Begonias in most parts of northern Europe are considered annual plants, or sometimes also referred to as tender perennials. They are relatively easy to care for, but are not frost hardy so any chance of begonia plants returning in following seasons depends on very mild winters.
Begonias look great as bedding plants, but can also be used in hanging baskets and containers. Tuberous begonias come in upright and trailing varieties, with single, double and ruffled flowers. Most common colours are red, white, yellow, orange and pink. The thick foliage is almost as attractive as the beautiful flowers. Trailing begonia varieties in particular look spectacular in baskets. If cared for properly, begonias will reward you with continuous colour throughout the summer until the first frosts.
Begonias do well in sun (not too hot though), but really prefer at least some partial shade. The best spot therefore is an area that catches some morning or late afternoon sunlight. A location in filtered sunlight (e.g. under a tree) also works well. Begonias need well-drained, but moist soil. Make sure that it is not too soggy, as this will cause the tubers to rot.
When planting Begonias outdoors, it is best to wait until the risk of (night) frost has passed. The tubers only require a few centimeters (2-4) of soil cover, so any frost will quickly get to them. Begonias grow significant foliage so space the tubers approximately 20cm apart. In fertile soil and with regular watering, you can expect the begonia tubers to sprout in about a month.
Water the young plants regularly to keep them growing healthily. It is also recommended to add some liquid balanced fertilizer every couple of weeks during the growing season. To encourage the begonias to keep producing flowers, cut spent blooms as soon as they fade.
Common problems to watch out for when growing begonias:
- Do not plant the tubers in over-wet conditions as they may rot. Ensure that the soil is well-drained, and if planted in pots, to place some stones or shards on the bottom to prevent waterlogging.
- Foliage may scorch in hot sun (begonias do prefer some partial shade)
- Tubers can sometimes rot in storage if not stored properly
- Flower-drop may be a sign of lack of water
- Damping off (fungi related disease causing seedlings to collapse) may occur in young plants
- Sometimes tuberous begonias may suffer from powdery mildew (superficial white powdery fungi which can be treated with fungicides)
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