Star of the Season: Begonia
There are approximately 900 species of perennials, shrubs and climbers in this family, ranging from 30cm to just over 1m tall.
The leaves are often the most striking feature of the plant and vary in texture, shape and colour. The dainty flowers are in the warm colour spectrum.
Numerous hybrids have been bred and these fall into eight categories: cane-like, tuberous, rhizomatous, rex, trailing, thick-stemmed, shrub and semperflorens.
Some of Linda's backyard begonia collection. Photo - Luisa Brimble
Name: Begonia sp.
Belongs: Begoniaceae family
Origins: Tropics and sub-tropics
Autumn: Enjoy the show.
Winter: Divide clumps in late winter.
Spring: The flower show begins.Older plants can be rejuvenated in early spring if cut back by half and fertilised.
Summer: Take tip cuttings of leggy plants to get them back into shape.
Angel’s wing begonias are perfect under trees, with silver or white-flecked leaves and panicles of pretty flowers. Photo – Robin Powell
We love them:
In shaded or partly-shaded tropical and traditional gardens. Low-fuss bedding begonias (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum) are a reliable choice for mass plantings, annual beds, window boxes and pots in sun or part-shade. Cane-stemmed begonias (Begonia coccinea) with intricately patterned leaves and delicate flowers make the perfect understorey plant (we grow them under magnolia and michelia. Rex begonias (Begonia rex cultorum hybrid) are grown for their amazing foliage which can be found in diverse and decoratively marked colours, textures and shapes. They’re great for pots, including indoors for year-round interest. Begonia ‘Dragon Wing’ (Begonia x hybrida) has glossy green foliage and arching branches producing abundant flowers in shades of cherry, pink or white. Perfect as an indoor plant in well-lit positions it can also be grown outdoors, adding to a tropical border of gingers and canna lily.
Rex begonias are loved for their leaf patterns. Collectors beware! Photo - Eve81/shutterstock
Powdery mildew can attack quickly. Control with Ecofungicide and avoid overhead watering. Wet soils can lead to root rot, and watch out for snails! Liquid fertilisers can burn the leaves so apply to soil or rinse off foliage.
Dragon wings begonias are a hardy hanging basket option, this one with double orange flowers. Photo - inavanhateren/shutterstock
Begonias are easily grown in well-drained soils in part-sun to part-shade. They perform best in warmer climates so bring them inside if you live in a frost-prone area.
Where to buy:
Bedding begonias are available year-round in punnets at members of Garden Clinic Nursery Network. Other varieties should be in stock during spring and summer.