What you're learning
Attractive foliage and equally beautiful flowers are the assets of a begonia plant. Various designs, patterns, and colors decorate the leaves while the flowers bloom in bright, full colors of white, pink, red, orange, or yellow. They come in a wide variety of options and will surely make a good collection at home.
Care and maintenance of a begonia depend on which type of subgroups it belongs so you have to know what type of begonia it is. But generally, they can thrive in different climates. Begonia is considered a3n easy-to-grow to grow that’s why it’s suitable for mass planting.
|Scientific Name||Begonia spp.|
|AKA||Begonia (common names depending on which species and hybrids)|
|Native to||Central and South America, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa|
|Shape||Depending on the type of begonia|
|Maximum size||Over 12 feet high|
|Light requirements||Bright, indirect light, semi-shade or half–shade|
|Preferred temperature||15 to 26oC (59 to 79oF)|
|Soil or Potting Medium||A well-drained, soil-less mix|
|Fertilizer||Apply liquid fertilizer once a week, diluted to ¼ of its original strength|
|Propagation method||Seeds, leaf-cutting, tuber cutting, rhizome cutting or stem cutting|
|Toxicity||Toxic to cats and dogs|
|Vulnerable to||Powdery mildew|
Begonia Plant Overview
Begonia is a large group of flowering plants belonging to the Begoniaceae family. According to the American Begonia Society (ABS), there are around 1500 species under this genus. And because begonia is easy to hybridize, hundreds of hybrid cultivars are already produced stretching the already wide range of options.
Due to its variability, begonia is classified into three main groups namely: fibrous-rooted, rhizomatous, and tuberous begonias. The classification is mainly based on the nature of its rootstock. Among these groups, fibrous-rooted and rhizomatous begonias are cultivated for its flowers while the rhizomatous ones are for its foliage.
Overwatering is a common mistake in begonia so always regulate your water application. Water the plant only when it needs to avoid the problem. The soil must have not moist but not wet characteristics.
Saturate the soil when watering but allow it to drain well. Never allow the pot to sit in a pool of water especially if you’re using a saucer under the pot. Avoid watering the foliage as well to avoid the growth of pathogens that will cause diseases.
Begonia will do best with bright, indirect light. Other types also love a shaded environment especially the hardy begonia, Begonia grandis subsp. evansiana. Make sure it gets plenty of morning sun to encourage blooming especially during the cold seasons.
Locations having an east window orientation are preferred. However, you should provide extra shade during the hotter days to prevent your begonia from getting sunburn. If you own semperflorens and tree begonias, remember that they require more light than the rest.
Humidity & Temperature Preferences
For all begonias, high humidity is required. Begonias are of tropicals and subtropicals origin so they require that kind of setting when grown indoors. Locate that area in your house where light is available and humidity is high and that would be the best spot for your begonia.
A temperature range of 15 to 26oC (59 to 79oF) well suits the begonia species. It’s not frost- tolerant so remember to keep it insulated during winter. Misting and pebble trays do help raise moisture levels when the air is dry or when the temperature is too hot.
Plant Food and Potting Media
A well-drained soil rich in compost or organic matter is a requirement for all types of begonia. But for indoor plants, you should use a soil-less mix. Ready to use pre-mixes are available in the garden store but you can make one, of course.
Use coco coir or peat moss added with perlite or vermiculite to achieve the previously mentioned potting mix. For added nutrients, you can incorporate a slow-release fertilizer to the potting mix to ensure regular feeding.
You may also opt to use liquid fertilizer applied once a week at a concentration of just a fourth of its original strength. Begonias benefit from regular fertilization so you have to make sure it receives one.
To maintain your begonia to its desired shape, pruning is necessary once in a while. Cut back stray stems or those leaning in the wrong directions to shape your plant accordingly. Old, brown, and diseased leaves should be removed as well.
If the plant gets too dense, you can cut back the younger stems and use them for propagation. Regular pruning will keep the plant healthy. Just make sure to take extra precautions in using shears or scissors by sterilizing them before and after making cuts to prevent the spread of diseases.
Newly bought plants are often placed in disposable pots or containers. Repotting the plant once it gets home is needed to provide your begonia with a sturdy container. With the exception of rhizomatous and rex begonias, all other begonias should be repotted lower than its original placement in the pot.
Begonias that easily dry out or those that show symptoms of overwatering and root rot must be repotted as well. Begonias that need repotting will remain stunted and will show very little growth. A pot that’s one size larger should be used to encourage growth at the basal and apical portions of your begonia.
You can propagate begonias the classic way and that is by using seeds. But we know that’s pretty time consuming so you can resort to more efficient ways of doing it. Vegetative propagation is the key. Depending on what type of root system your begonia has, you can propagate them by means of leaf-cutting, tuber cutting, rhizome cutting, or stem cutting.
Leaf cuttings are used for begonias producing large leaves. These leaves have the ability to produce plantlets that develop from the end of the petioles. Leaves that were cut should be laid down facing up and the leaf stem should be buried on the soil.
Propagation by tuber cutting is done for tuberous begonias while rhizome cutting is for rhizomatous begonias. All you need is to separate these tubers or sections of rhizomes and plant them separately. They will develop their own roots and there you have new begonias lined up.
Pests & Diseases
Begonias are generally pest and disease-free but sometimes, the stresses brought by abiotic and biotic factors can weaken the plant and make it vulnerable. Whiteflies, mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites, and weevils are the usual enemies of begonias.
You can manage these pests by regularly spotting and removing them from your begonia plant. Wipe off the colonies and their eggs with cotton soaked in alcohol. You may also use DIY solutions made out of insecticidal soaps.
A fungus known as Odium begoniae particularly hosts in begonia plants and they produce that white to gray powder on the surface of leaves, stems, and flowers. This is popularly known as powdery mildew in ornamental plants. To manage this disease, place your begonia in a warmer place with stable humidity to kill the fungus and avoid its spread.
No matter how fancy your begonia looks, be careful with the way you handle it. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (APSCA), begonias contain soluble calcium oxalates that are toxic to cats and dogs when ingested. The most toxic portions can be found in the underground parts of the begonia.
Common signs of toxicity include vomiting, salivation, and oral pain. When pets happen to ingest the plant, the oxalates are released. Once the compound penetrates the tissues, it will irritate the mouth and GI tract.
Typical Questions for Begonia Plants
Why is my begonia getting leggy?
Leggy begonias often a result of lack of light, lack of pruning, and/or excess fertilizer uses. When light is less available, the plant will have a hard time manufacturing its own food. Naturally, they would have to keep looking for light that’s why they tend to develop long stems.
To prevent further legging, relocate your begonia to a location where there is bright, indirect light. If this doesn’t work, then there must be another cause. You may need to prune your begonia to remove the leggy portions.
Lack of pruning can result in disproportionate growth in your plants. Pruning keeps your plant in shape. If it’s too leggy, you can cut the stems to encourage lateral growth of branches. This will make the plant compact and dense.
Another problem may be the overapplication of fertilizer resulting to the plant growing in undesirable sizes. Although begonia loves regular feeding, it should not receive excessive nutrients as this may affect the overall growth and development of the plant.
Why is my begonia wilting and browning?
There are numerous reasons for wilting and browning begonias. One of which is excessive light especially with strong intensities. Begonias love bright, indirect light so if it’s exposed to direct light, it easily gets sunburn.
It’s also possible that your begonia has developed root rot due to overwatering and pathogens. If you’re watering your begonias excessively, then, you have to regulate the application. Make sure that the soil dries completely before watering again.
The presence of diseases can also lead to wilting and browning. Leaves that have developed bacterial leaf spot will show yellow to brown spots on its leaves. Carefully evaluate the signs and symptoms your plant show to properly address them.
Can I use begonia as hanging plants?
Yes. There are types of begonias that can be hanged in baskets. The tuberous begonias make good trailing ornamentals. The best suited container for hanging begonias are moss baskets.
It’s important that you constantly trim your hanging begonia to keep it light. Hanged begonias that are too heavy might easily give in and drop.
With a wide array of options for begonias, you can make a collection out of it inside your home. From various foliage designs to different flowers, you’ll surely enjoy the diversity of designs this plant has to offer. On top of it, these ornamentals are easy to care and maintain so there’s less trouble.
Just remember to know exactly what type of begonia you’re about to buy. Some conditions may be favorable for one begonia but not to the others. Care and maintenance depends heavily on this factor so be mindful.