Breathtaking begonias

I am smitten. You know the feeling when you can’t look away, you smile in their presence, and you want to know everything – their history and their future. 

That was me this weekend when surrounded by displays of begonias. Tuberous Begonias are my current infatuation. 

I’m not new to the wiles of begonias. I have angel wing and wax leaf plants growing in pots outside my kitchen door every summer. They have colorful flowers, interesting green leaves and wow me throughout the summer and early fall months.

 But I have a new love that I will add to the mix.

Tuber begonias are just that, begonias grown from tubers. Although a tropical plant, with a little extra work they can bloom in the garden year after year. 

There are different varieties, some that grow tall and produce large flowers, others that will droop and work well in hanging baskets, and those that will reach 6-8 inches tall. Colors include pink, red, yellow, white, and orange. It was the orange blossoms in a weathered cement urn that stole my heart. 

All of the begonia containers – and there were several – were placed in areas that protected them from harsh afternoon sun. Dappled shade and a few hours of morning sun will keep the plants happy.

Although they like a consistent watering schedule, the plants do not like wet feet. Well-draining soil is important, and avoid letting water stand in plant saucers. Because of the constant blooms, regular feeding with a liquid fertilizer is recommended.

The plant almost deadheads itself by naturally dropping spent flowers. To keep the plant healthy and tidy, brush these off the leaves. If your tuber begonias are in a hanging basket, keep in mind the petals may drop to the patio and make a neat freak crazed.

When maintaining the foliage and blooms the stems can break easily. Varieties with large blooms may benefit from staking to help the stems handle the weight of the flowers. 

If you are starting your plants from tubers and not buying them as potted plants, it is wise to begin inside in late winter/early spring. Put the tubers in about one inch of moist potting soil. Sprouts will appear soon.   

After a leaf appears, repot to a slightly larger container or combine several tubers together in a larger pot. Give them indirect light and water inside until outside day and night temps are about 50 degrees. Remember to place them in a slightly shaded area. Your plant should grow and bloom until the first frost.

Because these are tuber plants, you can treat them like calla lilies, dahlias, and elephant ears. Remove the tuber from the soil and let dry. Then move to an area where they will be dark and dry through the winter months. This allows the tubers to rest and get ready to spring planting.

I’m home now but still thinking of my friend and her dazzling display of begonias. They were in porch boxes, cement urns, and bright glazed pottery containers, each container chosen to compliment the color of the flower. 

The backdrop was also not an afterthought. Each arrangement was highlighted by the surrounding trees, shrubs, and fencing. My friend has a flair that creates beauty and comfort. It is one I strive for in my home and garden, and I can’t wait to add tuber begonias to the container clusters at the little house on a big hill.