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How to grow begonias:
Begonia has many common names and you will find them all listed on plant tags: angel wing, wax begonias, cane-stemmed begonias, rex begonias etc.
Begonia care guide
Begonias are long-lived plants that can be an outdoor feature during summer or brought indoors to brighten up the house in winter. On this page we look at how to care for begonias and we look at the different types of begonia suitable for growing as houseplants.
“Best” is a relative term and rather than grab just one variety it’s often better to see what will grow well in your location and planting conditions. So let’s take a closer look …
Begonias are shade-loving plants that look best when kept out of direct sunlight. The exception to this is if you are growing them in containers which are then brought into the house for winter flowering. If your begonia potting mix is moist and fertile, they will cope with much more sun than would be their preference outdoors.
For indoor container specimens, grow them under bright light indoors without direct sun exposure whenever possible . An eastern or western facing window should be ample – but ensure you rotate your pots at least once per week so that all sides get an equal amount of watering … general advice on how to care for all types of houseplants usually means moving them around every week to keep foliage turgid and happy!
It’s also a good idea to move them back outside during the warmer months if you can, taking them out of direct sun; but still in bright filtered light.
Tip : To build up their tolerance, grow begonias in full shade (no direct sunlight) for about six weeks before moving them into brighter light. Slowly introduce them to more and more sunshine over the course of another three or four weeks.
Just keep an eye on new growth; if it seems weak or thin, move your plant back into less intense areas of bright light . It’s also advisable to test how much water your new plant has access too without causing problems with soggy soil or root rot – so carefully check unplanted pots after watering even if they are sitting on saucers!
If you are lucky enough to find small begonias for sale, the best time to plant them is in spring. This is when they are most active, pushing out new shoots and leaves. They carry on growing into summer but then become less active once the weather starts to cool down in autumn/fall.
It’s then that you can choose whether to leave them in their potting mix over winter or prepare for potting next spring . Begonia tubers can survive all year round without any need for replanting or even disturbing their root ball at all – so long as they have access to moisture! However if you want them inside during wintertime, do keep an eye out for yellowing leaves which indicate your plant is lacking water.
Tip: Unlike most other flowering houseplants, begonias like to be dry (not wet) between watering – so allow time for their potting mix to go completely dry before re-watering.
Creating the right conditions
Getting your begonia’s growing conditions right can often make all the difference to thriving plants that are resistant to insect attack and disease. Making sure you choose a suitable potting mix goes a long way in ensuring healthy happy plants too. Begonia tubers produce long white aerial roots which need plenty of oxygen around their root ball because they will not survive in constantly wet soils .
Younger plants should have access to moisture but older specimens should simply be kept moist than soggy at all times. When choosing a potting mix, lighter is often better than heavier.
Most types of peat based mixes are great for begonias, but it’s worth pointing out that some modern soils might contain fertiliser or other chemicals which can be damaging to your roots or leaves! Earthen based soil-less alternatives are best if you aren’t sure. Tip: If you see tiny pests like thrips on new growth, give your plant a shower under the hose – they don’t like strong water sprays and will soon disappear …
Lightweight commercial bark-based mixtures can compact easily, so try to use more fine material with less course pieces of bark. For the very best results though, make up your own potting mix using composted bark, perlite and sand with some old peat added in for moisture retention.
Not all begonias are suitable for growing outdoors year round even if your climate permits. Most types require long periods of cool temperatures to trigger their flowering response – between 12-18 C at night will help them grow on nicely before warming up enough during the day to carry on developing flower buds .
So if you want your plants to flower – do give them a bit of time outdoors! However it’s worth remembering that plants grown outdoors might need protection from frost over winter too depending on where you live.
If this is the case, bring them back inside after they have become hardened off … but keep an eye out for sign of frost damage which can be easiest spotted by browning yellow leaves. Tip: If you know the plant has not been forced into flower for quite some time, simply exposing it to colder temperatures outside overnight will help trigger this response!
Be careful when adding nutrients to your plant’s soil if you use chemical fertilisers for this might be harmful. Instead, feed with a slow release organic product according to the manufacturer’s instructions – remember that too much nitrogen will limit your plant’s ability to flower!
You could also try feeding with well rotted horse manure or comfrey liquid (from the leaves) instead which some begonia growers swear by.
Air and humidity
Although most begonias like plenty of humidity around their roots, they actually require air flow over their foliage too – especially in dusty kitchens where there is no natural ventilation .
So it can help to raise your plants slightly off the surface of the soil on individual small stones or pebbles at least two centimetres thick. This allows extra air flow which will help prevent powdery mildew , a common fungal disease that’s easily passed on by leaf contact or spores in the soil.
Regularly airing your begonias out of doors is also good practice for the same reason … just be sure to bring them back inside before any frost hits!
Tip: If you experience problems with powdery mildew, dusting the leaves with a mixture of talcum powder and crushed charcoal can stop it from spreading – but keep an eye out for black spots that this treatment might create instead!
Tip: Begonias are often used as decorative plants but if you want them to flower, they need their potting mix changed every spring. Do this at least two months in advance, top dressing with fresh compost and some organic fertiliser to replace nutrients used up over winter.
Make sure your begonias are well watered but don’t let them sit in waterlogged soil for days on end or you’ll get root rot. If you have problems with this it might be worth repotting into a finer soil-based potting mix so that they drain better or adding more drainage holes to the bottom of their pots.
Tip: Never allow your plant’s roots to dry out completely either – this can kill them quickly – however, don’t try to compensate for this by watering too frequently either otherwise the roots may start rotting. Prefers moist conditions .
Begonias are surprisingly tolerant of underwatering – so over-watering is often the main cause of problems with these plants rather than under-watering …. However, if you can keep their potting mix moist enough then they should be fine.
Young begonias growing in smaller pots need watering more frequently than large mature specimens which usually prefer less regular watering. When your plant is contented, the soil should feel soft and springy when lightly squeezed but avoid constantly wet conditions all costs because this really isn’t good for your begonias. Watch that they don’t sit in puddles of water or you’ll be back to the problems caused by over-watering again!
Are Begonias hardy?
Begonia’s are tough plants , but they’re not hardy. If you’re looking after decorative plants, remember that although your begonias may drop their leaves when exposed to colder temperatures, this will not kill them unless it continues for several days .
They are more likely to die from root damage if left in cold soil too long … so protect them by covering with horticultural fleece during frosty periods. Tip: If this happens you can also try bringing the plant into a warmer room and moving it slightly closer to an open window.
It should recover within a few days, once it feels warmer again. Just be sure to give it plenty of water during this period as well – begonia’s can go quite limp when they are dormant, especially if they have been moved…
Begonias are easy plants to propagate by leaf cuttings but because most hybrids are sterile, seed propagation is the only way for you to breed new varieties. If you want to try your hand at this, however, take a look at our article on propagating begonias from seed and remember that although these plants do require patience, their large distinctive flowers will definitely be worth the wait!
Are Begonias deer resistant?
Begonia’s are deer resistant plants , but they may need some protection if deer appear in large numbers. Tip: A sprinkling of blood and bone around the base of your begonias will help to keep them at bay – but remember that this works by drawing rabbit-sized animals into your garden as well, so use with caution!
Tip: If all else fails, hang up some ‘deer x’ or similar repellent sachets around your garden to stop them getting any closer to your begonias without blocking out too much light…
Related: deer-proof bulbs
What is the best type of Begonia?
Although there are literally hundreds of different types, varieties, and hybrids available on the market these days ( many of which you can find on our website of course ) – the ‘normal’ garden begonia is probably your best bet if you’re just starting out with these plants. They’re hardy and deer resistant, easy to care for and will produce lovely large flowers for months on end if treated correctly .
These are great as potted specimens or planted in the border but you can also grow them in hanging baskets, window boxes or even indoors as long as they have plenty of light.
Are Begonias poisonous?
Yes. Although they are not usually fatal, ingesting any part of this plant can cause vomiting and diarrhea so keep them out of reach.
What is a Begonia tuber?
Tuberous begonias are a kind of begonia which have their roots and lower stems removed and then planted into a different location. The tubers themselves are produced at ground level by the plant, which eventually form eyes that can be cut away from the parent plant and set in fresh soil elsewhere to grow again.
These plants also produce their own food through photosynthesis like other green plants – but their main attraction is their showy flowers…
What time of year do Begonia flower?
Most begonias flower between early summer and late autumn in temperate conditions depending on where they’re coming from. However they may become confused if exposed to too much sunshine or chilly temperatures so try to mimic your area’s climate as best you can when growing them indoors, don’t forget that most begonias originated from China, so they enjoy a cool or mild temperature.
Remember too that hybrids often have very short flowering periods – this makes them good for hanging baskets as their flowers seldom last any longer than a week.
How do you plant Begonia tubers?
Begonias grow best in deep containers filled with humus rich soil mixed with peat moss and perlite to improve drainage. Before planting, carefully trim the tuberous roots into sections each containing an eye (or bud) then plant these eyes no more than one inch beneath the soil surface.
To water your begonias it’s also important to discard any excess water after watering then allow the top half inch of soil to dry out before watering again…
When is the best time to plant Begonias?
Spring is the best time to plant begonias – but if you’re getting them in later on, remember to harden off your begonia plants gradually by exposing them to cooler temperatures before planting them outside.
You can either do this by placing the pot in a cold spot or even covering it up with some netting overnight – just don’t forget to remove the cover during the day!…
What are good companion plants for Begonias
Begonias make great companions for other ornamental plants such as pansies, petunias and ferns. They also like growing alongside chives and onions too (which may deter pests) – plus they work particularly well when planted together in hanging baskets or window boxes.
Why are my Begonias drooping?
Begonias will droop if they’re getting too much water so be sure to allow their soil to almost dry out before watering again – they like it fairly moist but not saturated! If this doesn’t work, you may need to up your begonia’s food intake by fertilising them monthly using a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) diluted according to the instructions on the bottle.
Also, make sure that you place your begonias in an area with plenty of sunlight and warmth as lack of either can cause curling leaves (or ‘epinasty’)…
Why do Begonias get yellow patches?
Yellow patches on begonias can be an indication of too much shade, not enough food or even a buildup of salt from the water.
Remove any yellow patches with a fork by gently scraping away the top layer of soil to allow fresh, healthy growth – this will also remove any pests which may have caused the yellow patches in the first place…
What is Begonia rust?
Begonias can suffer from rust if they’re getting too much water – it’s a reddish moss-like coating which often appears on leaves. If this happens, lower your begonias humidity levels and reduce watering slightly as rust can spread very easily.
How do you save a drooping Begonia plant?
Begonias drooping badly need to be watered, so use a soft spray and try to avoid getting too much water on the leaves (this will only make the problem worse). Stand the pot in tepid water until it starts to bubble then empty away any excess. If this doesn’t work, follow the tips outlined above for yellow patches…
What is Begonias’ light requirement?
Begonias require light shade – move them into an area that’s even one step darker than where they’re growing now if all their leaves are looking wilted or pale green. You can also try misting your plants if they’re in a very sunny position as this can help increase humidity levels…
How often should you deadhead Begonias?
Begonias only require deadheading once all their flowers have faded to prolong flowering and discourage pests from attacking. Many varieties won’t re-flower if the plants are deadheaded so it’s important to let them finish off first before pruning away old, fading blooms by cutting them at an angle just above a bud or leaf joint with sharp secateurs.
Is it true that Begonias prefer acid soil?
Begonias like slightly acidic soil – you can buy special begonia plant food (which is usually acidified) from your local garden center if you want to give them a helping hand. You can also sprinkle some ericaceous compost into the soil to help maintain an acidic environment around the roots.
How often should you water Begonias?
Begonias like moist soil so it’s fine to allow the top half inch of their potting mix to dry out before watering again – they prefer lots of drips and don’t be tempted to keep watering them once they’ve been watered as this will only soften the growing medium and encourage root rot…
What is Begonia tuberosa?
Begania tuberosa – or ‘Hardy Tuberous Begonia’ as it’s otherwise known – is one of the hardiest types of begonia – it’s a perennial plant which flowers all year round and requires a slightly dryer growing area that other varieties. These plants can survive temperatures as low as five degrees so they’re perfect for overwintering outdoors in most types of garden…
Begonias are divided into two groups – fibrous-rooted types and tuberous types. Fibrous-rooted begonias have thin roots that grow directly from the stem of the plant so they don’t need to be re-potted often – they’re also more suitable for window boxes…
How do you care for Begonia plants?
Begonia plants are fairly hardy but they’ll benefit from being placed in a warm, bright position with indirect sunlight during winter if you want your plants to produce flowers again the following year. If your begonias aren’t looking their best, feed them monthly using balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) diluted according to the instructions on the bottle.
How much sunlight do Begonias need?
Begonias like bright, indirect sunlight but they can tolerate a bit more shade than other varieties. If you want to place your begonias in the most suitable spot, choose an area that is one step darker than where they’re growing at the moment as this will suit them best…
How do you care for Begonia coccinea?
Begonia coccinea is a type of fibrous-rooted begonia and it looks particularly stunning when it’s planted en masse into hanging baskets or window boxes. These plants grow really well in containers on sunny patios and their flowers will last all summer long if deadheaded regularly.
How much water do Begonias need?
Begonias like moist soil but they shouldn’t be sitting in water at the roots. If you’re growing them in containers, allow the top half inch of your potting mix to dry out before watering again – if you have grey-leaved varieties, it’s important not to overwater these as this can cause yellow patches on their leaves (although too little water is also bad for begonias!).
Can you grow Begonias in pots?
Begonias grow well in containers as long as you re-pot them every year and remember to feed them regularly with a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) diluted according to the instructions on the bottle.
Can you grow Begonias indoors?
Yes, you can! Begonias like a bright position but not direct sunlight and they also prefer a humid, warm environment so if you’re growing them indoors, keep them on a sunny windowsill near a radiator or in the airing cupboard.
How to get more flowers
If you want to get more flowers from your begonia plants, ensure that they get plenty of water during summer – don’t allow their soil to fully dry out between each watering though! Begonia varieties with brightly colored foliage have more chlorophyll than green-leaved varieties so these are often the most floriferous…
Are Begonias perennials?
The short answer is yes – Begonias are perennials and they’re relatively easy to grow as long as you put them in a spot that receives plenty of light. Tuberous types will flower all year round if deadheaded regularly but they won’t survive our cold winter weather outdoors.
If you want to overwinter your tuberous begonias, pot them up into containers before the first frost then bring them indoors to a bright, warm room during autumn…
Once your begonias are inside for winter, water them every two weeks at room temperature using tepid water (don’t forget to allow the top half inch of soil to dry out between each watering!)…
Begonias Hanging Basket Ideas
Look out for hanging basket varieties such as B. ‘My Fair Lady’ which has gorgeous white and purple flowers or B. ‘Angel Wing’ – these will provide you with months of color in the summer when grown outdoors!
Begonias grown in pots that are placed outside during summer can benefit from being moved into a slightly shadier spot when it gets cold, too…
How to Grow Begonias from Seeds or Cuttings
The easiest way to propagate your begonia plants is by taking cuttings – this works for both tuberous and rhizomatous types. Simply take a 4-inch cutting from the end of a healthy stem, strip off the bottom 2 inches of leaves then stick it in some moist seed or plant potting mix.
Make sure that you label your cuttings clearly as you don’t want to confuse any tubers with rhizomes once things start growing…