Begonias have been around for ages, and with good reason: This easy-to-grow annual does well in a variety of conditions and needs little to thrive. Provide it with light shade, rich well-drained soil, ample water, and plenty of fertilizer—and you’ll be rewarded with stunning flowers and foliage. With so many different shapes, sizes, and colors, begonias have no problem taking the spotlight in any garden setting.
All Shapes and Sizes
Wax begonia, the more popular variety of begonia, can be found in sizes to fit just about any space (from as small as six inches to nearly three feet tall). The larger varieties are ideal for landscaping, and when planted en masse create a dramatic effect. Smaller begonia varieties are well-suited for container gardens, and they won't crowd out your other plants.
Flower shapes are just as diverse as begonia plant sizes. Some plants showcase single flowers with just one row of petals, while others have double blooms with numerous rows of petals.
A Full Spectrum of Colors
In the past, begonia color choices were generally limited to green or bronze foliage with white, pink, or red flowers. But today, begonia colors are much more diverse. In the wax family alone, you'll find multiple shades in the white to red spectrum. And in the Begonia boliviensis group, there are even more options, including warm yellows, reds, oranges, whites, and pinks.
General Growing & Maintenance Tips
Begonias are rather versatile in their requirements: Old-fashioned wax begonias are great in the shade, but several newer wax begonia varieties are perfectly happy in full shade to full sun. No matter where you plant begonias, it's a good idea to give plants a regular dose of fertilizer to help fuel the constant barrage of blooms they're bound to throw at you.
When it comes to watering begonias, finding a good balance is key for healthy plants. Most begonia varieties need to be consistently watered but shouldn't get too wet (too much water can kill them). So, don't be afraid to let the plants dry out a little between each watering. Begonia boliviensis varieties particularly like good drainage, as they're native to growing on cliff walls.
Most begonias grow upright. For containers or hanging baskets, look for boliviensis and angel wing types, which have a more cascading habit.
Begonias perform best in warm environments, so planting after there's no longer a chance of spring frost will help your begonia thrive. Be patient after planting; begonias take a bit of time to get going, and you usually won't see a burst in growth until after the summer heat kicks in.
This plant helps tend to itself by practicing "self-cleaning," meaning there's no need to remove or "deadhead" old blooms from the plants throughout the growing season.
Begonia propagation is easier than you think. There are several begonia varieties, and they all have the same propagation process. To propagate from stem cuttings, trim begonia stems four inches and insert directly into a moist growing medium like potting mix so the stems can root properly. Water and provide proper light.
To propagate begonia from seed, fill pots with seed-starting mix and lightly mist with a spray bottle. Gently place seeds in pots and loosely cover with plastic wrap to maintain humidity and warmth. Let your seedlings grow in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.
More Varieties of Begonia
'Bellagio Apricot' Begonia
Begonia 'Bellagio Apricot' is a double-flowering begonia for shade with pendulous apricot flowers perfect for hanging baskets. It grows 14 inches tall and 2 feet wide.
'Bellagio Blush' Begonia
Begonia 'Bellagio Blush' bears double white flowers. It grows 14 inches tall and 2 feet wide and prefers full shade.
'Bellagio Pink' Begonia
Begonia 'Bellagio Pink' is a double-flowering begonia for shade with pendulous bright pink flowers perfect for hanging baskets. It grows 14 inches tall and 2 feet wide.
'Big Red with Green Leaf' Begonia
Begonia 'Big Red with Grean Leaf' bears red-pink flowers on a tough, vigorous plant that grows 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
'Big Rose with Bronze Leaf' Begonia
Begonia 'Big Rose with Bronze Leaf' bears big pink flowers and purple-bronze leaves on a strong, vigorous plant that grows 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
Begonia 'Bonfire' offers glowing orange flowers and narrow, bronzy-green leaves. It's especially effective in containers. It grows 20 inches tall and wide.
'Cocktail Vodka' Begonia
Begonia 'Cocktail Vodka' offers deep purple-red leaves and bright red flowers all season long. It grows 7 inches tall and wide.
'Cocktail Whiskey' Begonia
Begonia 'Cocktail Whiskey' offers rich bronzy-green leaves and crisp white flowers from spring to fall. It grows 7 inches tall and wide.
'Doublet Rose' Begonia
Begonia 'Doublet Rose' shows off double rose-pink blooms over bronze foliage. It grows 6 inches tall and wide.
'Doublet White' Begonia
Begonia 'Doublet White' offers showy double white blooms over dark green foliage. It grows 6 inches tall and wide.
'Dragon Wing Red' Begonia
Begonia 'Dragon Wing Red' offers large red flowers on big plants that can grow 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
'Mandalay Pearl' Begonia
Begonia 'Mandalay Pearl' produces airy white blooms all summer long—no matter how hot it gets—and thrives in full sun. It grows 1 foot tall and 30 inches wide.
'Sprint Scarlet' Begonia
Begonia 'Sprint Scarlet' offers large red flowers over medium green leaves on compact plants. It grows 8 inches tall and wide.
'Super Olympia Coral' Begonia
Begonia 'Super Olympia Coral' offers large coral-pink flowers over shiny green leaves. It grows 8 inches tall and wide.
Plant Begonia With:
What would we do without impatiens? It's the old reliable for shade gardens when you want eye-popping color all season long. The plants bloom in just about every color except true blue, and they are well suited to growing in containers or in the ground. If you have a bright spot indoors, you may be able to grow impatiens all year as an indoor plant.
There are few blues more intense and gorgeous than those found on annual lobelia. The mounding type, called edging lobelia, is beautiful for planting in rows in the front of beds and borders. The cascading type is stunning, like a sapphire waterfall, spilling from window boxes or pots. Annual lobelia is in its glory during the cool weather of spring and fall. Except for cool-summer areas, such as the Pacific Northwest or higher altitudes, lobelia stops flowering during the heat of summer. Shear the plant back when this happens, and it will likely rebloom come fall.
Tired of impatiens? Try this enchanting little wishbone flower, also dubbed clown flower for its vividly marked flowers that are said to resemble the face of a clown. It's a wonderful, relatively new choice for shade. The flower shape resembles tiny snapdragons, mouths wide open and showing off delicate throats marked with a contrasting color. Torenia grows easily from seed sown indoors in pots or outdoors in the ground. This little clown flower blooms nonstop until frost.
Garden Plans For Begonia
Year-Round Excitement Garden Plan
Creating a garden around foliage is a surefire way to produce multiseason interest. While most garden beds focus on flowers, this mixed border emphasizes foliage plants of varying heights and textures, and throws flowers in for interest.
Front Walk Garden Plan
This eclectic mix of easy-care flowers is the perfect way to make walking to your front door a pleasant journey.
Hot-Color Flower Garden Plan
This colorful, informal border garden plan features equal measures of perennials and annuals, suitable for a lining a path or sidewalk.