Begonia Care: What You Need to Know
Begonia care is easier than you think. The glamorous flowers of double begonias make a real splash in a flower garden.
Here’s a secret: everyone has a flower or two that they just don’t like as much as everyone else seems to, and for me, begonias are one of those. So I was shocked recently during a trip to the Midwest when I pointed out some beautiful flowers and asked what they were, only to be told, “They’re begonias, of course!”
Somehow, I’d never realized there was such a thing as double begonias. And I certainly didn’t realize they were so gorgeous, with brilliant colors, rose-like blooms, and incredible variations. Suddenly, I knew I needed to track down some double begonias for myself. They’ve totally changed my mind about these flowers. Here’s what you need to know about begonia care.
Begonia Care 101
Begonias (Begonia spp.) are popular old-fashioned flowers. Grow them outdoors year-round in zones 8 to 11; northern gardeners can enjoy them as blooming houseplants when the weather turns cold or treat them as annuals. Wax begonias are the classic choice, with sturdy leaves. Angel wing and rex begonias such as Escargot have more interesting foliage. If you prefer the flowers, look for tuberous begonias.
Get more expert tips for overwintering begonias as houseplants.
Courtesy Mary O'Donnell
“What is this plant (above)? I have no idea how it got into my yard,” asks Mary O’Donnell of Camarillo, California.
Horticultural expert Melinda Myers: You’ve got a begonia, most likely one of the rhizomatous types. These begonias produce a thick, stemlike structure (rhizome) that grows along the soil surface. Known and grown for their decorative leaves, as you discovered some also produce beautiful blossom clusters.
Most are perennial in Zone 10 gardens. The rest of us treat them as annuals and move them indoors for winter. Grow begonias in rich, well-draining and organic soil. Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Be very mindful of overwatering because it may lead to root rot. Most rhizomatous begonias prefer a shady location outdoors and bright light inside. Fertilize your actively growing plants according to label directions.
Backyard Tip: Remove spent begonia blooms to encourage fresh growth. Once the plant is done blossoming, cut it back until the weather warms.
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Double begonias are tuberous begonias with blooms that look like roses. Generally, you buy them as tubers (sort of like bulbs) and plant them in the spring, for blooms by mid-summer. They’re only hardy to zone 8, so those in colder zones have to lift the tubers in the fall for winter storage. These tubers can be fairly expensive, depending on the style you choose, and usually are available only in the spring.
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Can You Grow Begonias From Seed?
I have found one source for double begonia seeds. Park Seed notes they should bloom in about 5 months. Since I expect to have a little trouble growing these plants in Florida (they like humidity but dislike the heat, preferring cooler nights), this seems like the best way for me to start. My plan is to grow these in containers on my back porch, since they prefer morning sunlight but need to be protected from hot afternoon sun.
Next, discover the 4 types of flower bulbs that gardeners should grow.