March 2007
White Begonia
(Begonia popenoei)
Begonia popenoei, also called simply the White Begonia, is a terrific garden performer that is native to Central America. Its leaves are dinner plate in size, and a mound of these leaves on a mature plant will stand 3.5 feet tall. In late winter, B. popenoei sends out white panicles of flowers that stand a foot above the foliage.

The White Begonia is a rhizomatous plant. It tolerates quite a lot of direct sunlight, however you may feel more comfortable giving it a break from the hottest summer afternoon sun. You can also plant it in bright light in a shady area and it will perform very well.

At the February Propagation Party, attendees were fortunate enough to propagate
B. popenoei through rhizome cuttings. As with other begonias, make sure there is plenty of organic matter in the soil and mulch around the plant. Fertilize with Dynamite (much better suited to our warm climate than Osmocote) or a quality palm fertilizer, using care to prevent granules from resting on leaves or atop rhizomes. Occasional sprinklings of a mild liquid fertilizer is okay, and adding a tablespoon of epsom salt ensures excellent green leaf coloration.
Doris Happel's White Begonia in full bloom. She actually grows this species in full sun successfully.
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