Growing Begonias in Sydney

by Jill Collins

begoniaBegonias are very versaile plants and should be considered when planning your garden to add colour or fill a bare spot.  With such a variety of Begonia types there is not end to the ways your can use colourful plants with their different leaf shapes and colours.  Begonias come from tropical and semi tropical areas of the Americas with a small percentage coming from S.E. Asia and Africa.

Types of Begonias
There are quite a few types of Begonias, the most commonly grown are cane like, shrub like,
semperflorens, rhizomatous, trailing, Rex and tuberous.

Cane-like Begonias
Vary in size from miniatures uneer 300mm to larger plants up to 4m tall and have many leaf shapes and produce large flower clusters in white, pink, orange and red.  They flower over a long period.

Shrub-like Begonias

Have a bushy growth habit, branch freely and can be pinched back to form good dense bushes.  Some can be quite tall such as B. luxurians
 which may reach over 2m with finger like leaves looking a little like marijuana.

Semperflorens Begonias
Are better known as bedding Begonias, they are bushy plants with succulent stems and glossy leaves.  They have a long flowering season and make good border plants.  These Begonias have white, pink or red flowers.  The leaf colourings range from green through to mahogay or even variegated.

Trailing (Scandent) Begonias
This small group are usually grown in hanging pots or fern baskets. they become bushy providing regular pruning or pinching is carried out.

Rhizomatous Begonias

Usually have a creeping rhizome which runs along the surface of the ground or below; some are gnarled, smooth or hairy.  The foliage may be green or in beautiful colours with spectacular markings in different shapes and textures.

Rex Begonias
Are a large group of rhizomatous Begonias bred for their bright colourful leaves, with many variations in texture and shape.  Some being smooth with a few hairs or rough  in texture and appearance.

Tuberous Begonias
Most tuberous Begonias have bulbous growths to retain them during periods of dormncy and have spectacular flowers and are grown for their annual displays in gardens at Ballarat, Orange, Bathurst and Goulburn.  They are most suitable for pot culture in shade or glass houses.  Begonia dregei, often refered to as the Maple Leaf Begonia, from Africa is a semi-tuberous variety which grows well in the garden or in hanging baskets.

Growing Conditions

Begonias are best grown in light shade or with early morning sun.  A well mulched soil with humus produces good result with light watering to prevent drying out in warm weather.  When growing Begonias in pots a good draining mix should be used as good drainage is essential.  Many kinds of feriliser can be used such as Dynamic Lifter, Blood and Bone or slow release ferilisers such as Osmacote and Nutricote.  Ferttilise throughout the months when acive growth is noticeable.  All Begonias perfer to be grown on the dry side, especially during the winter months.

Begonias can be propagated by cuttings during the warmer months.  Rhizomatous Begonias (including the Rex) are propagated from lef or rhizome cuttings.  Roots should begin to develop in 1 or 2 weeks and new plantlets will appear in several more weeks dpending on the weather and the vigour of the parent plant.  Leaves can also be cut into triangular segments between the veins and planted in cutting mix to produce small plantlets.  Pieces of rhizome placed in a cutting mix will root readily, however their root systems do not develop as quickly as for leaf cuttings.
Cane, shrub-like and thick stemmed Begonias reporduce from stem cuttings.  Bend the top of a mature or old cane until it snaps, trim the leaves (cut them across if they are too large) so that the cutting will not wilt and inset in the cutting mix.  Ensure that at least one node is below the surface.  Roots form readily and the cutting will be ready to pot up in a few weeks.
Begonias can be raised from seed, scatter theseed thinly over the surfaceof the mix. do not vocer or press the seed into the surface of the mix.  The seed will germinate quickly if it is fresh, but oler seed may take several weeks.  Keep moist throughout the germination period, the container should be kept in a light, warm location but not in direct sunlight.  Seed from species will come 'true' but seed crosses between species or cultivars produce batches of mixed hybrids.

Begonias are generally very hardy plants, however there are some problems which may occur from time to time.
A few leaf eating insects attack some kinds of Begonias - green looper, furry caterpillars andsmall case moths are the worst offenders.  Begonias are susceptible to very few diseases.  To prevent fungi it is wise to ensure that watering is donein the morning and that leaves are never left wet during the night.  A wet leaf is ideal spot for fungi to take hold.

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