Springtime in South Florida
by Johanna Kitson
In South Florida around the West Palm Beach area, we
have it pretty easy as far as Begonias are concerned.
The only time we would have a big problem is in winter
if it actually stayed in the low 30's for two or three
days. Fortunately, we don't get much below 40° and on
the occasion it gets colder into the mid 30° range, it
only lasts about 24 hours. The worst that happens at
this temperature range is maybe a couple of singed
leaves if the wind is blowing. In January and February
we remove all the torn and tattered leaves created in
our fall and "winter" season so the newly emerging
leaves and bloom spikes can grow without anything else
in their way. I grow 99% of all my begonias as landscape
plants in the ground. Any minor pruning would have been
done in the fall perhaps in September through October.
We would do major pruning after the spring bloom season
and on into the beginning of summer.
2. What soil do you use?
When I create landscape beds, I just pour bags of Fafard
2S, Lambert's Potting soil, or a bale of peat right on
top of the sandy substrate we have for soil. I do not
mix the peat and perlite mixture into the sand. I just
plant the begonias right in this peat mixture, fertilize
with Nutricote time release fertilizer, mulch lightly
and water it all in. If I have any oak leaves from our
tree, I mix some of those into the peat mixture.
3. How and when do you fertilize? How do you know when
Since I fertilize with a time release, I usually only
have to apply it a couple times of year as it has an 180
day release rate. I also have been experimenting the
last couple of years with palm fertilizer. If applied
too heavily it will burn tender begonias so I am very
careful to sprinkle it lightly. My plants have become
much bigger adding the palm fertilizer because it also
contains extra nutrients besides the usual N-P-K. When
planting begonias in pots, I mix the time release
fertilizer right in the soilless mix.
I water potted begonias once a week, or when the top of
a pot is dry or if the plant wilts. If the plant is out
in the landscape, it just gets watered once a week when
the sprinklers come on. Because they have mulch around
them, they very seldom need a second watering.
4. Where do you grow your plants, house, ground, pots?
Because of being able to grow outside all year, I never
grow anything inside except for terrarium plants.
5. What months are the best from growing
Every month is a good month to grow begonias, but they
seem to perk up and breathe a sigh of relief (like we
all do) after the hot and humid summer leaves the first
week of October.
6. What kind of begonias do best in your area and which
We are dealing with new growers and they just want the
basics to get them
started. This should be enough for now.
What grows best for me in the WPB area are many types of
rhizomatous, trailing scandent, shrub-like, cane,
semperflorens, and thick-stemmed varieties. I easily
grow 100 different begonias out in the landscape. No
tuberous and no rexes except THE Begonia rex.
Pests--One problem I have had in growing begonias is
with powdery mildew in the winter. This has only
happened three years out of ten and only on Begonia
'Sinbad.' In two summers out of ten, I have had mealy
bugs on two begonia varieties. All I did was trim the
two begonias back and threw away the infested stalks.
The pest did not return for a year, same two begonias,
B. 'Washington State' and B. 'Chuck Jaros'.