BEGONIA CULTURE

Begonias are found primarily in Africa, South and Central American and Asia. The genus Begonia was named in honor of Michael Begon, a Superintendent of Santo Domingo from 1638 to 1710. Begonias are easy to grow. Attention to watering, fertilizing, grooming and periodic maintenance will help ensure a healthy plant whether they are grown in the landscape, indoors on a windowsill or under lights.

Begonia Classifications

Rhizomatous (Thick Stemmed) - The largest group. Growth habits range from creeping to upright. Leaf sizes vary from 1/2 inch to 18 inches or larger, with various textures, shapes, colors and patterns. Primarily late winter and spring bloomers.

Cane -Erect to semi-erect smooth bamboo like stems. Leaves are a solid green to a a red coloration, some with spots and splashes. They have long lasting pendulous flowers. Many canes flower year round.

Semperflorens - Abundant everblooming flowers. Common name is Wax Begonia. Bushy, compact growers, with leaf colors ranging from green, bronzy-red, dark mahogany and variegated. Good year round bedding plant.

Rex Cultorum - Exotic foliage. Leaves range from solid colors with a metallic cast to streaked, spotted, bordered and splashed with various colors. Spiral or non-spiral leaves vary in length 3 to 12 inches. Growth habits range from creeping to upright and branching. Leaf textures and shapes vary. Sporadic bloomers.

Shrub Like - Known for interesting foliage. A free branching plant growing from 1 foot to over 6 feet. Leaves vary in size from 1 inch to over 8 inches with many textures. They have a seasonal blooming habit.

Tuberous or Semi-Tuberous - They are characterized by a swollen base or tuber. Some go completely dormant. Semi-Tuberous can be grown in South Florida. They are a bushy to compact plant with swollen stems beginning at the roots. They have interesting shapes and textures. Seasonal bloomers.

Thick Stemmed - Stout, gradually tapering thick stems which seldom branch. The many textured leaves are medium to large and dull to shiny. They are seasonal bloomers.

Trailing Scandant - Cascading habit or climbing varieties. A vining growth habit with long free branching stems. Leaves are small to large. Seasonal flower show.

The most common flower colors of begonias are - cream. white, pink, orange and red plus various shades of each.

Begonias can be grown indoors by placing your plant near a window or door that is well lit during the day. The ideal location to display and maintain your begonia is outside in a shade structure, landscape, pool or patio area, weather permitting. Rexes and some rhizomatous begonias can be grown indoors on a windowsill, under lights and terrariums.

WATERING

Watering depends on your particular growing environment. You must also consider: the soil mixture, the size of the plant, time of year, temperatures, and humidity. Watering should be done early in the morning. Consequently, the plant is given the opportunity to dry out the rest of the day, making it less susceptible to disease. The roots like to stay moist and the leaves dry. Begonias do not like wet feet. A general rule of thumb is to water when the surface of the soil feels dry, than water thoroughly. On warm or windy days and additional watering in the afternoon maybe required in open landscape areas. Dormant or semi-dormant begonias should be given small amounts of water.

FERTILIZING

The proper nourishment will promote better growth and a healthy plant. Fertilizing needs to be done on a regular basis. A Begonia plant's nutritional requirements can be met by slow release fertilizers. Slow release fertilizers are perfect for all Begonias whether they are in containers or the landscape. Begonias require a smaller concentration of fertilizer in the winter. Dormant and semi-dormant plants are never fertilized.

TEMPERATURE & HUMIDITY

Temperatures between 60 degrees and 85 degrees F are ideal. The humidity should be between 40% to 60% for most begonias. Proper air circulation is essential for good cultivation. Winter temperatures may require the grower to provide added protection.

LIGHT & SHADE

Some of the more optimum locations for growing most begonias in the garden is under screening (30% to 40% shade), morning sun or late afternoon sun and filtered light provided by trees. Filtered sun is recommended for proper stem development and good blooming. Plants indoors require a bright lit location or under lights. If the begonia receives to much light, the leaves will look faded.

POTTING

A wide variety of potting materials and containers are available. Most of the techniques used will allow a begonia to grow nicely for about two years before repotting is necessary. Good drainage is a must for all begonias. Clay or plastic pots and wire baskets are good container choices, while commercially available soilless potting mixes, modified for extra drainage, are good media selections. Containers and medium need to be modified to suit your particular conditions or geographical location. If the begonia has outgrown the container, the medium retains to much moisture or the plant is not thriving, it may be time to repot.

PINCHING & PRUNING

The proper pruning and pinching will encourage more branching formation of basal shoots. Pruning is used to control the height of the plant, shape and prevents legginess. Severe pruning should be avoided. Pruning is recommended in late winter or early spring, thus taking advantage of summers ideal growing conditions.

PROPAGATION

The methods of begonia propagation are: seeds, leaves, leaf cuttings, rhizome divisions, sprouting nodes, stem or tip cuttings. Propagation can be accomplished all year long providing weather protection is in place during cold or wet conditions. A sterile porous mix is recommended for the rooting medium. Keep the medium moist, not wet.

Courtesy of: Palm Hammock Orchid Estate - 9995 S.W. 66 St. - Miami, Fl 33173 (305) 274-9813 www.palmhammock.com

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