Begonias are great plants for gardeners on a budget

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Begonia 'Bossa Nova' Formula Mix. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia 'Bossa Nova' Formula Mix. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofAll types of begonias are easy to grow and are reliable, free-flowering, and low-maintenance. Many thrive in the garden and are perfect for patios, while others make excellent house plants. They are the backbone of the flower garden and perfect for those difficult areas which receive shade and some sun. Find out more about growing them below.

 

Begonias are truly the backbone of the flower garden and are very free-flowering. They are available as small compact plants which are perfect for flower borders, and the taller growing types are great in the middle of the flower border. The large upright or trailing types are stunning in containers and hanging baskets, as well as in garden beds.

Begonia 'Planet' Mix. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia 'Planet' Mix. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia ‘Rex’ and Begonia 'Gryphon' are grown for their colourful tropical-looking leaves, which often have amazing patterns, and Begonia x tuberhybrida are grown for their beautiful flowers. These begonias are popular house plants but in warm, frost-free areas they thrive in garden beds and in pots on secluded patios.

Garden begonias are available in various shapes and sizes, and the flowers come in many beautiful single or bi-coloured shades of pink, white, red, orange, and yellow. They will flower all season long, until the first frosts, and in warm climates they can bloom all year round, and their attractive waxy leaves, which can be green or bronze, are an added bonus.

Begonias belong to the Begoniaceae family and there are over 1,500 known species of annuals, perennials, shrubs and climbers. They are native to the moist, tropical and subtropical regions of all the continents, except for Australia

Begonia 'Baby Wings' Pink. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia 'Baby Wings' Pink. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBedding Begonia, Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)

These popular, compact plants grow +-20 to 25cm tall and have beautiful green or bronze foliage. The flowers vary in size, depending on the variety, and can be white or various shades of pink and red, and many are available with bicoloured flowers. The Latin name “semperflorens” means ever-flowering, as they bloom from late spring to the first frosts, and in frost-free regions they can bloom almost all year. In cold, frosty gardens they are planted as summer annuals.

They vary in size, and the very compact dwarf types can be used as an edging for flower beds and do well in pots and hanging baskets. The larger varieties can grow +-30 to 40cm tall and can be used to fill in the middle section a flower bed, and if planted in large groups they create a wonderful, long lasting show of colour.

Begonia ‘Baby Wings’

These little upright mounded plants are summer annuals which grow +-38cm tall and 30cm wide. They are available in various shades of pink, red and white and the foliage can be green or bronze. Because they are extremely heat tolerant and stand up well in stressful conditions, they are ideal for both garden beds and containers.

Begonia GL 'Ceres' Pink. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia GL 'Ceres' Pink. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia ‘Planet’

This selection of summer annuals has a mixture of bronze and green-leaved varieties, and these little upright, mounded plants grow +-38cm tall and 30cm wide. They are available in various shades of pink, red and white, and because they are extremely heat tolerant and stand up well in stressful conditions, they are ideal for both garden beds and containers.

Begonia RL 'Eris’

These annual begonias have bronze leaves and are perfect partners to the green-leaved Ceres begonias, putting on a season-long show of colour. The little upright, mounded plants grow +-25cm tall and 20cm wide, and are available in various shades of pink, red, and white.

Begonia GL 'Ceres’

This annual begonia has green leaves and is smothered in blooms all season long. It is a perfect partner for the bronze-leaved Eris begonias. It is specifically selected for South African conditions and grows +-25cm tall and 20cm wide.

Begonia 'Sprint Plus' Orange Bicolour. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia 'Sprint Plus' Orange Bicolour. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia ‘Sprint Plus’

This annual begonia has green leaves and flowers profusely all summer long. It is the most uniform Begonia semperflorens series on the market and is available in gorgeous single colours and bi-colours, in shades of pink, red, orange and white.

Begonia ‘Big’

This summer annual is a stunning landscape begonia which boasts both bronze and green-leaf varieties for a colourful show, and its large 5 to 7cm flowers are held above the glossy leaves on upright arching plants, +-60cm tall and 38cm wide. The large flowers come in shades of pink and red, making a bold statement in the garden when planted in large drifts, and are stunning in large containers and hanging baskets.

Begonia ‘Megawatt’

This bi-annual with its lush foliage and pink or red flowers grows +-71cm tall and is available in green or bronze-leaved varieties. It performs well in the heat and flowers non-stop throughout summer, making it perfect for garden beds, containers and hanging baskets. 

Begonia 'Dragon Wings' Pink. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia 'Dragon Wings' Pink. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia ‘Dragon Wings’

This bi-annual begonia is a classic garden favourite with its green leaves and gorgeous red or pink flowers, and it delivers excellent garden performance across a wide range of conditions. It grows to a height of +-38cm with a spread of 45cm, and its beautifully arching, pendulous habit makes it perfect for hanging baskets and containers, as well as garden beds.

Begonia ‘Bossa Nova’

Bring the bright colours of carnival to your containers with Bossa Nova. It is available in both bronze and green-leaved varieties and is very free-flowering with a bright range of colours like orange, red, rose pink, yellow, and white. This well branched cascading annual grows +-40cm tall 50cm wide and looks amazing in a large container or hanging basket, either singly or as part of a combo.

Rhizomatous begonias like Begonia ‘Rex’ and Begonia 'Gryphon' are grown for their colourful tropical-looking leaves, which often have amazing patterns, and Begonia x tuberhybrida is grown for its beautiful flowers. These begonias are popular house plants but can be grown outdoors in frost-free regions in a secluded, shady garden bed, or in pots on a patio. 

Members can click here to read more about Begonia 'Rex'

Members can click here to read more about Begonia 'Gryphon'

Members can click here to read more about Begonia x tuberhybrida

Begonia 'Big' Bronze Leaf Rose. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia 'Big' Bronze Leaf Rose. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofCultivation/Propagation:

In frost-free and subtropical climates many types of begonias can go on and on for years and are grown as evergreen bi-annual or perennial plants, which are pruned down when they have finished blooming to encourage bushiness and re-blooming. In cold climates which experience frost in winter begonias are treated as summer annuals, but the bigger growing types can be overwintered in large pots, or in sheltered parts of the garden.

Although begonias will grow in quite a lot of shade they flower best in positions where they receive dappled or bright shade, in deep shade they become leggy and less floriferous. Varieties with green leaves will tolerate more shade than those with bronze leaves

Plant them in rich, well-drained soil, and water regularly, but don’t over water. Try not to wet the leaves if they get morning sun as this can burn them. Begonias are heavy feeders and for those growing in garden beds a regular fertilising every 4 to 6 weeks with water soluble fertilisers for flowering plants, mixed at half the recommended strength, will keep them blooming beautifully. Potted plants will need more frequent feeding, either monthly or fortnightly. Frequent pinching back of the plants results in fuller plants and also encourages more blooms.

Begonia RL 'Eris' Mix. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia RL 'Eris' Mix. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofAlthough they look at their best when watered regularly, once established, begonias can tolerate mild drought conditions due to the reserves in their thick, fleshy stems and leaves. In the very hot summer months it is important to mulch around the plants as this helps to keep the roots cool and significantly reduces evaporation.

Space the plants correctly to allow good air flow between them as this will reduce the chance of any diseases taking hold of the plant.

Many types like the bedding varieties can be grown from seed but the easiest way to propagate begonias is from cuttings, making them great plants for gardeners on a budget. Seed can be sown into seedling trays and germinates well in soil temperatures between 23 to 26°C. The seeds are extremely small and need light to germinate so do not cover them with soil. Germination will take 14 to 21 days and the plants will start blooming about 14 to 18 weeks after sowing. The rhizomatous species are easy to propagate by division of the rhizomes and from stem or leaf cuttings.

Begonia 'Megawatt' Red Bronze Leaf. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofBegonia 'Megawatt' Red Bronze Leaf. Picture courtesy Ball StraathofPests & Diseases:

No serious insect or disease problems affect begonias, but watch out for caterpillars, mealybugs and thrips.

Begonias can be susceptible to fungal diseases like bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew, blight and stem and crown rots. Fungal diseases are prevalent when conditions are too wet or too humid to allow for appropriate drying out of the leaves. To help prevent fungal diseases, water early in the morning to allow the leaves to dry out before nightfall, and ensure that the plants are correctly spaced and have good air flow around the leaves.

Warning:

There are more than 500 kinds of begonias, all of which are considered non-poisonous, and begonias are commonly listed as acceptable indoor and outdoor plants which are safe to have around children and pets.