|Begonias (genus Begonia) are flowering perennial herbs, shrubs or climbing plants with fleshy leaves and stems. These leaves are often magnificently colored and textured. Begonia flowers range in color from the usual pinks and whites to scarlet red, salmon/orange, and yellow. The name begonia honors the French botanist Michel Begon.
Begonias are among the largest of the flowering plant families. There are well over 1500 species known. They are native of sub-tropical and tropical regions such as Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa and southeastern Asia. The begonia family (Begoniaceae) is closely related to the cucumber family (Curcubitaceae).
Chinese gardeners were growing a begonia species (B. grandis) as early as 1400, and was introduced into Japan in 1641.The first begonia (B. minor) was introduced to Western horticulturists at Kew in England in 1777. Although no records of their first arrival into North America are known, evidence shows many begonias State-side starting in the 1850s.
The modern-day love of hybridizing begonias for colorful foliages and pretty blooms grew from then on, and today there are over 12,000 cultivars of begonias!
|January's sunlight shines down on the flowers of the Grape-Leaf Begonia (Begonia reniformis)|
|The American Begonia Society (ABS) groups begonias into eight broad categories: cane, rex, rhizomatous, semperflorens, shrub-like, thick-stemmed, tuberous and trailing/scandent. Of these, all grow well outdoors in south Florida with the exceptions of rex and tuberous (they don't like our hot temperatures). Begonias will not handle freezing temperatures.
Most begonias need a well-drained soil and a bright light exposure (although a few tolerate direct sunlight). Dappled/high shade under taller pines and trees is an excellent environment.
Adequate water and fertilizer is necessary, but over-watering will cause rotting of roots, stems and leaves. Begonias appreciate moisture and humidity, but will not handle dry or soggy ground. Mulching is key to keeping these plants well in our sandier soils.
|Begonias propagate quite easily. You can plant seeds or, most commonly, make cuttings. All begonias tend to cross-pollinate and hybridize, so by planting seeds you will obtain a new variety with characteristics of both parents. Propagating by cuttings ensures an exact duplicate of your favorite plant as well as a shorter amount of time before a large plant grows.
Propagation tends to work best during the warm months (March-Sept.) and when days are long. However, you can propagate at other times with extra care and patience.
Cane, some thick-stemmed, and some shrub-like begonias can be propagated by stalk cuttings. Ideally, make these cuttings at the tip of the host plant. Then plant this cutting about 1-2 nodes deep into a container of peat-based potting medium. Make sure one to three of the nodes on the cutting remain above the soil. Keep the cuttings moist, but never wet/soggy.
Rhizomatous begonias are perhaps the most versatile when it comes to propagating. You can use leaves, leaf wedges (smaller cuttings of one leaf), or the rhizome itself! Plant pieces of rhizome just on top of the soil with the plant eyes (new shoot nubs) facing upwards and keep the soil around it moist. Leaf wedges should include a main vein and be tucked into one-half inch of growing medium. Plantlets will sprout on the wedges at the soil line. Entire leaves, with their petioles (leaf stem) attached and planted one-half inch into soil, also results in a new begonia plant.
|This species, Begonia U402, has dainty flowers
that greet the autumn, winter and spring.