Dictionary of Flowers: Begonia

Begonia flowers resemble colorful apple blossom. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Peter Miller and Flickr
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Begonia flowers resemble colorful apple blossom. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Peter Miller and Flickr

  • Begonia 
  • Common name: begonia
  • Family: Begoniacea
  • Category: Annual, tropical perennial grown as an annual except in USDA zones 10 and 11. Frost sensitive
  • Height: 6" to 18"
  • Width: 6" to 12"
  • Part shade, dappled shade, bright indirect light
  • Blooms: summer to fall
  • Growth habit: mounded, upright, cascading, depending on species . Used as a filler, spiller or thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: fertile, neutral to acidic, moist, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers; never allow the container to dry completely.
  • Garden uses: containers, hanging baskets, shade garden, front of border
  • Diseases: powdery mildew, botrytis
  • Pests: aphids, thrips, caterpillars

Begonia is a large genus of shade loving flowering and non flowering plants. There are over a thousand begonia species, native to subtropical and tropical areas.

They are grown as garden annuals and houseplants. They all prefer dappled shade, part shade and a few can tolerate part sun positions in the garden.

Begonia prefers warmer temperatures -- they are frost sensitive.

They bloom in just about any color, from white to yellow to orange shades and pinks and reds. Different species have different growth habits, some are upright or clump forming, and others trail down.

The American Begonia Society classifies the genus into groups: Rex, wax begonias, trailing, tuberous, cane like, shrub like and thick stemmed.

Wax begonia is readily available as bedding plants in nurseries. They are hard to grow from seed. This begonia has waxy leaves and small flowers in white, pink and red.

It blooms from spring till frost. Needs no deadheading. Keep moist during summer months. Mulch helps retain moisture. Apply a balanced fertilizer during summer months to keep it blooming.

'Dragon Wing' begonias belong in this group. Their leaves and flowers are somewhat larger than wax begonias. They have dangling flowers, making them suitable for hanging baskets for shade.

Both Angel Wing and wax begonia can be propagated by cuttings, bring inside to over-winter.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Tuberous begonias grow from tubers. Their flowers are larger, double in colors ranging from white to red with bi-colors.

They bloom summer through fall. Their cultivation details are the same as wax begonias, dappled shade, moist soil and regular fertilizing during their growth period.

They can be reproduced by stem cuttings taken in spring or by dividing the tuber. They are dormant during winter, so it is simpler to lift the tubers and store them indoors to replant the next season.

Begonia Rex grows from rhizomes. These begonias are grown for their interest foliage with unusual markings and colors; their leaves can reach 9 inches long.

The leaves can be green, pink, purple, red, white, silver in all sorts of combinations. They are somewhat more tolerant of sun than other begonias, but require rich soil and constant moisture, but well drained soil.

Fertilize very sparingly. Rex begonias can be propagated by rhizome division and leaf tip cuttings.




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Begonias suffer if the soil is soggy, making them prone to rot and boytritis. Apply fungicide as needed. Good drainage and good air circulation helps prevent problems.

Treat insect attacks with plant insecticide. Leaf scorch can happen if begonias are exposed to too much sunlight. To prevent, move the plant to a shadier spot.

Popular varieties:

  • Wax begonia ‘Gumdrop’ series – double flowers, pink to white
  • Wax begonia ‘Bada Bing’ series – single flowered, compact, early bloomer
  • Wax begonia ‘Big’ series – the largest growing wax begonias, sun tolerant
  • Tuberous begonia ‘Picotee’ series – large blooms, bi-colored on the edge of the flower
  • Tuberous begonia ‘Pendula’ series – for hanging basket, trailing variety with big flowers

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

Go from Begonia to the Dictionary of Flowers

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