding leaf veins on the underside with a sharp knife – however, each vein only in one place. Then place the leaf face down on the moist substrate and weigh it down with a few small stones so that the interfaces have good contact with the substrate everywhere. Then cover the leaf with foil and keep the soil moist. After a few weeks, new plants grow from the interfaces, which are then separated from the mother leaf and pricked into individual pots.
The division of the tubers is a simple method to propagate tuber begonias. It has the advantage that one receives equally stronger plants, however, this kind of propagation is not particularly productive. The tubers are cut into several parts with a sharp knife in the spring when they are planted, and each part should have at least one eye. The cut surfaces are rubbed with charcoal powder to protect them from rot. The tuber pieces are then placed in individual pots and poured well.
Diseases and pests
The most common fungal disease is powdery mildew. It occurs mainly in leaf begonias. All species will occasionally be attacked by rot fungi, all of which are due to too moist a substrate combined with too narrow planting and too hot a location. As a precaution, infested plants should be disposed of immediately before the fungi can infect other plants. Begonias are rarely infested by aphids or thrips. Occasionally, leaf damage is also caused by thickmouth weevils, which are recognizable by the distinctive bight feeding along the leaf margins. The nocturnal beetles can be tracked down and collected in the dark with a flashlight.
Begonias in the our store-Shop
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.