How To Care for Begonia and Grow It in Pots – Begonias are among the most popular houseplants both for the beauty of their blooms and for the little care they require. Since they often come from tropical countries, you have to be careful where you place them in the house and how much you water them: find out the characteristics of the best-known varieties and tricks for making them last through the winter.
The begonia is a perennial plant native to tropical countries that belong to the Begoniaceae family, which in turn includes up to 1,600 species, all different. Begonias are named after Michel Begon, an administrative official but also a botany enthusiast who lived in the 17th century and served as governor of Santo Domingo.
Begonias can be classified into three major groups:
Tuberous begonias: these consist of tubers accompanied by stems and particularly colorful flowers. These begonias should not be grown in the garden, but rather in pots and apartments.
Fasciculate begonias: unlike those just described, they are perfectly adapted to being outdoors and bloom from spring to summer.
Rhizomatous-rooted begonias: these are evergreen shrubs that can be grown indoors but do not have particularly vibrant flowers.
Growing and caring for begonias are all in all simple operations, but given the area of origin of this species, which is accustomed to high temperatures, you will have to be especially careful in winter, when the plant will need to be protected from severe cold weather.
Table of Contents
- Species and varieties
- Cultivation and care
Species and varieties
Fasciculate, tuberous, or rhizomatous-rooted begonias represent three macro-categories that contain within them many different species and hybrids, each with its characteristics. Here are which are the most common ones you might be most likely to come across:
Begonia elatior: a tuberous particularly suitable for indoor cultivation that blooms during the winter, giving a show of colors ranging from red to yellow, and can reach up to 50 centimeters in height.
Begonia rex: belongs to the rhizomatous group and is prized for the appearance of its leaves, which are covered with a light down and rich in shades that make it ideal for coloring your apartment.
Begonia pendula: owes its name to the shape of its flowers, which develop facing the ground and make this plant a perfect decoration for a terrace.
Begonia semperflorens: a plant native to Brazil that can produce white, red, or pink flowers from spring through fall.
Begonia corallina: also known as begonia tamaya, it too produces pendulous-shaped inflorescences that resemble small pink drops or clusters.
Begonia masoniana: falls into the group of rhizomatous-rooted begonias and originates from China; its distinctive leaves are covered with a light down and have a cross-shaped pattern designed by purple-brown stripes. Compared with other species, however, Masonian begonias flower very rarely.
Begonia maculata: This species, also discovered in Brazil, is best known for its leaves, which are deep red on the underside and are instead covered with white polka dots on the upper side. Its pink or white flowers appear from May to October and are arranged in clusters.
Cultivation and care
Begonias can easily compete with the splendor of roses and camellias given the beauty of their blooms. They can usually be grown either in the garden or pots on the terrace at home by planting the bulbs between April and May. If the bulbs are buried for pot cultivation, they should be placed at a depth of at least 5 centimeters with expanded clay, soil, and peat, while for garden cultivation a depth of 3 centimeters is sufficient.
Where should begonia be placed?
Both begonia bulbs and seedlings should be kept in areas protected from wind and in half-shade: in other words, it is important to place them in lighted areas but you must avoid them from receiving direct sunlight. Begonias fear frost, so during winter, they should be properly sheltered, as the temperature should not fall below 5-7 degrees Celsius.
Between spring and summer, begonias should be watered often, but without overdoing it: make sure the soil is always a little moist, but never excessively so to avoid water stagnation from which the plant can suffer a lot.
To figure out what bloom to expect from begonia you will need to pay attention to the species you buy. In several cases, it is a plant that blooms from spring until autumn, but as I explained above there are some plants that do not produce flowers or do so very rarely, while others may even bloom all year round.
If you are lucky enough to observe a flowering begonia, you will see many small flowers in a wide variety of colors, from white to pink to yellow.
Around the beginning of spring, then in March, you should remember to top the apical twigs of the plant regularly, both to encourage the emission of new lateral shoots, given the accelerated rate of growth of the begonia, and to achieve a long-lasting and showy bloom. The process, moreover, is very simple: all you need to do is peel off the tips of the offshoots with your fingers, to prevent the leaves from growing in large numbers, taking the place of the flowers.
The rule is: fertilize sparingly and only in spring and summer. The begonia needs a fertilizer where essential trace elements such as zinc, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and boron are present, which should be looked for in the composition on the package. Above all, make sure that the level of potassium (P) is higher in the fertilizer than that of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (K).
Fungi and pests
The fungus that most commonly attacks begonias is gray mold, while a consequence of watering too frequently is black root rot. To prevent mold and fungus make sure there is always plenty of air circulating between flowers and leaves and that the potting soil has the right moisture content.
Next, begonia fears aphids, better known as plant lice. Aphids are easily seen and cause leaves and flowers to dry up quickly because they feed on the plant’s sap. In contrast to lice, mites are not so easily seen with the naked eye, but you can notice their presence if you see dark spots that tend to spread on the leaves.
In summer, begonia can be attacked by parasites that target the newly sprouted leaves and newly blooming flowers, while in late spring, between May and June, thrips can develop: in this case, the plant deforms until it becomes all crooked.