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Begonia

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  • Indoor Plants
Begonia sp.
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)

Onglets

Botany

Origin and description

The different begonia species are native to tropical and sub-tropical forests in both hemispheres. The many modern hybrids were developed through complex interspecies crosses. Most begonias grow well in shady locations, making them very popular houseplants.

Species, cultivars and related plants

Genus Begoniaincludes 1,500 species and more than 15,000 hybrids and cultivars with a tremendous variety of habits, foliage and blooms. There are upright, trailing, hanging and climbing begonias. A few species and horticultural varieties are commonly grown as houseplants. Several new hybrids that are compact prolific bloomers are grown as annuals in northern gardens.

Cane-stemmed begonias have upright, bamboo-like stems with nodes, and asymmetrical leaves often marked with silver. These old-fashioned begonias are also called angel-wing begonias. There are numerous modern excellent blooming hybrids, including B. 'Lucerna', B. 'Sophie Cecile' and polka-dot begonia (B. maculata).

Rhizomatous begonias grow from a creeping rhizome. They are compact good bloomers. Their leaves come in a wide variety of shapes, textures and colours, from miniature to giant, round or star-shaped, hairy, puckered or smooth, plain green or mottled in various shades of brown. Examples: 'Iron cross' begonia (B. masoniana), castor bean begonia (B. 'Ricinifolia'), beefsteak begonia (B. 'Erythrophylla').

Rex begonias have distinctive decorative wing-, star- or heart-shaped foliage in bright hues of green, pink, burgundy, brown and silver. Examples: Begonia 'Silver Queen', Begonia 'Venetian Red', Begonia 'Escargot'.

Toxicity

Some begonia species may be toxic. As a precaution, keep this plant out of the reach of children and pets.

Common name

Begonia

Latin name (genus)

Begonia spp.

French common name

Botanical family

  • Begoniaceae
Horticulture

Growing conditions

Most begonias require bright, indirect light, warmth (21ºC) and good humidity during the growing period. To increase the room's humidity, set the pot on a pebble tray filled with water or use a humidifier. Do not spray water on the foliage, as this increases the likelihood of fungal disease.

Easy to grow?

Begonias are fairly easy to grow provided they are kept out of drafts, given good humidity and fairly constant temperatures and, above all, not overwatered.

Watering and fertilizer

During the growing season, allow the soil surface to dry out between waterings. Never leave water standing in the saucer. Feed with natural fertilizer (seaweed or fish emulsion). In winter, when days are short and temperatures are cooler, reduce the watering frequency to allow the soil to dry out more deeply and stop feeding.

Pruning and maintenance

During the growing season, cut back leggy stems to a lateral shoot, to keep the plant compact. Because begonias tend to grow toward the light, regularly turn the pot to keep the plant symmetrical.

Repotting

Repot in spring, if necessary, in a light, well-drained potting mix that is rich in organic matter. Pour the soil around the roots and tap the pot lightly to gently firm the soil.

Pests and diseases
Physiological disorders

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