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Growing Begonias – The Showy Houseplant with Amazing Flowers and Leaves

Begonias are a very popular plant worldwide. They are used as bedding plants and can also be grown as indoor plants. There are lots of different leaf types, colors and flower formations. Growing begonias is a little bit of a challenge but you should do fine as long as you follow a few tips.Begonias are very popular worldwide. The flower in the shade outdoors and are easy to grow as indoor plants. The flowers on them are amazing!

Tips for Growing Begonias.

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Tuberous begonias are native to the Andes Mountains of South America. The climate is humid and has cool night temperatures. This gives us an idea as to their care. They are a bit finicky to grow but well worth the effort. Bedding begonias are more commonly found and quite easy to grow.

If you love to grow flowering houseplants, tuberous begonias are one of the showiest of indoor plants, both for their flowers and also their pretty leaves.

Types of plants

There are basically two types of begonias. Some are grown from seeds and the others are grown from tubers.  Seed started begonias tend to be small and are a bit harder to grow indoors. They are often used as bedding plants in outside borders.

Common bedding begonias

Begonias grown from tubers are more tolerant indoors and grow into larger plants.  Both types of begonias come in a wide variety of colors from white through to pink, purple, yellow and red. There are over 1,000 varieties of tuberous begonia’s which can be divided into 2 different categories; upright or hanging.double flower tuberous begonia

Light requirements

The fact that begonias like shade outdoors makes them ideal for growing inside.  If you do plant them outdoors, be sure to avoid direct sunlight. Indoors place them near a window that gets bright filtered light. Early morning sun in an east facing window works well.  They also grow well indoors under grow lights. All sorts of containers will work for indoor begonias, even old collanders!Potted tuberous begonia

Soil, Moisture and Fertilization

 

Moisture Needs

Begonias are great for terrariums

Photo credit Pinterest

Begonias like to dry out a bit between watering.  Like most other plants that don’t like heavy watering, just let the plant dry out to down about the first finger joint when inserted into the soil. If it is dry there, feel free to water. Because of their humidity needs, begonias are ideal for growing indoors in terrariums.  

Soil Requirements

peat moss

Photo credit Wilkimedia Commons

A well draining soil mix is a must.  Begonias do not like wet feet and will easily drop leaves if they are over watered. (This also makes them susceptible to fungal diseases.) A good mix of soil is 2/3 peat moss and 1/3 potting mixture. (soil free is best)  Outdoors, growing begonias means adding lots of organic matter to the soil. Begonias benefit from an acidic soil, which the peat moss gives it. Adding some used coffee grounds to the soil will work wonders for begonias.

Fertilizing

A balanced fertilizer with a 20-20-20 ratio is best. It will nurture both the leaves and the flowers. Liquid fertilizer in your watering can works well for indoor plants.

Leaves and Flowers

Leaf Formation

The leaves of begonias have almost as much interest as the flowers do.  The common outdoor type of begonia (also called Ice Begonias) have glossy, small leaves. Tuberous begonias have more interesting leaves.

Begonias have a tendency to become leggy. Pinch the tip of branches to promote a bushier growth. tuberous begonia leaves

Many tuberous begonias are grown FOR their leaves.  Unlike the shiny leaves of bedding ice begonias, most tuberous begonias have slightly fuzzy or patterned leaves. Some, like the Dragon Wing Begonia is very large and light green with speckles on it. Sizes of the leaves can range from ½ inch to 1 foot!Dragon wing begonia

Others, like the Rex Begonia, are grown for the dramatic color that the leaves have.  Flowers are sometimes less of factor in these plants, although all do flower.Red Kiss Rex Begonia

And the Iron Cross begonia has a Majestic leaf pattern with a cross design. Who cares what the flower looks like when you have a leaf like this?

Iron cross begonia

Photo credit Wikimedia Commons

Flower Types

The sky is the limit with the beauty of begonia flowers. There are single flowers, and doubles. Plants are one color or have more than one color in the blooms.  Some are solid and others have rimmed edges.  Many are straight edges and others are frilly.  Whatever the flower type, they all have one thing in common – They are stunningly beautiful.pink edged begonia flower

The flowers can sit low atop the plants on some varieties, like bedding plants. On others, the flowers can be up to 8 inch, very showy, and will bloom from summer to fall. One of their greatest attributes outdoors is that they will bloom in the shade.tuberous begonia flowers

Tuberous begonia flowers are often held up on very tall stalks that sit above the leaves so that both are shown to their best advantage. Most begonias are self cleaning and don’t require deadheading.. 

Hanging basket begonia

Photo credit Amazon

Some tuberous begonia varieties have a cascading habit that makes them ideal for hanging baskets.

Hardiness 

All types of begonias are considered annuals outdoors, unless you live in very warm climates.  Indoors they will grow as a perennial and come back year after year.

I have begonias growing outside in the summer, and then in the fall I either take cuttings or bring the whole plant indoors to use as a house plant. They do have a dormancy period in the winter months, so go light on watering during this time.

They can even be left with no water in a non freezing spot for the winter if you wish.Begonia sizemoreae

You can also dig up the begonia tubers and bring them indoors for the winter. Let them dry out and store them in a cool place covered in peat moss until you are ready to plant again in the spring. 

Begonias like the heat both indoors and out.  The ideal temperature for them is 72º F is ideal, but slightly higher or lower temperatures are fine, too. 

Propagation

Propagate begonias by taking cuttings in the spring. Plants can also be divided when they are dormant, or when the shoots of plants are still small. To take cuttings, slice along the stem of a begonia and remove any flowers.

This piece of plant below will make several new plants.  Just dip the tips of the stems in rooting powder and place in a light seed starting mix. Roots will form in a few weeks and growth in a few more. The white lines in the photo below show where to make cuts and the pink lines show what to discard.cuttings of begonias

Pests

Pests are not so much of a problem for indoor begonia plants but some care is needed for those grown outdoors. Mealy bugs is the most common pest found indoors.  A Q tip dipped in rubbing alcohol will take care of them easily.  When growing begonias outdoors, use egg shells as a barrier for slugs and snails by placing them around the base of the plants.Egg shells round begonias make great slug and snail barriers.

Begonia plants are susceptible to various forms of fungi and bacteria. The right humidity and good airflow is essential to maintaining healthy plants.

Follow these growing tips for begonias and you will end up with a showcase of amazing flowers and leaves both indoors and out.

What luck have you had growing begonias?  Did you find them difficult to grow?

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Vicki

Thursday 18th of March 2021

Hi, any suggestions which plants grow well alongside begonias indoors? I wanted to pot with a fern but will it kill the begonias?

Carol Speake

Thursday 18th of March 2021

Other plants won't kill begonias. It is just important to group them with plants that need similar light conditions. Any plant that does well in filtered light can grow with begonias indoors.

Ellen Goodnight

Friday 19th of February 2021

This was a very helpful article. . .but of course, I have another question. I took cuttings from a Vermillion Red Hiemalis Begonia. that was a prolific bloomer in my house near an east facing window for the past 2 years. I repotted the mother plant to a bigger pot about 2 months ago. It is growing very well, but I don't have any blooms. Do begonias need to be root bound in their pots before they bloom?

The cuttings I took rooted very well, and all of them are now potted and growing well. Can I start giving all of them a fertilizer to bloom now, or should I wait. If so when. They have been potted for about 3 months. I have used a Bat Guano fertilizer in the past. What I dream of doing is to give the new plants, in bloom to friends.

Carol Speake

Sunday 21st of February 2021

It can take 12 to 14 weeks for a tuberous begonia to bloom after the tubers are planted

Jennifer

Friday 13th of November 2020

I have a Iron Cross begonia in Southern California. Should I keep it outside? How low can temperatures go? Will it die back then reemerge in the spring? That is, should I expect the Iron Cross to lose all it's leaves and basically die out, but keep it around because it will come back like bulbs? I want to make sure I am not misunderstanding your article. Thanks

Carol Speake

Saturday 14th of November 2020

Iron cross begonias are only cold hardy in zones 10 and 11. If the temperature goes below 55 degrees F at any time, it can kill the plant. Most people grow it as a house plant. It is not as hardy as a bulb. Bulbs are intended to withstand low temperatures. Iron cross begonia is not.

Sonja Young

Thursday 10th of September 2020

Good day from South Africa! We've recently relocated to another province and with the moving of our goods and my plants, my begonia "died" as it was not looked after (our goods were in storage because of the lockdown) I was very sad as this plant came from my mom's original plant and which was probably about 60+ years old. However, in the small little bit that was left of the stem I saw life! A fine, very small mini-me leave appeared... But that's it!

We have spring here now, and high humidity, lots of rain during summer months, high temperatures too!

How do I or what can I do to help this little prem begonia to grow again???

Regards

Sonja

Carol Speake

Thursday 10th of September 2020

Trying to get a plant back from being in storage is very difficult if not impossible. Normal watering and care with sun on the small piece is the only thing to try.

Gisa

Monday 31st of August 2020

How often can I water and add fertiliser to my flower

Carol Speake

Tuesday 1st of September 2020

Hi Gisa. It depends on the flower. For most plants I water when the soil is dry down about 1 inch and fertilize once a month during the spring and summer. But some plants are different, so it depends entirely on what you are watering

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