3 Begonias Brighten Up Your Life
Begonias are perhaps the best houseplant. They are simple to start, easy to grow, and cheer up any space you place them in. They are great in a garden, hanging in baskets, growing in containers, or blooming indoors. They are selected for the many color choices in the flowers, but also for their gorgeous chocolate or waxy green leaves.
There are more than 1,500 species of begonias, not to mention the thousands and thousands of hybrids that have been created. Begonias cross fertilize quite easily, so you can have fun with these, year after year. Although Begonias are native to the tropics and grow as understory plants, they have been adapted to other climates by hybridization. The downside of this is that they are not typically grown from seeds, but from rhizome division and leaf cuttings.
Wax Begonias (Semperflorens begonias)
You will find these Begonias everywhere. They are so hardy and keep blooming. Wax Begonias can be grown in the garden or indoors.
They love sunlight, just keep them away from drafts and absolutely away from freezing temperatures (as you might expect of any Begonia). Temperatures over 60F are perfect.
Water your Wax Begonia only after the top 1/2” of the soil has dried out. Keep the humidity low and water through and through, allowing the water to drain. They prefer soil that drains quickly. Liquid fertilizer should be applied weekly at ¼ the full strength and 1 out of 3 or 4 times a phosphorous rich fertilizer should be used.
Planting Wax Begonia seeds takes much longer than growing from a cutting. It propagates best from leaf-cuttings. Choose cuttings without blooms and with more than two nodes, about 6 inches long. Cut just beneath a node. Remove the leaves from the last two inches. Place the cutting into a small jar with enough water to cover the cutting. The more water you add, the less concentrated will be the root hormone that the cutting produces and the slower and less dense the roots will grow. You can even put many cuttings in one jar. Once the roots grow to a minimum of ½ inch, plant the cuttings. Add fertilizer once per each growing season.
Angel Wing Begonias
Angel Wing Begonias are almost as easy to grow as Wax Begonias. Their flowers are some of the most beautiful among Begonias, drooping in clusters.
They enjoy indirect sunlight mostly, but bright areas. Their ability to thrive in sunlight lies between that of Wax Begonias and Rex Begonias.
Angel Wing Begonias should be watered after the top 1/2” of soil dries out. Water it through and through, keeping the humidity high. Liquid fertilizer, at ¼ strength, should be feed to it weekly. When the plant is in bloom late in Winter or Spring, apply a fertilizer rich in phosphorous.
Angel Wing Begonias can be propagated much the same way as Wax Begonias, with some slight variations. Take a cutting, a minimum length of 3 inches. There must be at least 3 healthy leaves on one end. The best cuttings are those taken the day after watering. Clean a small jar or plant container. Rinse any bleach or soap off thoroughly. Take any additional leaves off the stem, leaving only the three on the one end. Place the cutting into the water so the three leaves are above the water and the rest is submersed. Place the jar in a sunny place and in only 7-14 days you will see roots. When they are well formed, transplant your Angel Wing Begonias to soil in a pot.
Strawberry Begonias (Saxifraga stoloniferae)
Strawberry Begonias throw out runners that crawl along the ground and end in a splash of leaves. Snip these off and give them as gifts to your neighbors so they can plant their own Strawberry Begonias.
Give them very bright sunlight without subjecting them to direct sunlight. These guys really dislike heat, so guard them against it by locating them somewhere facing East or West.
When they are growing you will want to water them generously. If you spill water on their hairy leaves you should immediately dry them with a paper towel. Otherwise, you risk fungal infection of the leaves. When Winter sets in, reduce the amount of water. The Strawberry Begonia will slow its growth almost to a standstill, so do not be shocked. As for fertilizing, you have two choices. Either you can apply a weak liquid fertilizer supported by micro-nutrients weekly, or fall back onto pellets that allow for a more controlled release of nutrients.
Propagating Strawberry Begonias works very differently from either Wax Begonias or Angel Wing Begonias, because they send out their runners. These runners can be used to create the starts of new plants. Simply place a runner across planting pots and secure each with a small tent spike with the bent head. In only 3-4 weeks they will each grow roots. Cut them from the main plant and you have new Strawberry Begonias.