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Begonias Are Very Addictive Plants Which Will Light Up Your  Life, Both Indoors And Out.

Gateway Horticulture / / CC BY

B. Babywing Pink.

Begonias belong to the Begoniaceae family which has about 1400 species - except for one:  it belongs to the Hilldebrandia family (of which there is just this one) - and this type is native to Hawaii.  They are well known, popular plants the world over and make excellent houseplants. They are related to pumpkins, squash, gourds, cucumbers and melons.

They are grouped as follows by the American Begonia Society:

  • Cane-like.

  • Shrub-like.

  • Tuberous.

  • Rhizomatous.

  • Semperflorens (wax or fibrous rooted):  These grow 15-30cm tall, with red, pink or white flowers and bronze to apple-green leaves. And these are the most common, seen in garden beds in masses of colour.

  • Rex - this type is seriously poisonous. Don't let little kids near it. 

  • Trailing; climbing.

  • Thick-stemmed.

The Cane-Like Types.

B. "Angel Wing" is a hybrid  which resulted from a cross between B. aconitifolia and B. coccinea. The hybridization was made by California plant breeder Eva Kenworthy Gray in 1926.

The plant gets its name from the shape and colors of its leaves. Usually, 'Angel Wing' grows upward on one stem. They flower and produce blooms that range in colors from red to white. The leaves grow with a wide range of colours also. The top of the leaf is often a dark green with metallic silver specks. The underside is a deep red. I grew up with a 'wax plant' which grew to about a metre. It was always called 'the wax plant', but now I know it was an 'Angel Wing'. I loved it.

Often, these plants are used as year-round houseplants. They are easy to grow for a gardener who understands begonias. Since they are native to the tropics, the ideal growing conditions include high humidity, good circulation of the air around the plant, a lot of water, and a lot of light. The more light, the more brilliant the colour of the leaves.

'Angel Wing' s will grow well under shade cloth, lattice or in early morning/late afternoon sun. They will burn if grown in direct mid-day sun. The flowers are edible, with a sweet tart taste.

Begonia listada-IMG 1280 rbgs10dec

Shrub like B. listada.

Shrub Types.

There are such a lot of shrub like types. About 300 - 500 species. Just like the B. rex types, these are also grown mainly for their showy leaves. 

They also must have conditions which are  'just right', often doing better indoors like the B. rex. They need about 40% humidity and a warm temperature.

SDC11298 - Begonia odorata (Schiefblatt)

The shrub B. odorata is delicate and lightly scented. It is called the 'Sweet Begonia'.

solent66 / / CC BY

This divine trailing type is called 'Sherbet Bon Bon'.

Trailing or 'scandent' types will hang from baskets (trailing) or grow like a vine (scandent). They can grow to 8 feet or more, much like roses. Best grown in a pot because they have shallow roots, they are truly stunning. 

General Care.

Begonias were originally shade dwellers - although certain types of tough varieties are often used as bedding for roadsides, etc, blended with colourful annuals and perennials - so the best place to plant them is where they will get dappled sunlight. Their main requirement is for moisture (humidity, not just water) and a warm temperature. Apart from these basic needs, they are tough and can survive even if neglected. However, a dose of liquid fertilizer every fortnight will give them a real boost. Also avoid hot dry windy places because they will 'burn'. Even the mid-day sun is too hot for them as a rule.

Best ways to show off your begonias:

Plant them in garden beds, containers, window boxes, tubs, rock gardens, hanging baskets,  climbing over a trellis and beneath shrubs and trees.

Begonia (Rex-hybrid) 'Queen Wilhelmina' 03

Beautiful B. rex 'Queen Wilhelmina'.

The Rex is very popular because of its beautiful and diverse arrays of foliage. There may be spots, patches, whirls, etc. And the leaves are the main attraction. This plant does not put most of its energy into flowers. As long as it's got some flowers, it's happy. But the Rex variety can also be difficult to grow. Many books contain references to someone ruining 'another's prize B. rex'.

They need a specific amount of humidity and just the right temperature. Hence, they are ideally grown in terrariums.

Meredith Leigh Collins / / CC BY-ND

B. rex with Seddum inside the Terrarrium. Quite happy to stay there.

Because most of the whole species come from tropical climates, they require warm temperatures. Most need a well-drained growing medium which can't be too wet, nor can they dry out completely. Most will grow and flower year round, except for the Tuberous type which have a dormant period. With these types, their tubers can be stored in a cool dry place.

If you are interested in Rhizomatous begonias, this site has some good pictures.  They are actually the largest b. species, but I can't find much on them.  Kartuz Greenhouses.

InAweofGod'sCreation / / CC BY

Wax begonias.

The wax begonias are grown outside and make excellent bedding plants. This type can grow to a metre or so in height. If planted in a dry spot they will simply need more frequent watering, and if in a cool place, then not so much watering. 

jinxmcc / / CC BY-ND

Tuberous Paradise.

Tuberous begonias have tubers which are much like bulbs, rhizomes, etc. They grow best in partial shade or filtered sunlight. Excessive exposure to sunlight can result in burnt flowers and leaves. However, too much shade will result in lush foliage and few flowers. Not too hot; not too cold; but just right.

The first tuberous types appeared in 1870 and since then these have produced many amazing varieties. They grow in masses around our towns, but can also be grown indoors. 

The tuberous kinds make excellent container plants. Indoors for cooler periods and outside in the warm months. They are so easy to propogate - by both stem and leaf cuttings - especially the rhizomatous and rex varieties.

Home. Return from Begonias to Annual Plants.

'You ate my begonias! God!' from Mrs. Doubtfire.