> Volume 58 (March/April 1991, pages 53 - 54)
Appreciating the Shrub-Like Begonias
by Virginia S. Carlson
Of all the types of
begonias, those know as shrub-like are
probably the most varied and easiest to grow.
They are grown chiefly for their interesting
and beautiful foliage, with size, shape,
colors, and leaf surfaces and textures in
almost endless variety, although, as we shall
see, the flowers have some interesting
Many shrubs originated
in Brazil and other countries of northern
South America, with others coming from Central
America, the Caribbean, Mexico; but some are
found in places like Africa, Sumatra, the
Philippines, and New Guinea.
The predominant feature
of the shrubs is that they are bushy or
shrub-like, producing shoots from the base and
branching freely to form full plants. The
stems are flexuous and the internodes deviate
in direction, giving a rather zig-zag effect.
They may be erect or semi-erect, and many make
nice basket plants.
Leaf shapes may be
pointed ovals such as B. echinosepala,
or elliptical shapes, or peltate and nearly
round, like B. peltata. some have
compound leaves, like B. luxurians.
Sizes vary from tiny, like B. foliosa,
to tall, like B. 'Lee's Luxurians'.
Large-leafed shrubs generally have leaves over
6" long, and some go up to 18" under
ideal conditions. Begonias 'Alva Graham', 'Braemer',
'Gene Daniels', 'Lee's Luxurians', and
'Paul-bee' are examples of those with large
Shrubs are also found
with hairy leaves, and the hairy-leaved
classes are divided by leaf width. The
"over 3 inches" class includes some
fascinating leaf forms as the species B.
fernando-costae, and B. hispida
var. cucullifera, the one with little
taglike projections on the leaf surface. among
the cultivars we have the beautiful B. 'John
Tapia', 'Emma Palmer', 'Lady Clare', 'Metosa',
and 'Quinebaug'. Hairy leaved, narrow-leaved
varieties include B. 'Withlacochee' and
'Ginny, which certainly illustrate the extreme
variety in this group.
Shrubs have not only
hairy leafed types, but also felted-leaf
examples: species incana, peltata,
and venosa and hybrids 'Fleecealba' and
Then there are those
shrub-like ones with distinctive foliage, with
unusual surface or coloring. B. listada
and its hybrids 'Mabel Corwin', 'Magdalene
Madsen', 'Murry Morrison' and 'Oh No' carry a
chartreuse streak along the main vein. Other
shrubs with distinctive foliage are Begonias
chlorosticta, green with yellow-green
spots and brown outlining, and exotica,
with hot pink spots. Many are compact plants,
such as Begonias 'Jill Adair', 'Steve Tapia'
and 'Midnight Sun', which has fascinatingly
varied leaves in several colors, and the
species B. acida, with large, round,
puckered leaves. Many of these distinctive
foliage types require high humidity.
Shrub-like types show
variety also in time of flowering. B.
'Medora', a small-leaved, bare-leaved hybrid
has pink flowers summer-fall, B. 'Eunice Gray'
will show its white flowers from February to
December, B. obscura flowers in winter,
B. echinosepala flowers winter and
summer. Many of the small-leaved types are
nearly continuous in their blooming, and have
pink or red flowers.; examples are Begonias 'Corbeille
de Feu', 'Decker's Select', 'Preussen', and 'Richmondensis'.
Many of the "shrubbies"
have interesting flowers with hairs: B.
obscura has white flowers with white
hairs, B. 'Ginny' has pink flowers with red
hairs, B. 'Metosa' has white flowers with red
After reading through
the above paragraphs, do you find that you
grow more shrub-like begonias than you thought
chlorosticta. Drawing by Kit Jeans
This article first
appeared in the Orange County Branch
newsletter Begonias Begorra.