If you have grown lackluster begonias and want to know why they haven’t dazzled with beautiful blooms, this article is for you. A tropical plant, begonias are one of the most versatile and hardy flowering plants, adaptable to being moved from indoors to out and back inside as the seasons change. Somewhat drought tolerant, most begonias will also thrive in heat and high humidity.
As a rule, almost all begonias will prefer at least partially shaded areas, the Bonfire® Begonia and the Solenia® Begonia being the exceptions to the rule. That does not mean they will thrive in full sun in the desert southwest, though! Your specific geographic location, as well as the type of weather you are having during any particular season, will determine the prime location for successfully growing your begonias.
In addition to preferring partial shade, most begonias will not tolerate even the slightest bit of frost. Wait until after all danger of frost has passed before moving them outdoors in the spring, and bring them in if there is the least chance of frost as overnight temperatures start to fall. Most people will tell you they have the best results growing begonias by keeping them potted and moving them indoors and out. However, some begonia growers with exceptionally green thumbs and plenty of time for their flower gardening will replant them directly into their flower beds, digging them back up and repotting them to bring indoors, with some of these plants thriving for years and years. In all of these cases, adequate mulching to retain moisture and warmth seem to be the key, as is afternoon shade in hotter environments.
Begonias prefer loose and fertile soil, as well as adequate air circulation and a well-draining location. If your begonia plants are in pots, ensure they do not sit in water. Allow the soil to dry somewhat between watering, and then water well, draining the overflow reservoir after the water has thoroughly soaked the soil. If your potted begonia plants are outdoors, do the same after it rains. Begonias will also grow best when not overcrowded, so repot or divide if they are crowded and appearing to suffer as a result. Moderate to heavy feeders, especially when in bloom, both your potted and bedded begonias should receive regular feedings, a liquid slow-release fertilizer working best. We recommend Neptune’s Harvest, an organic fish emulsion fertilizer. Fertilizers high in nitrogen should be avoided, since they resulting in lanky, fast-growing plants with few blossoms.
The ideal environment for growing begonias combines slightly acidic soil, between pH 5.5 and 6.5, with 60% humidity, though we’ve consistently found the begonia to be highly adaptable. The experts have determined that just the right pH and light seem to be the biggest contributing factors to color variations, these differences often having neighbors scratching their heads over why my begonias are so much redder than hers, or why is the foliage purpler on my neighbor’s plants? If prize-winning begonias are your goal, you can test the pH of your soil with an inexpensive soil test kit, and then adjust the pH as needed with the addition of garden lime or wood ashes to raise the pH, or aluminum sulfate or elemental sulfur to lower it, though this is usually only necessary in soils with very high clay content. It might just be best to grow your begonias in pots with a high quality potting soil, in this situation.
Begonias need only a bit of tending to be stunningly gorgeous. Remove the faded blossoms, leaves and stems, trimming off the extra long stems in order to retain the attractive, compact shape. This little bit of care will result in better branching, more lush foliage and additional blossoms. We also suggest, when moving your plants in or out of doors, a period of acclimation to help them survive the transition better. When bringing them indoors, put them first in a sunny window, gradually reducing the amount of sunlight they get, and doing the same when you move them outdoors again, gradually increasing the time outdoors. Significant leaf drop may occur during the transition period, but don’t despair, their adaptability will have them looking good in no time at all!
So, you see, growing begonias is no big deal! And they’re well worth the effort. Many of our novice begonia growers will first try the Dragon Wing Begonia, one of the most adaptable varieties.
As always, we welcome your questions and comments. Happy Begonia Gardening from all of us here at Garden Harvest Supply!