Culture and Care

Monthly To Do Lists

Storing Tuberous Begonias in the Winter

Hybridizing Begonias is an Art Form

Hybridizing Goals

Begonias as Standards

Growing Begonias Indoors

Pinching Your Begonias

The Importance of Species




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Begonia Culture

The Begonia Family includes hundreds of species from all continents except Europe and Australia and thousands of hybrids created by enthusiasts everywhere. Begonias are known as the great foliage impostors. Their leaves can resemble ivies, ferns, aralias, grasses, and peperomias. Leaves can be flat, pebbled, shiny, hairy, fuzzy, or spiralled. Leaves can be almost any color or combination of colors. Flowers are in all colors but blue, and can be found growing as tiny single blossoms growing out of a stem to foot-wide clusters of hundreds of tiny flowers to giant double blossoms ten inches or more in diameter. Some need greenhouses or terrariums to grow. Others can be planted right in the ground here in Sacramento and become large landscape plants giving years of beauty and enjoyment.

SOIL: The mix should be slightly acid containing loose, well-draining ingredients such as perlite, vermiculite, and sphagnum peat and/or leaf mold (oak leaf, if available). Good commercial mixes work well.

CLIMATE AND TEMPERATURE: Begonias like bright, shady areas out of direct mid-day sun. Good ventilation results in good growth. Optimum temperatures range from 55 degrees at night to about 85 in the day. As to extremes, some can survive short bouts of freezing, and others can withstand our hundred degree summers. Higher humidity (through fine misting) helps them grow better in higher temperatures.

WATER AND DRAINAGE: The soil should become neither excessively dry nor allowed to stay sopping wet. The well-draining mix mentioned above helps achieve optimum conditions. Plants should be watered thoroughly when the top of the mix becomes dry to the touch.

FERTILIZING: Most growers prefer to water with dissolved fertilizer, although time release types which stay on the mix surface offer good results, also. As a rule, 1/4 recommended strength used at each or every other watering is more effective than heavier applications at longer intervals. This also allows for using different fertilizers more often, which gives a better supply of trace elements and micro-nutrients. Never fertilize a dry, dormant, or sick plant. LIGHT: While classified as shade plants, too little light will result in weak spindly growth. Most varieties do well with direct morning sun or dappled sunlight all day long. Light that grows healthy African Violets is good for growing healthy begonias. The bedding semperflorens type, however, can be grown in direct, daylong sun here in Sacramento.

PRUNING: Prune in late winter, early spring when new growth starts. Pinch growing tips (soft-pinching) throughout the growing season to shape plants, fill them out, and keep them within bounds.

GENERAL CULTURE: Begonias have shallow root systems. Except for tall-growing canes and shrubs, they prefer shallow pots. Repot only the next larger pot as begonias do not like overpotting. Use either clay or plastic pots as your cultural conditions require.


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