The keys to care-free begonias

The keys to care-free begonias

The beauty of begonias lies in their versatility. They can be found in shrub beds or by themselves in containers. Here are ways to get the most from these pretty annuals.

The keys to care-free begonias
The keys to care-free begonias

The basics on begonias

  • Sun-loving, mound-shaped wax begonias are veterans of containers because they grow to only a height of 30 centimetres (12 inches) or less.
  • They are favourites for edging shrub beds or mixing with other small annuals.
  • These fibrous-rooted plants tolerate shade, drought and humidity and spend the entire season smothered in a wealth of handsome, little open-faced flowers.
  • The waxy, rounded leaves are either deep emerald green or luscious bronze, but they are always half buried beneath snow white, pink, rose or red blossoms with contrasting yellow centres.

The wax begonia in all it’s varieties

There are many different types of wax begonias sold in spring. Here are some popular ones:

  • Look for the Wings mix if you prefer green leaves with a range of flower colours and stunning wide, open-faced single flowers.
  • Try the dwarf Cocktail series for bronze foliage. It grows to18 to 20 centimetres (seven to eight inches) tall.
  • The Queen produces many-petalled, spectacular flowers, which is available in a range of attractive, vibrant colours.

Tuberous Begonia for Outdoors

While wax begonias are the queens of the bedding scene, shade-loving tuberous begonias, with their large, roselike blossoms and deep green, maple-shaped leaves, are head-turning accent plants for beds and containers. Here are some of its best features:

  • They come in many sizes and growth habits.
  • Look for varieties with double blossoms in a solid colour for breathtaking container plants.
  • You can either buy potted plants or start your own from tubers indoors in early spring, setting them just below the surface of moist, peat moss-enriched soil.
  • Set the pots in a sunny window and move them outdoors when the weather is warm.
  • Keep tuberous begonias in partial shade and water them as soon as the soil is dry.
  • Discourage disease by removing shriveled leaves and blossoms.
  • Keep the foliage dry when watering to avoid sunburn and powdery mildew.
  • Remove and dispose of infected leaves and move infected plants to a dry, airy location.
  • To overwinter tubers, allow the soil in the pots to dry in fall, then remove and store the dormant tubers in paper bags filled with dry peat moss in a cool, dark place until it’s time to restart them the following spring.

Types of tuberous begonia

These are some of the more popular tuberous begonias.

  • Pacific Giant has petals edged in another colour.
  • Giant Cascade Doubles yield a shower of 13-centimetre (five-inch) blossoms in red, white, orange, pink or yellow.
  • The 30-centimetre-wide (12-inch-wide) Nonstop hybrids produce masses of double and semi-double five- to eight-centimetre-diameter (two- to three-inch-diameter) blossoms in yellow, orange, red, burgundy and pink virtually all summer.
  • Foliage and cane types, such as ‘President Carnot’, normally grown as house plants, can also be planted in the shade for the summer.

Growing Wax Begonias

  • Wax begonias appreciate fluffy soil enriched with compost or leaf mold.
  • They will flower continuously when fertilized throughout the growing season with a balanced formula, such as 20-20-20, applied every three weeks.
  • Water when the soil dries and trim plants as needed to keep them neatly shaped.
  • Wax begonias are the least susceptible to diseases and insects. If ragged holes appear in leaves, slugs are the likely culprits. Put out commercial traps or shallow saucers of beer, which lure and drown slugs.
  • You can easily increase your stock of wax begonias by rooting eight-centimetre-long (three-inch-long) stem cuttings in a pot of moist potting soil.
  • Dig them up in fall, pot and overwinter indoors on a sunny windowsill to keep your favourite plants from freezing.

The begonia is well known for its beauty. These are some pointers to help your begonias enjoy a long and bountiful summer.

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