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Begonias: Full Sun or Shade?

begonia image by Irina Surikova from

When growing begonias, sun exposure requirements may cause confusion or accidental damage because different species thrive in varying levels of light or shade with some more tolerant than others. Determine which begonia you are planting or research different species and requirements to make an appropriate selection for your home gardening space.

Most Begonias

Begonias are prized for their attractive foliage as well as their vivid, beautiful flowers. These plants reach a height of 8 inches to 2 feet and grow well in hanging containers as well as in garden beds, according to the Clemson University Extension. For best production of flowers, plants need appropriate environments with optimal sun or shaded conditions. For most begonias, ideal sun exposure includes partial shade. However, it is important to consider the species. There are some begonias that tolerate or thrive in full sun.

Proper Care

Sun exposure is only part of the battle in successfully growing begonias. Particularly with tolerant plants, a begonia that can handle full sun is often only capable of doing so provided the plant is healthy and well-maintained. Grow begonias in moist, well-drained soil high in organic content, according to the Clemson University Extension.

Partial Shade

If your home gardening space is equipped for the growth of begonias in partial shade, consider planting hardy begonias (B. evansiana syn B. grandis), which reach 2 to 3 feet tall with a display of pink blossoms. Tuberous begonias also thrive in partial shade with a trailing growth of up to 18 inches long and large flowers in orange, yellow, white, rose, red or pink. Tuberous begonias are one of the most widely planted species.

Full Sun Options

Wax begonias (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum) are known for their ability to thrive in full sun, though they will grow successfully in partial shade. These begonias display bronze leaves and small blossoms in rose, red, pink or white. A good option for the home garden is the versatile dragon wings begonia (Begonia x argenteoguttata 'Dragon Wings') that thrives in either full sun or shade. Reaching a height of 2 to 3 feet, this reblooming begonia has an arching habit and blooms consistently from spring through the year's initial frost.

Sun Problems

The question of full sun or shade is so important because, beyond development, excessive sun or shade can seriously damage plants. With begonias, full sun is the most common culprit to damage, as most begonias need partial shade. Shade-loving begonias that receive too much direct sunlight may burn, according to the Clemson University Extension. Additionally, too much sun exposure may cause begonias to wilt and their blossoms to fade, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.

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