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Popular name: Tuberous begonia
Origin: South America
Flower colour: red, white, pink, orange, yellow, purple, apricot, bicolours.
Flowering period: June - October
Average plant height: 25 - 40 cm
Planting depth to base of bulb: just covered with soil
Spacing between bulbs: 15 cm
Type of bulb: tuber
Light requirements: grows best in light shade, direct sunlight causes burning of flowers and leaves (AM sun to 50% shade)
Landscape uses: borders, beds and pots
The Begonia genus consists of hundreds of species but only one category, tuberous begonias, comes within the scope of this site. Modern tuberous begonias are not a species of one of the greatest tropical plant families, but are the creation of horticulturalists and are botanically described as Begonia tuberhybrida. No other flower has so many ancestors as these large-flowered hybrids descended from many species native to tropical South America.
We can divide them in a few groups: Begonia Bertinii (pendulous flower), Begonia crispa (single flower), Begonia double, Begonia pendula, Begonia fimbriata (ruffled and double flower), Begonia marmorata (double flower) and Begonia multiflora maxima (small flowering). The leaves are large and dark green.
All make excellent conservatory plants, but they are mostly known as bedding plants or for use in borders, hanging baskets and containers. The name Begonia comes from Michel Bégon (1638 - 1710), intendant of San Domingo, later governor of Canada, who was very active in botany. When Charles Plumier, a French botanist and monk, described the first Begonia in the early 1700s, he chose to honor Mr. Bégon by naming the Begonia for him.
Begonias are not winter hardy. They cannot tolerate exposure to frost. In spring, plant them out after the last threat of night frost. (Many people start up begonias indoors 4 - 6 weeks before planting them outdoors to get a "jump" on the season and produce earlier blooms. In fall dig up the bulbs before the first night frost and store them, layered in peat or vermiculite, in a cool dry place, for replanting the following spring.
The colours possessed by tuberous begonias strongly suggest the use of blue-flowering partners. In flower boxes, species such as Scaevola aemula and Lobelia erinus are good choices, as well as Salvia farinacea, of course. Yellow tuberous begonias contrast beautifully in a container holding a small creeping (or pendulous) little conifer such as Juniperus horizontalis. Large containers planted with tuberous begonias can also contain geraniums, Mignon dahlias and low-growing small-flowered zinnias. A pretty terra cotta pot filled only with white tuberous begonias and some ivy trailing over the edge is quite lovely just as it is.