Botanical name: Begonia
Origin: South America
Flower color: red, white, pink, orange, yellow, purple, apricot, bicolors
Flowering period: June – October
Average plant height: 10 – 16 inches
Planting depth to base of bulb: just covered with soil
Spacing between bulbs: 6 inches
Type of bulb: tuber
Light requirements: grows best in light shade; direct sunlight causes burning of flowers and leaves (morning sun, up to 50% shade)
Landscape uses: borders, beds and pots
The Begonia genus consists of hundreds of species but only one category – tuberous begonias – is addressed at this site. Modern tuberous begonias are not species in one of the largest tropical plant families, but are the creation of horticulturalists and are botanically described as Begonia tuberhybrida. No other flower has so many ancestors as these large-flowered hybrids descended from many species native to tropical South America.
- Begonia Bertinii (pendulous flower)
- Begonia crispa (single flower)
- Begonia double, Begonia pendula
- Begonia fimbriata (ruffled double flower)
- Begonia marmorata (double flower)
- Begonia multiflora maxima (small flowering). The leaves are large and dark green
All make excellent conservatory plants, but they are mostly known as bedding plants or for use in borders, hanging baskets and containers. The Begonia was named after Michel Bégon (1638 – 1710), intendant of San Domingo and later governor of Canada, who was very active in botany. When Charles Plumier, a French botanist and monk, described the first Begonia in the early 1700s, he chose to honor Mr. Bégon by naming the plant after him.
Begonias are not winter hardy. They cannot tolerate exposure to frost. In spring, plant them out after the last threat of ground frost. (Many people start up begonias indoors 4 – 6 weeks before planting them outdoors to get a “jump” on the season and produce earlier blooms. In fall, dig up the bulbs before the first ground frost and store them, layered in peat or vermiculite, in a cool dry place, for replanting the following spring.
Combining with other plants
The colors of tuberous begonias strongly suggest the use of blue-flowering companion plants. In flower boxes, species such as Scaevola aemula, Lobelia erinus and Salvia farinacea would be good choices. Yellow tuberous begonias contrast beautifully in a container holding a small creeping (or pendulous) little conifer such as Juniperus horizontalis. Large containers planted with tuberous begonias can also contain geraniums, Mignon dahlias and low-growing small-flowered zinnias. A pretty terra cotta pot filled only with white tuberous begonias and some ivy trailing over the edge is quite lovely just as it is.