Begonias, Cane, Rex & Others, the Beguiling Masters of Disguise in the Garden
Many people don't think Begonias are that special. But, they are. There are hundreds of varieties of this most varied flower. This flower is the master of disguise in the garden because it comes in so many forms. Upright, pendulous, shrub like, ground hugging, climbing. Name the form and the common begonia has inhabited that form. These flowers are truly lovely. The choice is yours from the Rex Begonias which have elongated heart shaped leaves that sparkle complete with swirly designs built right into the foilage to the striking Cane group with red stemmed begonias, red flowers and red leaves. These beauties are called cane begonias because their stems look a little like bamboo canes and are sectioned off just like a bamboo. Growth nodules are located right where the horizontal divisions are on the canes. They're hearty, beautiful and easy to grow. In fact, they sometimes grow fifteen feet tall if left to their own devices. Besides the Rex begonias, these are my favorites. I love the dramatic effect of red in garden design and these begonias energize a garden with a stand alone red to the many greens in the garden. Utilizing this begonia will certainly give your garden a punch of color!
The flowers come in a kazillion forms including a simple four petal form, a rose petaled form, doubles, a pendant two inch long form and a tiny flower form which is about one half an inch including all it's petals. Colors are wide ranging from white to a true deep red. The only color that isn't in the begonia family is true blue. There are begonias with very thin leaves, fat leaves, lopsided heart shaped leaves, spade shaped leaves chartreuse colored leaves, grey green leaves with silver swirls incorporated into their design. Just about anything you can imagine in the form of shape and color is on a begonia.
Begonias - Where do they Hail From?
Begonias hail from the tropics and subtropics which means they are found all around the warmer, wet parts of the world, generally in the area of about 15 degrees south and north of the equator. Brazil hosts the cane species of Begonia, a leggy, kind of quirky, dramatic looking flower. The Rex Begonias group has quite a few striking plants which are grown mainly for their outstanding leaves. Begonia 'Helen Lewis' comes to mind with deep greenish-purplish leaves and an inside border of the very lightest mint green on each leaf. Apricot Cascade is a lovely perennial with double peach colored pendulous flowers. Grows to 24 inches in height and width. Again these are perennials but up north would have to be brought inside to overwinter. Most begonias cannot be left out doors if the weather goes below 50 degrees. Lily Pad Begonia is quite the beguiler with beautiful big leaves that resemble lily pads. The proper name for this begonia is B. 'Nelumbiifolia'. This one can be found from Columbia to Mexico. A good size showy begonia, it grows 12 inch long spring green leaves with the lightest of pink flowers which are about 1/2 inch wide. This begonia grows to a height of about 18 inches and 24 inches wide. Basically, begonias stay in the warm sultry spots, although some perennial begonia species grow right here in the Philadelphia, PA area.
I do have begonia pictures, but I have not been able to upload them for some odd reason. I will fix that as soon as I can!
Care of Begonias
Begonias are pretty easy plants to care for. They like their soil moist and rich with humus, just don't let them sit in sopping wet soil. They'll just fall apart in this type of soil. For those of you who don't know what the term humus rich means, it is a soil that is rich in micro organisms and nutrients. This is accomplished by using compost and compost is easily made. Simply put, compost is made by combining garden clippings with garden soil, mixing together and letting it heat up over time. In about 6 months, it is transformed into black crumbly earth and is humus rich. The clippings can include twigs, grasses, branches, leaves, kitchen food waste (but, no eggs, meat or cheese), because this can draw wildlife.
For the most part, begonias like sun to part shade. If you have the grandis or sutherlandii species, they can be left in the ground with some extra mulch; they'll be okay as long as the ground doesn't freeze. They are hardy in zones 7 through 10. To be safe, I would only leave begonias under zone 7b, (this zone is a little warmer than zone 7a) in the ground. Before winter hits, cut back the dead leaves. If you think there's any chance of a winter freeze coming through, just bring the begonias in because if their tubers freeze, they will not re-sprout in the spring. Good luck with your beautiful begonias.