Begonias are plants that bloom every year in early summer until the first frosts. Ideal for adorning flowerbeds, clumps, planters and pots, these plants native to Asia and South America can be annual, perennial or tuberous depending on species. Although easy to grow, begonias must receive proper maintenance that is well-suited to their species, type of foliage and hardiness.

Even though the generic term is begonias, there are actually three distinct species: annuals, perennials and tubers. Perennial and annual begonias are evergreen plants, which are particularly suitable for garden clumps and shaded flower beds. Less popular, tuberous begonias are beautiful deciduous houseplants suitable for planters on terraces. Well-liked for their abundant flowering, shimmering green foliage and silvery glints, begonias come in many bright, vivid colours. Very floriferous, they brighten up gardens, balconies and apartments with their beautiful shades of pink, red, yellow and white that become apparent upon the arrival of summer; If you wish to grow your begonias indoors, choose without hesitation begonias with tuberous roots such as the ‘Cheimanta’ or ‘Hiemalis’ species which, due to their shape and size, are much more suited to small pots. However, for a terrace, go for species with falling leaves, as they will create beautiful flower cascades when grown in suspended planters. For planters hanged on balcony railings, preferably choose dwarf species because they have much less tendency to spread. Finally, for larger spaces, select species with fibrous roots native to Latin America, such as Waxy begonia (Begonia semperflorens), for its generous flowering and harmonious shades.

Planting begonias

With regard to annual begonias, their seeds should be sown in the middle of winter. Once the seeds have sprouted, transplant your seedlings in early spring and put them permanently in the ground in May. Perennial begonias will, in turn, be planted in the ground as early as April for a summer flowering. Tuberous-rooted begonias will however be planted from bulbs available in garden centres. As soon as winter ends, place the bulbs in a container filled with potting soil, taking care to position the concave side up. Until spring, the potting soil should be regularly moistened and the container should be kept in a well-lit room, away from direct sunlight. When small fleshy shoots finally appear, you can transplant them into containers filled with potting soil, being careful to moisten the earth with moderation. Since begonias are relatively sensitive to the cold, it is best to wait until temperatures rise significantly before placing your pots outside. To grow well, all begonias, regardless of species, require a well-drained humus soil. In terms of sun exposure, it is best to plant them in mid-shade, away from direct sunlight. In fact, begonias rather like the first rays of sunlight as well as dusk’s softer light.

Maintenance of begonias

Begonias are not plants particularly difficult to maintain. However, they strongly appreciate wetlands and, to that extent, they should be regularly watered to maintain the level of moisture necessary for their growth. As for indoor begonias grown in containers, always make sure to prevent any water from accumulating in the saucers to prevent root rot. To flourish, begonias also need very rich land that is regularly amended in organic fertilizer. For your plants to remain beautiful the whole season, you will need to frequently remove faded flowers and dried leaves. Upon the arrival of winter, it will be necessary to bring the planters and pots back inside to protect your plants from the cold and frost. Indeed, begonias particularly fear icy winds as well as cold temperatures. The tubers of tuberous-rooted begonias will, in turn, be preserved for the duration of winter to be replanted once the nice weather returns. Regarding perennial begonias that are planted in-ground, you can simply protect them from excessive moisture and cold with a layer of vegetable mulch. In spring, after the final disappearance of the last frost, you can once again bring out your plants and repot those of which the roots are too cumbersome. If you wish to obtain new plants, be aware that begonias are plants that are propagated by taking cuttings from healthy stems (for indoor begonias) and leaves (for species that have no stems). With regular maintenance, your begonias will hardly be exposed to disease. However, in case of mildew, you can treat your plants with an appropriate fungicide, all the while avoiding overly abundant watering that leads to excessive moisture.

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Published in Annuals by Alexander on 08 Aug 2011