By Sarah Wilson
Once you know how to grow begonias you'll have big, showy blooms tumbling from pots and window boxes all summer long. Plus there are so many to choose from. Few other plants offer so much variety as these easy-care beauties. They’re known for their showy selection of interesting leaf shapes and bold and beautiful colours, with more than 1,800 different varieties to choose from, both as houseplants and for the garden.
There’s everything you could possibly want from showstopper to subtle, with every type of striking leaf pattern in between. Known for their fantastic foliage as much as their showy blooms, you’ll soon find they’re oh so collectable. After all, why have one when you can have ten.
Read on for our tips on how to grow begonias (it's so easy) as well as our standout recommendations for ones to grow in the house and garden. Plus, if you're keen to up the wow factor in your planting schemes this year, our guide to garden borders has lots more advice.
HOW TO CHOOSE A BEGONIA FOR THE GARDEN
Types of begonias
Take your pick: begonias can be annuals, evergreen or deciduous perennials, or shrubs. The leaves often have striking patterns while the clusters of flowers offer everything from the simplest white or cream petals to the most showy double-flowered blooms in eye popping colours.
Tuberous types look great tumbling out of containers, while others, like B rex ‘Benitochiba’, are worth growing for their dramatic leaves alone.
Traditional bedding types of begonia
These can be used in containers, window boxes and at the edges of borders, providing long-lasting displays that can be planted out once the danger of frost has passed.
Look out for some of the newer varieties too, such as the ‘Million Kisses’ range. These tend to feature much more delicate-looking, single, bell-shaped flowers.
These aren't so easy to find, but there are some, such as B grandis, that cope with temperatures a couple of degrees below freezing. Planted in well-drained soil and given some protection they can survive outdoors over winter.
These begonias combine attractive foliage with daintier flowers than those of the more common bedding cultivars. They really come into their own in late summer and autumn, when their blooms add a splash of colour to a shady spot.
WHEN TO PLANT BEGONIAS
Late winter and spring is a good time to order bedding begonias from specialist growers and the range is vast.
If you’ve got a warm, sunny windowsill or a heated greenhouse you can grow them from seed or tubers.
Otherwise plug plants from the garden centre or online are an easier option. Plant out when risk of frost has passed.
Where to plant begonias
Begonias love tumbling out of containers, window boxes and hanging baskets. Or plant them as a mass of eye catching colour in borders, where they'll also do well. Choose a spot that's in sun or partial shade for best results. They love fertile soil that's moist and free draining.
If you're choosing a hardy variety, plant them in rich, well-drained soil in a sunny, sheltered position. If you live in an area where the climate is milder in winter, plant them in the shelter of a south-facing wall and they can be left in the ground.
HOW TO CARE FOR GARDEN BEGONIAS
- As a rule, begonias need a moist but well-drained soil. They are native to forests and, consequently, favour dappled sun or part shade in preference to full sun.
- Bedding begonias and those grown in containers should be watered regularly and fed weekly with tomato fertiliser.
- In autumn, lift bedding begonias grown from tubers before the first frost, trim top growth to 6cm, remove compost and leave to dry before storing in a dark, frost-free shed or garage in dry compost. Repot in spring.
- Bedding begonias grown from seed or plugs should be treated as annuals and composted once they’ve gone over.
- Mulch hardier begonias with chipped bark, or lift them out, pot up and overwinter in a conservatory or greenhouse.
Common problems with begonias
- Well-drained soil is key as your plants may rot if the ground is waterlogged. If they're planted in containers standing them on pot feet also helps as it lets water drain away rather than accumulating around the base.
- Move your plants into the shade on scorching hot days, as the foliage may burn if left unprotected. If they're planted up in borders in full sun use your garden umbrella to shade them temporarily.
- If the flowers drop off it could be a sign that you're not watering regularly so make a note to be more consistent.
- If you notice your plants are dusted with white this could be powdery mildew. Trim off the affected foliage and if need be use a chemical fungicide. Make sure your plants aren't too close together so air can circulate.
8 OF THE BEST BEGONIAS FOR THE GARDEN
Classic bedding begonias come in a wide range of shades and foliage types. Choose them for pots, patio gardening ideas, hanging baskets and window boxes as well as borders.
Our guide on how to make a hanging basket is packed with useful tips on how to make your design stand out from the crowd.
1. 'LEMON FIZZ'
If you’d like to add some fragrance to your pots and window boxes try ‘Lemon Fizz’, which matches a sweet, citrus aroma with pretty lemon-yellow, double flowers.
Plant these magnificent trailing begonias up with ferns and choose a spot in dappled shade to add some vibrance that will last throughout summer and well into autumn.
2. ‘SANTA CRUZ’
Set against dark green, serrated leaves, the masses of bright orange-red, single blooms hang elegantly from trailing stems.
It’s an eye-catching choice for window boxes and hanging baskets, as well as for planting at the edge of a tall pot so it tumbles over the edge. This one will flower all summer long too.
3. 'MILLION KISSES ELEGANCE'
This new variety has a bushy, semi-trailing habit and a profusion of single, bell-shaped flowers. White with a blush of pink, the delicate blooms top contrasting red stems, and sit amid dark green, arrow-shaped leaves.
Fast growing, it will quickly create a mass of colour when planted out, blooming from June to October.
4. 'ILLUMINATION WHITE'
Plant this cultivar for cascades of double flowers, in crisp white with the softest hint of peach, on pink stems.
It blooms from June until the first frosts, and the pretty, pale flowers offer a more subtle alternative to bolder colours. One of the most dependable varieties, it grows happily in sun as well as semi-shade.
5. 'GLOWING EMBERS'
Compact and bushy, this variety is ideal for pots. The bronze-green foliage forms a neat mound above a mass of fiery orange, star-like flowers that bloom throughout summer as it's exceptionally long flowering. Add it to your garden to create a glow from midsummer right round to autumn.
6. ‘PICOTEE WHITE PINK'
The gorgeous ruffled double flowers have a carnation-like appearance with layers of white petals, each edged with deep pink.
Ideal for brightening up a slightly shady spot where other bedding plants would struggle. Another variety that blooms from midsummer right through to the first frosts.
7. ‘APRICOT SHADES'
A popular begonia with masses of apricot-orange, double flowers that are so prolific they will cover a hanging basket or window box all summer, creating a cascade of colour.
It’s a robust variety of begonia and will happily keep on flowering whatever the summer weather throws at it.
This one is a real stunner. It's an old variety of begonia that has really stood the test of time. The dark green leaves act as the perfect foil to large, single flowers with deep red petals encircling golden yellow centres. These large showy blooms will smother the plant all summer long.
HOW TO GROW BEGONIAS AS HOUSEPLANTS
Begonias are equally famed as one of the best indoor plants. Grown for their gorgeous foliage and known as cane-stemmed and B rex types, these are tender varieties that need to be treated as houseplants, although they can be moved outdoors during summer if the conditions are right.
A good choice for a shady bathroom, houseplant begonias like some humidity. Use soft tap water or rainwater, and wait until the compost is almost dry before watering.
You'll find lots more houseplant inspiration over in our indoor garden ideas feature.
3 OF THE BEST HOUSEPLANT BEGONIAS
1. B REX ‘CURLY FIREFLUSH'
The dramatic deep green leaves have darker edges that form a spiral, swirling into the centre of the leaf. The foliage also has the distinction of being covered in tiny red hairs, particularly noticeable on young leaves.
2. B REX ‘NAMUR'
A compact variety that makes a good choice for a north facing room. Forming a tightly packed clump of colour, the striking corkscrew leaves are a combination of silvery-green with dark green centres and reddish-pink edges.
3. ‘LITTLE BROTHER MONTGOMERY’
It’s well worth finding room in your house for this tall begonia, which is a real statement plant. Pointy, acer-like leaves are a mix of dark green and burgundy, and feature silver and light green veins and markings.
Where to buy begonias
Whether you want to add begonias to your summer containers and flowerbeds, or you're thinking of trying one as a houseplant, here's where to buy them.
Shop begonias in the UK
- Buy begonia at Amazon
- Buy begonia at Crocus
- Buy begonia at Dobies
- Buy begonia at Suttons
- Buy begonia at Thompson & Morgan
- Buy begonia at Waitrose Garden
- Buy begonia at You Garden
Shop begonias in the US
4 of our favourite varieties of begonia for you to try in your garden
With so many wonderful colours and varieties to choose from you're spoiled for choice. Here's a round-up of some of our favourite begonia varieties.
Begonia 'Funky Pink' from Thompson & Morgan
Ideal in baskets and containers, thanks to its trailing habit, 'Funky Pink' produces masses of large, frilly-petalled, double flowers in a lovely deep pink with flecks of gold. Easy to grow, it provides an outstanding display, flowering from June through to September.
Begonia 'Starshire Appleblossom' from Suttons
These striking, cascading plants erupt into a blaze of pretty apple blossom coloured blooms between the months of July and October. They will smother your patio containers, window boxes and hanging baskets with masses of their lovely star-shaped flowers.
Begonia 'Red Glory' from Waitrose Garden
Glossy, heart-shaped, dark green leaves clothe the stems of this showy perennial, acting as a wonderful foil for the deep red flowers. Mix them with orange and yellow for a fiery colour pop, or tone them down with shades of rich purple for a jewel-like palette.
Begonia 'Fragrant Falls Apricot' from Dobies
This new variety of 'Fragrant Falls' has more colour, more flowers and more fragrance than ever before. With fully double blooms and fabulous perfume, these showy begonias are perfect for planting in baskets or cascading over window boxes and patio pots.
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
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