Begonia plant (lat. Begonia) belongs to the most famous and the largest genus of the family Begoniaceae. The genus includes about 1,000 species of plants growing in the mountains at an altitude of 9,842 to 13,123 feet above sea level, in tropical rain forests and subtropical areas. Most of the species of begonias can be found in South America. Begonias also grow in the Himalayas, the mountains of India, Sri Lanka, the Malay Archipelago and in West Africa. Moreover, Africa is considered to be a home for begonias from which they spread to Asia and America. Even today more than a third of all species of the genus grow in Africa.
Begonia was discovered and described by monk Charles Plumier, who participated in the expedition to the Antilles to collect plants in the XVII century. He found six species of begonias and named them in honor of his friend Michel Begon, the governor of the island of Haiti. Today begonia flower is one of the most popular plants in the garden, as well as in indoor horticulture. In this article, we will tell you how to care for begonias at home, how to plant begonias, what care conditions for begonias are, how begonia is propagated at home, and give you much more important and interesting information about these beautiful plants.
- 1. Audio article (coming soon)
- 2. Care conditions for indoor begonia
- 3. Care for begonia at home
- 4. Propagation of indoor begonia
- 5. Begonia pests and diseases
- 6. Begonia species and varieties
Care conditions for indoor begonia
In addition to more than 1,000 species of begonias, there are about two million hybrid forms of this plant, so it is very difficult to give a general botanical description of the genus, especially since in different classifications begonias are divided into decorative and deciduous, decorative and flowering, evergreen and deciduous, annual and perennial, tall and creeping, tuberous and rhizomatous. A great number of species and varieties of begonias are known in indoor floriculture. Therefore, at first, we will talk about how to care for the indoor begonia and under what conditions it should be maintained. A description of the plant will be provided in the species and varieties section.
How to care for begonia
Indoor begonia likes permanence. It means you should define its place at home once and for all. It prefers light but without direct sunlight windowsills facing east or west. Flowering begonia especially requires a bright sunlight. In winter and in summer the ideal temperature for the plants is 64ºF, but in summer begonia can tolerate even higher temperatures.
Coming from the tropics, indoor begonia likes high humidity. But it is better not to spray begonia as it may cause brown spots on the leaves. For the plant not to suffer from a dry air, especially in winter times when the heaters are switched on at total power, place the pot with begonia on an inverted tray inserted in a larger tray. Around the smaller tray fill the space with haydite sand and keep it moist all the time. While evaporating the water will create a necessary level of humidity around the plant.
Ornamental begonia does not tolerate tightness, so locating the plant on a windowsill next to the other plants, take into account its maximum size. Begonia needs a regular airing. But the plant may wither and drop off the flowers and leaves as it does not like drafts, as well as too high or too low air temperature.
Pots and soil for begonias
Planting and care for indoor begonia starts with the selection of flowering pot. Begonias need small and preferably ceramic pots 1-1½ inches more in diameter than the root system of plants, since too large pots can make begonias suffer from waterlogging and bloom late. Soil for begonias can be purchased at a flower shop, or you can prepare it on your own by mixing two parts of leaf soil and one part of high-moor peat, sand and compost or sod soil. The optimal substrate acidity should be 5.5-6.5 pH.
When planting begonias one third of the pot should be filled with drainage material, and a layer of charcoal 0.8-1.2 inches thick is placed on the top of it for preventing rot. Then put the begonia with a clod of soil into the pot and fill all the voids with the substrate. After planting, water the begonia. Planting is undertaken in spring, from mid-March, when the amount of light and the duration of daylight are sufficient for plants. Before being planted tuberous begonias should germinate in the boxes without being penetrated into the substrate in a bright place at the temperature of 61-64 ºF and at high humidity of 60-70 %.
Care for begonia at home requires a balanced humidification of plants. Indoor begonia is hygrophilous, but this does not mean that it needs to be watered frequently. Much more important is to create a sufficient level of humidity, otherwise the tips of plant leaves will dry out. Abundant watering is required only during the hot summer days, however, you need to ensure that water does not stagnate in the roots of begonias. For irrigation use water sedimented during a day and of room temperature. The plant requires humidification when the ground dries out to a depth of 0.6 inch. In winter you should reduce watering, and tuberous species do not need watering at all.
Care for begonia at home requires adding fertilizers into a ground. Ornamental flowering begonia species are fertilized starting from the formation of buds two times a month with a liquid complex fertilizer for flowering plants. At the stage of formation of the ovary you should use phosphorus-potassium fertilizers. Ornamental deciduous begonias require the nitrogen fertilizers. If you use nitrogen fertilizers for flowering species, begonias will not bloom.
Care and cultivation of begonias require timely repotting and it should be undertaken in early spring before the beginning of intensive growth. If begonia roots hang out from the drainage holes of the pot, it is time to replant the plant into the pot of larger diameter. Begonia is taken out from the pot and carefully cleaned from old peat, the root system is put for half an hour in a pale pink solution of potassium permanganate. Then you should carefully wash the roots from the remnants of the substrate with the sedimented water, remove rotten areas, let the roots dry out and plant it in a larger pot as described above. Repotted plant is returned to a permanent place, and for the first time it should be frequently watered.
Young begonias tolerate the procedure with ease, but it is much more difficult to replant adult plants because of the excessive brittle leaves. Therefore, when the plant is 3 years old, it should be divided into several parts.
Begonia during winter
The evergreen species of begonias have a weak dormant period, meanwhile tuberous species require a long rest. How to care for begonias in winter? Care for indoor begonia depends on the plant species. Shrubs and ornamental species are kept at the temperature of 59-72 ºF, with a high humidity. To achieve it the heaters are covered with wet towels or humidifiers are used.
Tuberous begonias start preparing for a dormant period from the middle of autumn. Their leaves dry out and die, so watering should be reduced, and when the ground part of the plant withers completely, the pots with tubers are stored in a dark room and kept at the temperature of 50-59 ºF until the end of the winter. Sometimes tuberous begonia does not look like it is going to rest, and if you want the plant to bloom heavily, it is necessary to make it rest: greatly reduce watering and cut off ground part of the plant.
How to propagate begonia
Begonia are propagated by seeds or vegetatively – from leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, by dividing of bush or rhizomes (tuber). It is easier and safer to propagate begonia vegetatively.
Growing begonia from seeds
The process of begonia growing from seeds is not labor intensive and does not take much time. In late February or early March small begonia seeds are sown on the surface of lung loose substrate, without penetrating them into the soil, and then you should keep it in a warm bright place and cover with foil or glass. Watering is carried out in a tray or by spraying. As soon as the shoots appear, the cover is taken away, and when the seedlings develop 3-4 leaves, they are pricked out. In two months seedlings are replanted on separate pots. Begonias grown from the seeds start blooming in a year, but it may require additional lighting.
Begonia propagation by rhizomes (tuber) dividing
Deciduous begonia is propagated by dividing of the rhizomes. To do this you should take the plant from the soil, cut the rhizome with a sharp knife into pieces, each of which must have a root and at least one shoot or bud. The cuts should be processed with powdered charcoal, and after that pieces of rhizomes are planted into separate pots.
Begonia tuber can also be divided into parts and when the cuts get slightly dried and processed with powdered charcoal, the pieces can be planted into separate pots.
Begonia propagation from cuttings
Begonia propagation from cuttings is one of the easiest vegetative ways of propagation. Cuttings with 3-4 leaves are cut from the plant, the edges are processed with the powdered charcoal to prevent rot. After that the cuttings are planted into the substrate of sand, peat and leaf soil in equal parts and stored in a bright warm place protected from direct sunlight. The cuttings of begonias are watered moderately since the substrate should have time to dry out to a depth of 0.4-0.8 inch. Rooting can be conducted simply in water. Roots from cuttings appear during the month.
Begonia propagation from leaf cutting
Since many species of begonias have large and thick leaves, they can be propagated by leaf cuttings, using a whole sheet or only a part of it. To propagate begonia by whole leaf you should incise main veins, place the lower part of the leaf on pre-tempered damp sand and fix it in this position. Humidification is carried out through the soil trail. In two months new roots appear on the place of vein cuts, and then the new plants grow. When small begonias get stronger and begin growing, they are separated and planted into the substrate consisting of equal parts of peat, sand and leaf soil.
At home, begonia can be attacked by aphids, nematodes and red spider mite. Aphids and mites suck plant cell sap spoiling begonia look and hindering its development. To get rid off the aphids and red spider mites you should apply insecticides. There is no treatment from the nematodes that discolor begonia leaves and form warts on the roots. An infested plant should be removed and destroyed.
Among the diseases that affect begonia there are botrytis, gray rot, false or true powdery mildew, black root rot. To treat the plant with these diseases you should use fungicides like Bordeaux mixture or any other drug of similar action. But sometimes begonias can get affected by bacterial or viral diseases like cucumber mosaic, bacterial wilt of tomato or spotting. There are no treatments from these diseases, so the plant will have to be destroyed.
Begonia diseases are not the only problem that may occur. Sometimes the plant leaves suddenly get dried. It can be caused by too high temperature and lack of soil moisture and air humidity. Water the plant and place it at cooler place, making a tray with moist haydite sand, as described above in this article.
Begonia gets yellow
Sometimes begonia leaves have yellow spots or rings that can be the symptoms of cucumber mosaic or mottling of tomato. Diseased plants are destroyed. If leaves turn yellow and get wilted, and then it means that it is cold for begonias, and in the ground there is too much of moisture. Let the soil dry out and place the plant at warmer place.
There is no unified classification of begonias, but in the literature you can find conventional options of begonia species classification, for example, decorative and deciduous, decorative and flowering, or, classifications based on the characteristics of the underground part – rhizomatous, tuberous begonia and begonia with shallow root system. Also you can find the begonia classification by such groups: decorative and deciduous, bushy and tuberous. But more frequently begonia species are divided into:
- bush begonias with bamboo-like upright shoots;
- begonias with thin and flexible flaccid or creeping shoots;
- species with thick rhizomatous lodge or lying shoots;
- species that are the ancestors of flowering hybrids.
В комнатном цветоводстве удобней пользоваться такой классификацией бегоний:
- ornamental and flowering indoor begonias;
- ornamental and deciduous indoor begonias;
- ornamental and flowering potted begonias.
We offer you the names of begonia species that are the most common in the floriculture of house plants with their brief description, and the names of begonia varieties, related to these species. Deciduous begonia, or leaf begonia is represented in the indoor floriculture by such species:
King begonia (Begonia rex)
comes from the East India. This is one of the most beautiful begonias and it is a parent for numerous ornamental and deciduous varieties and hybrids. It has a thickened rhizome and beautiful, large, bare or slightly pubescent leaves up to 12 inches long and up to 8 inches wide of asymmetric heart shape with wavy or uneven jagged margins and of bronze-brown, velvety crimson or red-violet color, which are sometimes decorated with red and purple or silvery spots. There are hybrids with almost black leaves that have crimson spots. This species blooms with plain pink flowers. The best varieties of king begonias are:
- Cartagena is a variety with dark green rounded leaves, wrapped seashell. Light brown mid-leaf of the plant becomes of plum shade as it grows. Green leaf background is covered with patches of silvery color with a pinkish glow;
- Silver Green Heart is a plant with silver leaves of oblique heart shape and with emerald-green margins in silver splashes;
- Chocolate Cream is a variety with helically twisted leaves. The middle of the leaf has juicy plum hue, and the main part of the leaf is of silvery color with a pink tinge;
- Evening Glow is a variety with leaves of an average size. Greenish-brown veins diverge from the bright crimson center of the leaf. The margin of a leaf surface is crimson;
- Hallelujah is a variety with large, pale purple with a silvery hue leaves that are helically twisted in petioles. The center and the margins of the leaf surface are of cherry color, and between them there is a wide bright green strip, heavily covered with silvery spots.
Besides of above described species, such varieties and hybrids of the King begonia are also popular: Lillian, Pearl de Paris, Red Tango, Regal Minuet, Titiсa, Silver Corkscrew, Benitochiba, Black Fang, Dewdrop, November Frost, Charm, and many others;
Eyelash Begonia (Begonia bowerae)
or Begonia Boweri, comes from Mexico. This is a low plant that reaches no more than 10 inches in height with creeping stems and leaves of light green color with black or brown spots on the margins. The underside of the leaf is pubescent. Light pink plain flowers are collected in loose drooping inflorescence. This species almost does not occur in the wild, but thanks to breeders and with the help of hybridization a lot of very showy varieties were created. The best varieties of Eyelash begonia are:
- Tiger is a plant with creeping stems, reaching a height of 4 inches. Leaves are velvety, bronze with the pattern, there is a brown stripe along the veins, the petioles are reddish and spotty;
- Cleopatra is a variety with leaves covered with light hairs that change color depending on the lighting, the underside of the leaf is red or burgundy.
Coral Begonia (Begonia corallina)
is a plant of semi-bushy shape that comes from the Brazilian rainforest. At home it reaches a height of about 3 feet. The stems of this species are erect, bare, bamboo-like. The leaves are with serrated margins, oblong, ovate, up to 8 inches tall and up to 3 inches wide. The upper side of the leaf surface is dark green with silvery spots, underside is light green. Flowers on coral stalks are collected in the carpal inflorescences. The best-known varieties are:
- Lucerna is a plant with large green leaves with serrated margins, the upper side of the leaf surface is covered with silvery spots. The underside is red;
- President Carnot is a variety with shield-like leaves that are dissected at the base of the leaf and have slightly serrated margins. Leaves are 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. There are whitish spots on the green background of the leaves.
Hand Begonia (Begonia carolineifolia)
or Begonia caroliniifolia is one of the oldest indoor plants taken from Mexico. It has creeping stems of about 1½ inches thick and large, located on the yellow-green petioles palmately parted leaves of up to 14 inches in length with a clear veining. The flowers are greenish-pink, gathered in loose racemose inflorescences, blooming in February.
Besides of above described species, the following species of ornamental deciduous begonia are also in great demand: begonia Masoniana, striped begonia, star-leaf begonia, metal-leaf begonia, polka dot begonia, Begonia boweri, beefsteak begonia, yellow-flowered begonia, shrimp begonia, begonia minor, imperial begonia and many others.
Ornamental flowering begonias are represented by the following species:
Wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens)
is a small bush-like plant, reaching a height of 2 feet with erect shoots at a young age, and the adult plants grow in the hanging pots or vases. The leaves of this species of begonias are round, slightly pubescent on the edge, up to 2 inches long, light green, dark green, sometimes with a reddish tinge. Simple or double flowers of white, pink or red color, up to 0.8 inches in diameter are collected in the short-lived blossoms, quickly fading, but immediately replaced by another flower. If you provide a good care for wax begonia with sufficient lighting and nutrition, it will bloom even in winter. The best varieties of this species are:
- Gustav Knaake is a sprawling shrub up to 12 inches high with green leaves and red margins, the flowers are bright carmine up to 1 inch in diameter, collected in inflorescence;
- Karmen is a begonia of an average height and with numerous pink flowers, leaves are brown with anthocyanins;
- Ambra is a plant up to 6 inches high with brown leaves and pink flowers up to 1 inch in diametre;
- Bicola is a shrub up to 5½ inches high with green leaves and white flowers with pinkish edges;
- Orania is a compact shrub up to 6 inches high, leaves are green with red edges, the flowers are orange-red.
Also the following varieties of wax begonia are very popular: Leila, Bella, Lucifer, Rosanova, Scarlet, Linda, Albert Martin, Ball Red, Othello, Kathe Teisher and many others.
Begonia elatior (Begonia x elatior)
is the brightest and the most heavily flowering hybrid plant and an absolute favorite among the potted begonias. It is not more than 16 inches high, it has a thick fleshy stem and regular heart-shaped leaves up to 3 inches long with a jagged edge. The upper side of the leaves is glossy, bright green, the underside of the leaf is mat and lighter than the upper side. The flowers are gathered in inflorescences on long peduncles. The most popular varieties are:
- Schwabenland is a tall variety blooming heavily with small bright red flowers;
- Renaissance is a polypetalous begonia. It is tall and its red flowers have crimped petals;
- Louise is a variety with light cream-colored flowers of a pinkish tinge;
- Piccora is a low begonia with double flowers of bright pink color;
- Rose is a variety with dark-green double flowers.
Also the following varieties of begonia elatior are popular: Kyoto, Cleo, Goldfinger, Annebell, Azotus, Bellona, Berlin and many others.
Pendant begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida pendula)
is often grown in gardens and as decoration of terraces and balconies. It is characterized by trailing pendant shoots with numerous flowers. Pendant begonia is planted in hanging pots, baskets and pots. The varieties of this species can have simple, semi-double, double and polypetalous flowers of white, red, pink, yellow and orange color, as well as there are various combinations of varieties. The flowers may be small, medium-sized and large. Here are some of the best varieties of pendant begonias:
- Girl is a sprawling shrub with long hanging shoots up to 12 inches long with pointed serrated green leaves and semi-double pale pink flowers up to 1 inch in diameter;
- Kristy is a sprawling shrub with weak hanging shoots up to 16 inches long and white double flowers up to 1½ inches in diametre;;
- Rocsana is a compact shrub with hanging shoots up to 16 inches long with orange double flowers up to 1½ inches in diametre;
- Kati is a sprawling shrub with weak hanging shoots up to 12 inches long and semi-double yellow flowers up to 1 inch in diametre.
Among ornament flowering begonias the following hybrid varieties are popular today:
- Arlecin is a sprawling shrub up to 10 inches high with green leaves and double flowers with a diameter up to 5 inches of yellow color and a red edge;
- Gold Platier is a semi sprawling shrub up to 10 inches high with light green leaves and rose-like polypetalous yellow-colored flowers up to 8 inches in diametre.
- Dark Red is a semi sprawling shrub up to 6 inches high with bright green foliage and dark red double pion-like flowers up to 4 inches in diametre with wide petals;
- Camelia Flora is a compact shrub up to 10 inches high with green leaves and pink thea-like flowers up to 5 inches in diameter with imbricated petals and white border;
- Crispa Marginata is a shrub 6 inches high with folded green leaves, with thin purple lines and white flowers with a diameter of up to 5 inches. The flowers are broad with a bright pink border and heavily corrugated wavy side lobes;
- Ami Jean Bard is a shrub up to 5 inches high with green leaves and small buds of 5 double flowers of orange color and up to 1 inch in diametre;
- Diana Wynyard is a compact begonia up to 8 inches high with light green foliage and polypetalous white flowers in diameter of up to 8 inches and with wavy folded petals;
- Marmorata is a semi sprawling shrub up to 8 inches in diametre with scarlet double flowers of up to 5 inches in diameter and with white strokes;
- Feuerflamme is a shrub up to 8 inches high with green leaves with crimson veins and semi-double orange-pink flowers with a diameter up to 1 inch.