Begonia (Begoniaceae)

Begonia (Begoniaceae) Information

By Jennifer Olvera, Garden Guides Contributor

About Begonias

More than 2,000 species of begonia,a tropical and subtropical herb and shrub,exist. While some are virtually indestructible, other species are fragile and thrive in a terrarium setting. Widely cultivated for ornamental purposes, the most commercial begonias are the result of the complex hybrid production of many species. Some are favored for their foliage, while others sport an attractive floral display.

Because there are so many cultivars available, begonias are best broken down into the following categories:

* Fibrous-rooted begonias
* Wax-leaved begonias
* Cane type or angel-wing begonias
* Rhizomatous-rooted begonias
* Tuberous-rooted begonias (tuberhybrida group)
* Cheimantha-type begonias
* Elatior-type begonias
* Rex begonias
* Brilliant-leaved begonias
* Dwarf begonias
* Spiral-leaved begonias
* Upright-stemmed begonias

Site Preparation

Select an area with bright shade in which to plant your begonia. Work the soil at least 8 inches deep. Begonias require acidic, well-drained soil with a low pH; enrich soil with peat moss or old cow manure.

Potted begonias benefit from the use of a high-quality potting mix with added perlite.

Special Features

Begonias are unusual in that the species, genus-wide, often can be hybridized with one another.

Choosing a Variety

Given the many varieties of begonias out there, it's important to note that they do not all have the same requirements. However, all begonia varieties do prefer warm temperatures. Begonias of the semperflorens group generally are grown in beds outdoors. Tuberous begonias are a popular choice for container gardens, but they do not do well indoors. Wax begonias (which are prized for their leaves and nonstop floral display) and rieger begonias (which are known for intense flower colors and unique designs) are popular houseplant varieties. Consider how you plan to use your begonias, and then select an appropriate variety.

Planting

Plant your begonia when all risk of frost is gone. Dig a hole as deep as the size of the pot and slightly wider. Remove the begonia from its container, and break up bound roots. Plant the begonia carefully and firmly in the hole; do not plant the begonia deeper than the division line between stem and root (or any deeper than the container they were growing in) as the roots grow sideways and to the surface. Space plants 6 to 12 inches apart. Mulch around but not on top of the plants with 3 inches of organic compost. Water deeply; the shallow root system cannot be allowed to dry out.

Care

Water begonias regularly and do not allow the soil to dry out or to become too moist. Apply a solution of general-purpose fertilizer once a month.

Begonias enjoy hard pruning, so do this whenever it seems necessary. Use a synthetic pyrethroid, as needed, to prevent pests.

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