All About Begonias: A Guide for Successful Begonia Care
The Begonia is a classic houseplant and garden gem. With their diverse array of leaf sizes, shapes and colors, as well as a myriad of growth habits – not to mention their ability to be grown both indoors and outdoors – there is truly a Begonia for everyone!
However, there is a little bit of disagreement around Begonia care and just how fussy this broad group of plants actually is. Within the plant community, some swear Begonias are simple to care for and have a large collection, while others contend Begonias are actually difficult to keep happy.
The answer falls somewhere in the middle: because there is almost no end to the varieties and hybrids of Begonias available (likely because people have been smitten with them for some time), there are likewise easier and more challenging members of this genus. In this guide, we aim to demystify this old fashioned and charming plant group so that you understand the ins and outs of proper Begonia care.
Begonia Care Guide
Begonia are one of the largest flowering plant genera, with well over 2,000 species native to tropical and subtropical regions. With such a large spectrum of plants, it is clear that care is not the same across the diversity if species, hybrids, and cultivars. In order to clarify general Begonia care, we first must break them into their main groups:
Grown outdoors in gardens for their large showy flowers. The tuberous root system stores energy that allows these Begonias to produce impressive flowers. These Begonias will die back in the winter as they have a need for dormancy.
Fibrous Begonias (AKA Wax Begonias)
Another garden variety grown for their charismatic waxy looking flowers, they typically have rounded leaves and a variety of colorful clustered flowers.
Rhizomatous Begonias are perhaps some of the most exciting in the genus. These are grown for their unique foliage as they have showy leaves and small flowers. They make popular houseplants for their glowing colors and odd shapes, and cute "eyelashes".
A subgroup of rhizomatous Begonias, these are the show stoppers of the Begonia houseplants, characterized by their fuzzy stems, iridescent colors, wide array of shapes. These charismatic houseplants require a little more attention, but it's worth it since they are so easy to fall in love with. They need good air circulation, high humidity, bright indirect light, and will rot easily if kept too moist. So, avoid misting, but keep them in high humidity, avoid overwatering but don’t let them go too dry. Sounds easy right?
Cane Begonias (AKA Angel Wing Begonias)
Cane Begonias (or as your grandma lovingly calls them, “Angel Wing Begonias) are the most popular Begonia group. These plants are characterized by their long stems and swollen nodes, which resemble bamboo, and tend to be fairly easy to grow.
Shop pup Pablo guards a few Angel Wing Begonias
General Begonia Care
In general, Begonia care requires bright but indirect light. The outdoor tuberous and fibrous varieties typically are grown in cooler climates in shady areas and are protected from frost. Indoor varieties should get indirect bright light: while rhizomatous can tolerate medium light, most of the cane Begonias need brighter light.
Appropriate watering is the trickiest part of Begonia care. Don't allow any begonia to dry out completely between watering, but take care not to over-water, which will result in dropped leaves and other signs of rot. We like to use the ‘finger trick’ to check soil moisture levels, allowing the soil to dry to the first 1-2 inches in between watering or to the first knuckle of your finger in the soil.
Humidity (or water in the air) is also an important part of Begonia care. These plants enjoy higher levels of humidity because they come from tropical areas that have a higher level of humidity. The fuzzy-stemmed ‘Rex’ Begonias as well as some of the tuberous outdoor varieties need the highest humidity of all the Begonia types.
Having the right soil amendment for your Begonia can make the watering much easier to balance. We recommend a soil mix that is heavily amended with perlite for aeration and good drainage.
Begonias are considered heavy feeders. A high nitrogen fertilizer every two weeks early in the spring will ensure healthy growth and blooming later in the season. Always read the package and dilute fertilizer, never fertilizing in the fall and winter.
Our Current Favorite Begonias
Begonia ‘My Special Angel’
The classic Cane Begonia with angel wing shaped leaves and polka dotted charm. We can’t help but be smitten.
Begonia ‘Looking Glass’
Shimmering silver leaves contrasted with the burgundy undersides. We cannot stop looking at this unique Cane Begonia.
Spiraling leaves covered with red hairs that grow as the leaves get larger, this tricky Rex Begonia might break your heart as they are difficult to grow and fascinating to watch.
Begonia ‘Tiger Kitten’
Nicknamed the "Eyelash Begonia" for the small hairs on the petite leaves. This cute rhizomatous Begonia sports purple leaves with light green spots. Many collectors love ‘Tiger Kitten’ Begonias for terrarium growing.
What are your favorite Begonias? We know it's hard to pick when there are so many different kinds and more being made all the time. Maybe an easy to grow classy cane Begonia sent from the heavens or a more challenging rhizomatous Begonia with an odd leaf?
One thing is for sure: once you have fallen for a Begonia you can’t help but start searching for more to bring home!
By: Bee Oxford
Eileen Becher said:
as a rule our air is dry-I do not like the use of humidifiers-I stick to plants that can manage humidity needs by living in an area packed with other plants. I have found over the years that any of the “painted ladies” begonias-rex and hybrids are not manageable in this area but that rhizomatous often do well.
Billie O Strickland said:
I just purchased Dottie’s eyelash begonia, and I love it. My first begonia. I have many succulents, and lots of garden plants for birds/butterflies/bees, but I am so taken with this lovey plant. Thank you for your information.