If you’re looking for something that has both flowers and foliage to die for, look no further than the begonia.
Available in a wide variety of types, you’ll be able to enjoy them whether you prefer more brilliant flowers or stunning leaves.
They’re likewise great for both containers or garden beds. So, you can enjoy them indoors and outside depending on which kinds you get and where you live.
Read on to learn more about begonias and how to properly care for them.
Begonias are easy to grow flowering plants that will brighten up any area they’re in. While they’re often grown as houseplants, they do well in summer beds as well as containers.
In their native habitats, these colorful plants grow under the canopies of trees in tropical and subtropical forests. As such, they enjoy warm, humid conditions. And, need a similar environment to thrive and produce their stunning blooms and foliage.
They come in many color varieties including pink, yellow, red, and white colors. But, their size can vary significantly. Indoors, they’ll range from between 6 to 12 inches as houseplants. Outside, they can grow to become bushy plants that reach up to 5 feet tall.
More importantly, there are many kinds of begonias around. As such, you’ll see people categorize them in many different ways.
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Types of Begonias
One such way is whether they’re grown for their foliage or flowers.
- Foliage begonias are known for their lovely leaves. Among these include Rex begonias. Their leaves have many different colors and markings that make them stunning to look at.
- Flowering begonias as loved for their blooms, many of which last for long periods of time. These are often grown in gardens through the summer.
Similarly, you can classify types of begonias by the way they look and grow.
- Wax begonias. These are also called fibrous begonias, and are known for their beautiful blooms. If you want to add color to your garden, these annuals are a great way to go. Although, you want to place them under some kind of shade like trees. They’re likewise popular choices for containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes.
- Tuberous begonias. These are another popular kind. They are called as such because they have bulbs. They’re likewise known for they’re stunning colors and larger flowers, making them excellent to grow as houseplants or in the garden. However, they are much bigger than your wax begonias, which only get to between 6 to 12 inches tall. Tuberous begonias grow to around 12 to 18 high as houseplants. And, can reach 3 feet tall outdoors.
- Cane begonias. These are known for their amazing blooms and lovely foliage. They stand upright and have segmented stems. They’re likewise large in size and fairly showy making them eye-catching plants. While they vary in size, they typically grow from between 6 to 12 inches as houseplants and up to 5 feet tall outside.
- Rhizomatous begonias. These grown for their foliage. Their thick stems and beautiful leaves are what make them stand out. They likewise vary in size ranging from just a few inches up to 3 feet tall.
Are Begonias Annuals or Perennials?
By nature, begonias are tropical perennials. As such, they will live outdoors for many years as long as the weather stays warm. Thus, they’re hardy to zones 9 and above. Although, some varieties are a little hardier than most of the others.
But, in general, most nurseries will sell them as annuals if you’re in an area that experiences winters.
Begonia Plant Care
Begonias are a bit trickier than other plants to care for because there are so many types available. As such, how you care for them can vary significantly depending on the kind of begonia you have.
Begonia Light Requirements
In general, begonias enjoy bright, indirect light when they’re grown indoors. As such, they’ll do well in an east-facing window. And, it’s a good idea to keep them a few feet away from the west or south-facing windows. Or, use a sheer curtain to block some of the light.
In each of these cases, you want to check to see if its leaves become faded or turn whitish in color. That’s a sign that they’re getting too much sun.
Outdoors, you want to put them somewhere they can get a lot of light but stay protected from the intense afternoon sun.
That said, the actual amount of light your begonia will need will ultimately depend on its variety. That’s because some can need more light than others. And, some can tolerate more intense exposure.
However, as a rule of thumb, flowering begonias are more diverse in their light requirements. As these can range from full sun to partial shade.
Foliage begonias, as a group are more similar, needing bright, indirect light.
Begonia Temperature & Humidity
Begonias enjoy moderately cool weather. They thrive when the temperature runs between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit which makes them ideal for growing indoors.
Outside, most varieties are found in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. As such, you’ll be able to enjoy them throughout the year if you live in these regions.
But in most cases, they’re grown as annuals or houseplants. In either case, you don’t have to worry too much about outdoor winter weather.
If you do keep them outside, make sure to bring them indoors once the temperature drops under 60 degrees. They don’t do well in the cold.
When it comes to humidity, most begonia varieties do best in high humid conditions, running between 70 to 90 percent.
That’s fairly high for most households. To help them get that, you can mist them regularly, set them over a pebble tray, or use a humidifier.
Each of them helps keep moisture in the air so that your begonias don’t dry out or desiccate.
Watering is somewhat challenging with begonias. That’s because you need to carefully balance between keeping the soil moist and overwatering.
Too much water is the one sure-fire thing that will kill this plant quickly. As such, it’s the first and foremost thing you want to avoid.
Allowing it to sit in water encourages root rot. Similarly, wetting the leaves as you water the plant increases its risk of fungal problems.
These are less of a problem outdoors because the sun helps with evaporation.
A few good ways to avoid these include:
- Making sure that the pots you use have drainage holes to allow excess water to drip out
- Wait for the soil to dry out between waterings
- Keep track of the temperature. The cooler it is, the longer the time before you need to water again.
- Always check the soil before watering. You can do so by inserting your finger to test to see how moist or dry it is. If it’s dry about an inch from the top, it’s time to water. If the soil at that level is still moist, wait for it to dry before watering again.
- Don’t water from above. Instead, water directly onto the soil instead of over the plant. This avoids wetting the leaves. Similarly, you can water it from below allowing the soil to soak up moisture from a plate or saucer.
Begonias are not picky about the soil they’re planted in. But, one of the few things that all begonias agree upon is that they like moist, well-draining soil.
Thus, you can use general purpose potting soil or African violet potting mix. You can likewise amend the soil to improve its draining ability or to retain moisture better.
Begonias appreciate regular feeding during their active growing season (spring and summer). During this time, you can give them a balanced liquid fertilizer, working your way up to weekly feedings on half or quarter strength doses.
You can likewise use granular fertilizer to reduce the frequency.
For foliage begonias, you can go with fertilizer with more nitrogen to boost its leaf production.
Once fall comes around, it’s time to stop since they won’t need to be fed through the winter.
Pruning your begonia is all about keeping it healthy and controlling its shape.
For flowering begonias, you want to pinch back long stems to encourage new branches. Similarly, it’s a good idea to trim away any spent or dead blooms. This allows the plant to refocus its energy on new growth as opposed to trying to revive those that are on their way out.
Although you can prune them any time of the year, the best time to do so is during the spring. It’s also worth noting that doing so during the fall and winter and cause it to become weak or leggy.
Begonias can be propagated in many ways. You can grow them via stem or leaf cuttings, division or seed.
Among these options, propagating from seed is by far the slowest, not to mention the most difficult to do. As such, it’s not a good idea to go this route.
In contrast, stem cuttings are fairly straightforward, making them a good choice for home growers.
Here’s how to propagate begonias from stem cutting.
- Take stems that are a few inches long with at least a few leaves on them.
- Remove the lower leaves along with any buds or flowers that may be there.
- Dip the end of the cutting on rooting hormone.
- Then, insert the cutting into the potting mix.
- Water the soil and keep it moist.
- Make sure the keep the cutting somewhere that’s humid.
You don’t need to repot your begonia too often. That’s because they prefer to be rootbound. As such, only move them when they’ve outgrown their container.
And, when you do so, choose a pot that’s just one size bigger. Placing them in a much bigger container can cause them to struggle.
The best time to do this is in the spring before they start actively growing.
While they’re beautiful to have indoors, it’s a good idea to keep them away from your pets’ reach. That’s because they’re poisonous to dogs and cats, with tubers being the most toxic.
The good news is, they’re not toxic to humans. But, they can cause allergic reactions.