With over 1,000 species of begonia, these flowering plants fulfil a number of purposes as both landscape plants and houseplants. Although a native of the Andes in South America, begonias flourish in outdoor climates that experience mild, humid summers. While begonias can grow for many years in their native habitat and indoor pots, they often require special care to regrow each year in yards and landscapes.
While begonia plants may vary greatly, depending on the specific species, they have many similar characteristics. The foliage may contain wide, rounded leaves or narrow, scalloped leaves. The leaves are usually rippled and wrinkled and may contain solid colours or appear in spotted shades of green, white and yellow. Begonias blossom in a range of colours, including pink, yellow, salmon-orange and white. Begonias grow to an average height between 1 and 3 feet tall. Many begonias have a drooping habit, making them well-suited for hanging pots and elevated planters.
Like many types of tropical plants, begonias experience frost damage or death when temperatures drop below freezing. In climates that experience freezing temperatures, digging up the begonias and storing them over winter will help ensure renewed growth the following year. Late fall is the best time to dig up begonia tubers. Placing the dry tubers in a layer of sawdust in a cool area, such as a basement or attached garage, will help protect them until the ground thaws in the springtime.
In addition to extreme cold temperatures, excessive heat may also injure a begonia plant. Begonias grow best in loamy, well-drained soils. These plants prefer temperatures between 18.3 and 23.9 degrees Celsius. Since many climates experience hotter summer temperatures, growing these in a protected location that provides shade during the heat of the afternoon will help keep a begonia healthy.
Inadequate water during the dry fall months can lead to the death of a begonia. Keeping the soil evenly moist will provide the optimal conditions for regrowth the following year. Damage may occur during the digging and lifting of begonia tubers. Gouging the tender tuber can expose the plant to bacterial and viral infections. Damp winter storage can also result in fungal growth and the death of the tuber. While begonias may take more effort to grow in the garden, especially gardens in cooler climates, proper care can encourage healthy regrowth every year.
- American Begonia Society; Storing Tuberous Begonias for the Winter; Brad Thompson
- University of Florida Extension; Begonia Production Guide; R.W. Henley, et. al.
- "Botanica's Gardening Encyclopedia"; Susan Page; 2001