With close to 2000 different species, begonias are one of the most diverse group of flowers you can plant in your garden or decorate your home with. Some are prized for their charming, multi-colored flowers and double blooms while others are famous for their fantastic foliage. Regardless, they're a beautiful plant that can fit into any landscape design or interior decor aesthetic!
Types of Begonias
With such a wide variety, you can bet there are many different ways to categorize them all. Here's a brief introduction to begonia varieties, and what they're best suited for!
Fibrous-rooted begonias, also known as garden begonias, are a broad category that encompasses many popular varieties. Wax begonias are among the most popular choices for their succulent foliage and easy care. They're usually grown as annuals and are very versatile in the garden. Cane begonias display a more upright growth habit and interesting, showy foliage-perfect for decorating your home. Angel-wing begonias, with their dainty wing-shaped leaves, also fall under this category.
These fibrous-rooted plants grow from a standard root ball and thin roots. They vary in color and shape but generally have rounded, waxy leaves and small flowers. Although they're popular choices for garden beds, many of them grow well in containers, too. They'll even function as a winter-blooming houseplant when you bring them inside for the season!
Tuberous begonias are known for their dramatic display of large, double flowers. Blooming mid-summer through fall, these spectacular blooms are available in bright, neon shades. Their blooms are so big that they tend to droop over, making them perfect for planting in hanging baskets. Tuberous varieties are usually treated as annuals but can be dug up and stored for the winter to be replanted in the spring. They're suitable for both gardens and containers.
Hardy begonias come from a particular species called Begonia grandis. They thrive in shadier locations, making them reliable choices for brightening the darker areas of your garden. However, don't expect big, bold blooms from this resilient species-dainty pink and white flowers are more their style.
Rhizomatous begonias are popular houseplants, chosen for their interesting foliage and low-maintenance qualities. Rex begonias are a popular rhizomatous variety that's also commonly used as a houseplant, but can also be grown in the garden. They're prized for their bold variegated leaves that display unique shades of pink, purple, red, and silver. In fact, they're known to have the showiest foliage of all the varieties!
Aside from their growth pattern, you can find a diverse variety of begonias within each of these categories. You can find both single and double flowers, many different colors, different bloom times, and even trailing begonias perfect for hanging baskets, large planters, or window boxes.
Caring for Outdoor Begonias
There's incredible diversity across the thousands of begonia varieties, so it's essential to take a look at the directions on the packaging of your plants when you first purchase them. Pay attention to their sunlight and moisture needs, as well as their zone hardiness, to ensure you're prepared to care for them properly.
Sunlight requirements vary widely amongst different varieties, from shade-loving all the way up to sun-worshipping. Find a location that gets just the right amount of sunlight for your new plant-or, better yet, tailor your plant choice to your yard's sun situation! In general, fibrous-rooted begonias can tolerate more direct sun than tuberous varieties, which enjoy the cool, morning sun and appreciate afternoon shade. If you're looking for a begonia that will really soak up the North Dakota sun, try a variety with dark leaves or a sun-tolerant specific type.
Whether your growing begonias in pots or planting them in the garden, all varieties grow best in consistently moist, well-draining soils. Without proper drainage, soils will retain too much water and may lead to damaging your plants' roots. Amend soil with organic matter to keep your plants well-nourished. For an extra boost, apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every four weeks or so during the growing season.
Tuberous begonias will start to slow their growth by late summer and naturally die back during the fall. They won't survive our winters here in Bismarck, but you can overwinter them indoors if you dig up the tubers ahead of the first frost and store them properly. Unlike tubers, wax and rhizomatous varieties will continue to flower all year 'round if you overwinter them inside. They just need some light pruning each spring or fall to keep them lush and healthy.
Caring for Indoor Begonias
Growing begonias as houseplants is pretty simple since many of them adapt quite well to container-planting and indoor conditions. Similar to garden begonias, it's best to do some simple research on your particular variety to understand its specific needs. Most varieties enjoy bright, indirect sun, so placing them near east- or west-facing windows is ideal.
Follow a consistent watering schedule for your indoor plants, but allow the soil to dry out slightly in between to avoid the risk of mildew and rot. As long as they're planted in well-draining soils and aren't left sitting in a puddle of water, they'll appreciate a good drench.
When growing begonias in pots, make sure you choose a container that's just large enough for the plant's root system, but with minimal extra space. These cozy houseplants do better when they're slightly rootbound, so avoid re-potting until absolutely necessary.
Word of caution: begonias, like many houseplants, can be poisonous to pets. While you don't have to forego them if your household includes a furry friend, it's wise to keep them out of reach. Lucky for you, there are many trailing begonias varieties to choose from that look great dangling from high-up hanging planters!
With a variety to suit every need and all the care instructions you need right here, it'll be hard not to add a new begonia plant to your living room shelf or backyard garden bed this spring! When you're ready to get going with begonias, stop by and check out our selection here at Plant Perfect!