Begonias - a quick guide
Begonia plants originate from tropical and sub-tropical climates and fall into different categories: the fibrous-rooted small bedding types, the house plants with rhizomatous roots grown for their foliage, and the dashing tuberous types which can't fail to impress in containers and borders.
Prized for their summer displays, one of their main benefits is that they will happily perform in shade. Flowers of the tuberous begonias are often huge, the male and female blooms are born on the same plant with the males putting on the greatest show.
It was a gentleman by the name of Richard Pearce who was plant hunting in the Andes at the end of the 19th century where he discovered three tuberous begonias which he brought back to Britain - these were the fore-runners of many of the varieties we have today.
Popular begonia varieties
'Parisienne Trailing' is perfect for a hanging basket and offers gorgeous ruffled blooms in a variety of shades which will tumble tantalisingly above your heads from July to October.
For flowers as large as dinner plates - especially fun for youngsters - Suttons have a 'Prima Donna' range, definitely begonia tubers who adore the spotlight. Whether in orange or yellow or a mixture of both colours in the stunning 'Sunburst', which resembles a large carnation flower, you are guaranteed to be impressed.
If you prefer a more muted palette, then pure white begonias will lighten any shady spot.
How to grow tuberous begonias
The begonia tubers should be started into growth at a temperature of 15º-18ºC (60º-65ºF) during March or April. Plant the tubers hollow side uppermost in trays of compost. Where only a small number of tubers are involved, they can be started in individual pots.
Care must be taken to ensure that the crown of the tuber is not covered and water should be given sparingly until growth has commenced.
When the tubers have rooted and there are shoots about 2.5cm (1") long, transfer them individually into 10-13cm (4"-5") pots. It is advisable to disbud until the plants are strong enough to carry the large blooms. When the plants have reached the flowering stage they will benefit from weekly applications of a Begonia Liquid Feed. Larger flowers will be produced if the small female buds which form either side of the central male flower are removed.
Tuberous begonia care outdoors
Plant outdoors in the border or in containers towards the end of May or early June once the danger of frost has passed. Begonias prefer a cool position and need shelter from strong winds. Water during dry periods and occasionally feed the plants.
In early October as the foliage starts to yellow, gradually withhold water and lift the plants before the first frosts. Remove the dead foliage and store the tubers in dry soil or sand in a cool, frost-free place.
Looking for more established plants? Browse our Begonia Plants collection.