By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
Native to the Caribbean Islands and other tropical locations, begonias are hardy in areas with frost free winters. In cooler climates, they are grown as annual plants. The dramatic foliage of certain begonias is especially popular for shade-loving hanging baskets. Many plant lovers have realized that instead of purchasing expensive begonia baskets each spring, they can overwinter them in greenhouses or as houseplants. Of course, overwintering begonia plants may require pruning. Continue reading to learn how to prune begonias.
Pruning a begonia plants depends on different factors. For instance, how and when to prune a begonia plant depends on your location, as well as which type of begonia you have. In warm, frost free climates, begonias can grow outdoors as perennials and certain types may even bloom all year. In cool climates with frost and snow in winter, begonias need to be discarded or brought indoors to a sheltered location when temperatures begin to dip below 50 degrees F. (10 C.).
However, at this point, tuberous begonias will naturally begin to die back to the ground. In cool climates, they can be dug up. The begonia foliage should be trimmed back, and the tubers can be dried and stored in a cool, dry location through winter, just as canna or dahlia bulbs are stored.
Fibrous rooted and rhizomatous begonias do not die back once a year like tuberous begonias. This means that in warm tropical climates they can grow outdoors, and some even bloom year round. In cool climates, they can be brought indoors and treated like houseplants through winter. Rhizomatous begonias are usually easy to identify by their fleshy, horizontal stems or rhizomes which run along or just under the soil surface. Many rhizomatous begonias are specifically grown as houseplants for their dramatic foliage and tolerance of indirect sunlight.
Whether grown outdoors year round in warm climates or as annuals in cold climates, tuberous begonias die back annually to store up energy in their tubers while they go through a dormant phase.
Rhizomatous and fibrous rooted begonias don’t die back but they are usually pruned annually to keep them full and blooming properly. In warm climates, begonia plant pruning is usually done in spring. In cool climates, begonias are pruned in fall, mainly so that they can easily fit in an indoor location to safely overwinter.
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Begonias are some of the most beautiful and diverse houseplants you can grow. They have a reputation for being tricky at times, and I wouldn’t disagree with this. However, if you find your begonia wilting, there is usually an easily identifiable cause that can be fixed. This article is going to show you how to fix your drooping begonia and give you some tips to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Overwatering and underwatering are the most common causes of a begonia wilting. Begonias wilt quickly once their soil dries out, but maintaining excessively wet soil can also result in dramatic wilting due to root rot. Temperature stress, transplant shock, pests, and disease can also cause drooping.
Unfortunately, there are several reasons why your begonia may be wilting, so you’ll need to do a little detective work to find out what has gone wrong. Thankfully, the tips in this article can help you easily work out the cause and fix most problems.
The family of begonias is highly versatile and can be grown outside in flower beds, in container gardens, or indoors as a houseplant. Begonias come in a rainbow of colors sure to please anyone. Begonia pruning takes a little getting used to, but it's not all that difficult. Just follow these simple steps for great results.
TIP: Expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Sterilize pruning shears before trimming begonia."
During the growing period, it’s only necessary to prune begonias if they start to become overgrown or to encourage new and more bushy (as opposed to tree-like) growth. Tuberous begonia s should be pruned or cut back in the late fall before the first frost, cutting stems to the rootball or tubers. Prune shade begonias in spring. Rhizomatous begonias should not be pruned until after they’ve bloomed.
TIP: Susan advises, "Begonias grown indoors can be pruned at any time."
Begonia s don't need a great deal of pruning, for the most part. Of course, there are some bushier varieties that will get a little unruly, so these may need a bit more attention with the pruners. Always prune back any dead leaves, or branches that appear to be growing back into the begonia plant.
For the most part , with many begonia varieties, pruning taller plants only a little will suffice during the growing period. This isn’t a matter of shearing off the tops all across the plant. The begonia isn’t a hedge and will react badly to this type of treatment. Simply use good judgment and take a little off where it is most needed.
One effective technique is pinching the tops of the branches. This encourages the begonia plant to foster multiple stems to emerge from the branch tops. The result will be a bushier and healthier plant. This is especially true of the angel wing begonia.
Another effective pruning technique is to remove the last two sets of leaves at the ends of a long branch. Again, this encourages a spurt of growth from the begonia.
Some varieties of begonia — such as hardy begonia and dragon wing begonia — can reach two to four feet in height. Shrub begonia generally is between one and three feet in height, although some can grow to a height of 12 feet. Cut down all the stems of shrub begonias that have finished blooming. This will force new growth from the base. For cane-like begonias, follow the same process. Or, shorten the stems by pruning them to buds that face outwards. This will prompt new growth to extend out from the plant.
Tuberous begonia goes into a dormancy period in late fall. For areas that get frost, tuberous begonia needs to be dug up, cut back to the stem or the tubers, dried out and overwintered in a cool, dry location indoors. In areas where there’s no frost, tuberous begonia can remain in the ground, cut back to the soil level, and heavily mulched.
If the begonia is in a pot, simply tip the pot on its side and place in an area protected from the wind and rain. In colder climates, dig up the tubers from the pot and bring inside.
These pruning tips will keep your begonias in good shape. Sit back and watch them flourish!
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney has one of the world's largest outdoor collections of begonias. The range of foliage types covers many different shapes, colours and textures.
Begonias are mostly tropical and sub-tropical but some survive in harsher climates even above the snowline. But as diverse as these plants are - all begonias have one thing in common, asymmetrical leaves - a rare thing in the botanical world. One theory about the shape of the leaves is that it helps them stand out in the forest, and attracts pollinators, because many of the species have insignificant flowers.
Begonias can be classified into a number of groups based on growth habit. For example Begonia tenuifolia is a fantastic example of a rhizomatous begonia. The foliage arises from an underground stem, called a rhizome.
Other interesting begonias include:
The largest leafed of all begonias B.megaptera is a spectacular species that comes from the Himalayas.
Other rhizomatous begonias have variegated leaf forms such as Begonia manicata 'Aureomaculata' with its speckled yellow and green leaves.
Many gardeners will be familiar with the cane stemmed group. These have long bamboo like canes which rise from ground level. They have fabulous foliage and often beautiful clusters of flowers such as Begonia coccinea, the angel winged begonia, which flowers all year round.
The extra height of the cane stemmed varieties makes them especially useful planted at the back of garden beds. The interesting colour and texture of Begonia 'Sophie Cecile' is fantastic for use as cut foliage in flower arrangements. Often they'll also strike roots in the vase which gives you an idea of how easy they are to propagate.
Rex begonias are technically a rhizomatous begonia, but are often put in a group of their own because of their amazing iridescent foliage. For example the Begonia (Rex Cultorum) cv.
The Begonia semperflorens or bedding begonias provide spectacular splashes of colour. These plants are old favourites, and are commonly grown as annual border plants, and will provide year round flowering in warmer climates.
The palm leaf begonia Begonia luxurians has long finger-like leaflets
And the fern leaf begonia Begonia foliosa also has interesting foliage.
Begonia venosa is a species from the South American desert. It needs full sun and dry conditions.
Most begonias like moist soils and dappled shade. This makes them useful plants in the garden for underneath trees, where it's often difficult to get any colour. Many species also make good indoor or patio plants.
Begonias are succulent-like plants that store moisture in their stems. That means they can survive extended dry periods, and are quite waterwise in the garden. They respond well to fertiliser, but in the absence of it, will still survive nicely.
But the moisture in the stem means if they freeze, it's usually the end of the plant. If you grow them in a frosty climate, put them in a container, and move them to a sheltered spot in winter.
As far as pests and diseases go, they're pretty good. But they are prone to fungal leaf spots such as botrytis, so keep the foliage dry and only water in the morning.
The begonia collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney shows just how diverse and waterwise this group of plants can be. It also shows how well suited they are to providing colour and texture for difficult shady spots in warm climate gardens. Many of the plants on show are commonly available at nurseries, but others are quite rare.
Angel wing begonias can be planted indoors or kept as a houseplant and they are fairly easy to maintain.
Angel wing begonias do not cope well when there are sudden changes in the temperature. The recommended temperature for this type of begonia is within the range of 65°-75°F. If you intend to keep your begonia as an indoor plant, household humidity is likely to suffice, however, it is important to ensure that your plant isn’t positioned near any heater vents.
An angel wing begonia can become damaged when the temperature drops below 50ºF.
Although angel wing begonias require exposure to sunlight to grow and flourish, they should not be positioned in direct contact with this source of light. Because begonias have sensitive leaves they can become harmed if exposed to constantly harsh sunlight. To avoid such issues, your begonia should be placed somewhere where it is in indirect sunlight.
If you are keeping the plant outdoors, try and place it somewhere shaded. While begonias must receive light throughout the year, as the seasons change you can alter the positioning of the plant. During the winter months, the sun isn’t going to be as harsh so the begonia can withstand a few hours in the sunlight.
Your begonia should be planted in airy and light soil that drains well, otherwise, it is going to collect the water. Alternatively, you may use a potting mix that possesses similar qualities.
A begonia requires frequent watering, particularly when it’s blooming. However, you should allow the soil to drain before watering it again. Your plant will only require watering around 2 to 3 times a week. You must avoid overwatering your plant as it will not drain sufficiently, instead of resulting in the development of root rot.
In the winter, your plant will not require watering as regularly.
If the environment where the plant is kept isn’t humid enough, it will soon begin to dry out. If the environment is too humid the plant is more subject to root rot. Because of this, it is important to maintain the correct balance. Angel wing begonias flourish when kept in a humid and moist environment.
If needed, to increase the humidity, you may gently mist the area surrounding the plant.
During the spring and summer months, your begonia will benefit from the use of fertilizer. Although there are different variations of fertilizer available, a liquid formulation is recommended. Add the fertilizer to damp soil on a fortnightly basis to maintain the healthy appearance of the plant.
When the growth of the plant is less active, you can reduce the frequency in which you add the fertilizer to around every 2 months.
As the plant grows you will likely find that it requires repotting. When the plant appears rather large for the pot that it is currently in, you can transfer it to a larger pot. This is likely to be a more frequent requirement when the plant is younger. As it matures, it isn’t going to need to be repotted as regularly.
Avoid doing so when the plant is in bloom as the disruption can affect the growth.