Growing Begonias

Growing Begonias

Variety: Wax Begonia, Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum
Zones: 10 to 11, grown as an annual elsewhere
Soil Type: Moist, well-drained fertile soil
Soil pH: 5.5 to 6.5
Sunlight: Full sun to dappled shade
Watering: Average watering-do not over water
Fertilizer: Balanced gardening fertilizer
Availability: Sold as seeds or starter plants. Seeds are very small and should not be sown outdoors. When buying plants, look for compact, healthy growth with few blooms.

When to plant: Begonias should only be planted after all danger of frost has passed.

Planting Method

Seeds: Start begonia seeds 8 to 10 weeks before first frost. Seeds are very small. Mix the begonia seeds with a packet of gelatin, then sprinkle a bit of the powder on the surface of a pot filled with sterilized potting soil. Do not cover with or press the seeds into the soil. Lightly mist the soil to keep it wet until the seeds sprout.

Live plants: Begonia plants should be planted to the same depth as their original container, with a spacing of 10" to 12". Begonias are perfect bedding plants, but plants to close can suffer from disease.

To avoid disease problems, don't over water begonias. Wait until the soil is just dry and then water deeply.

Begonias respond well to feeding. Fertilize regularly with a liquid garden fertilizer during the blooming season.

Begonias bloom from late spring until the first frost. Blooms colors rang from white through pink to red.


Stem Rot: A soil born fungus that will cause the plant to suddenly collapse. As stem rot is soil born, purchased plants are at the greatest risk. Infected plants should be removed at once to limit spread. Don't compost infected plants, as the fungus will spread.

Mildew: Usually caused by limited airflow around the plant, mildew appears as a powder on the edges of leaves. Proper plant spacing will hinder the formation of mildew. An application of fungicide will also combat mildew.

Spider Mites: Tiny cousins of spider and scorpions, spider mites may appear red to brown or yellow to green. Spider mites damage leaf cells as they suck moisture from them. Plants infested by spider mites may have brown or tan speckled leaves. Ladybugs are a natural predator of spider mites. Sharp blasts of water from a hose can dislodge spider mites and insecticidal soaps can be effective as well.

Slugs and Snails: Black or dark gray gastropods with or without shells. Slugs and snails eat new leaves and the edges of mature leaves. Top dress planting areas with sharp sand or rough bark mulch to ward off slugs and snails.

Begonias will die in cold weather. Consider moving plants indoors or remove and compost plants after the first frost. In warmer zones, begonia plants may over winter if covered with mulch until spring.

Saving Seeds
Remove dry seedpods from begonia plants and place in a small, sealed plastic bag. Shake the bag to separate the seeds from the pods. Begonia seeds will appear as tiny brown to black seeds, almost dust-like. Remove seedpods and any other debris from the bag and store in a cool, dry place.

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