Types Of Begonias - Which Variety To Choose For Your Gardens -

Types Of Begonias – Which Variety To Choose For Your Gardens

types of begonias

As begonias go, there is nothing wrong with choosing them for a showy splash of color, no matter where your gardens are located. Heck, you don't even have to plant them in gardens. They look just as nice in pots, hanging baskets, or other planters. The question then becomes, which types of begonias are appropriate for which planting locations?

There are approximately 1000 species and more than 10,000 cultivars of begonias. We could go on and on here, explaining each one and their characteristics but we feel it's not needed. The fact is, there are just a few types that are widely used by most homeowners. These types of begonias are popular because for a number of reasons.

one, they are available everywhere plants are sold and after all, don't you just buy what the store has in stock?
Two, they are very easy to grow and require very little care so they are a good choice for gardeners that know little about plants.

The only issue with begonias is watering. All plants need watering of course, especially if you live in a hot, dry climate or you haven't been getting enough rain so that factor shouldn't influence whether to plant them or not. We say YES to begonias!

Unless you're looking for a specific variety for a specific planting purpose, you'll most likely find it in your local store and/or garden center. What are those different types?  Basically, there are 3 we want to cover here. All of them you've probably seen.

You'll find that these 3 different types of begonias are so different from each other you'll wonder how they are related to one another. Trust us, they are. These types are catagorizied by their roots systems.  All varities fall into these 3 catagories:

Fiberous Begonias (includes bedding or wax begonias and the popular cane begonia).
Turberous Begonias (grown from tubers)
Rhizomatous Begonias (grow from rhizomes in the ground.

Let's explain what the differences are now, and where you can plant them in your landscape.

Ask The Pros Landscape Consulting – Answering Your Urgent Questions

Fiberous Begonias

Fiberous roots are a type of begonia that grows from, well, fiberous roots.  These are the common roots you'll see on a majority of plants, trees and shrubs in your gardens.  While there are many cultivars of fiberous rooted begonias, the 2 most common, and the ones we want to talk about here are the common bedding begonia (semperflorens - also called wax begonias), and the cane begonia - which includes dragon wing and angel wing begonias, among others.

Wax Begonias - Where They Will Do Best

one type of begonia in potSun: Full To Part Sun
Zones: Hardy to 10-11, otherwise an annual

Arguably one of the most popular plants on the market today, wax begonias, also called bedding begonias or semperflorens, are the variety you see in, well, garden beds. Hence the nick name "bedding begonias."

In the picture to the left you'll see one wax begonia plant in a pot.  Contract to the featured image above which is the exact same plant, but in a flower bed and planted on a massive scale.  Beautiful, aren't they.

Wax begonnias are annuals in many parts of the U.S. Here in planting zone 7 they will not survive the winter. Once your first frost has arrived and your growing season is officially over, they will be toast!

Bedding begonias come in many different varieties, including different colored blooms combined with different colored leaves.

Most flowers we've seen can either be white, pink or red and the foliage is either solid green or a variated reddish variety that has the look of a tropical plant.

If you're looking to create a tropical themed garden, be sure to look into the red-leafed begonia variety. We love them and use them for our tropical outdoor themed oasis and they fit in perfectly. They are available everywhere begonias are sold.

Although wax begonias like full sun, they will also tolerate partial shade. Depending on the amount of sun, they will either florish or just survive.

As an example. we have a garden that gets varying amounts of sun. Parts of the garden get more sun than other parts. We plant wax begonnias throughout that garden and we can see the difference in the ones that get more sun versus the ones that get less.

The ones that get less sun sometimes struggle and rarely grow to the size of the ones planted in more sun.

If the conditions are right, they will grow quite large and in a bedding environement will form a massive solid grouping of color 2 feet high.

This variety of begonia is drought tollerant. They can go for days without water if need be. However, don't let them go too long without giving them a drink. Otherwise, they won't grow as nicely as they should.

The wax begonia is a tried and true annual that you won't regret planting. If you haven't tried some, we urge you to do so.

Cane Begonias - Sizing It Up

dragon wing begonia shade annualPlanting Zones: Hardy to 9-11, otherwise an annual
Light: Full Shade

The other type of begonia that is part of the fiberous root catagory is the can begonia - of which dragon wing begonias and angel wing begonias are a part.

These plants are shade plants.  We can't say that the foliage or flowers resemble dragon wings because we've never actually seen a dragon's wing. However, they do have very unique foliage.

The leaves are a combination of deep green and a redish color and droop down and grow on graceful swooping branches. Like the tuberous variety, dragon wings also have branches that will break easily.

The flowers are not the showy part of this plant. They are usually small and are mostly sold in reds and pinks. However, they can be very numerous on each stem so even though they are small, color show will definitely be noticed.

Dragon wing begonias grow quite large and wide. They can average 2-3 feet wide as well as 2-3 feet tall. They are often used in hanging baskets for this reason but a garden would also be a good choice. Their best use however is in hanging baskets or pots. Just one plant can fill out a very large basket or pot.

If you need a beautiful plant for shade, these are it. They will thrive in shade and grow to their full size and be loaded with blooms. This fact makes them an excellent choice for any problem area you have on your property that's too shady for other flowing plants.

As an example, one of our gardens is completely shady and approximately 15 feet wide. After years of trying many other shade loving annuals that never did well in that location, we decided to try dragon wing begonias and voila, we found the plant that loves that location!

We also use them in pots on our front porch, which is in total shade - no direct sunlight at all - and they do great!

Just like other varieties, dragon wing begonias can also tolerate drought to a point. The'll be OK several days without water. If you see them drooping, they need water. Giving water to the plant when it's drooping will usually allow it to come back without a problem.

Once you get a feel for the look of this plant, you might mistake other begonias for sale in hanging baskets with these. Don't do that. They aren't the same and won't grow the same. Big box stores such as Home Depot and Lowes don't always carry the dragon wings but garden centers usually do. If the plant tag doesn't say dragon wing begonia, it's probably not.

We highly recommend this plant for any shade area around your home.

Turberous Begonias For Big Showy Flowers

tuberous begoniasSun: Partial Sun
Zones: hardy to 10-11, otherwise an annual

Another type of begonia is called a "tuberous begonia. This is because the plant grows from tubers, which are similar to bulbs that grow underground and sprout flower and foliage above ground.

Many people would say that tuberous begonias are even more showy than the wax/bedding variety. This is because their flowers are much larger, each one composed of many individual pedals. The flowers however, are grown on weaker stems and are more likely to break off - so handling these plants requires some extra care.

Notice in the photo to the left the tuberous begonia flower, then compare it to the photo above of the wax begonia in the pot.  Very different blooms.

We like these big beautiful flowers that positively glow in the sunlight.

Recently big box stores such as Home Depot and Lowes are stocking these beautys in large quantities. Obvously, they've become quite popular.

One thing to keep in mind that with this variety of begonia, over watering will cause the stems to rot and fall off. This means that if you have a rainy season and you see this happening, you know the reason. It's best to err on the side of less water, rather than more.

Rhizomatous Begonias For Spectacular Leaves

rhizomatous begonia example 1 type of begonia
rhizome begonia example 2 type of begonia

Planting Zones 10-12
Light: Full Shade To Partial Sun (Filtered Light)

The last and the least common of the 4 types of begonais is called "rhizomatous begonia" coming from the word rhizome.

What the heck is a rhizome? Simply put, rhizomes are roots that grow horizontally under the ground, away from the plant. These types of roots typically sprout new plants along the legnth of the root. However, when it comes to rhizomatous begonias, this won't usually happen because of of where they are planted (more on that in a minute).

This type of begonia is not as common as the others but you can still find it in many garden centers and is highly desirable for one particular characteristic.

Rhizomatous begonias are mainly know for, and grown for, their showy leaves. There are lots of different varieties of leaf colors and textures available so if you're wanting some of these beauties, you'll have a lot to choose from. Some are small but some produce leaves that are 3 feet in diameter!

Above you'll see photos of 2 of the many different rhizomatous begonias out there.  Notice the leaves and how different they are.  This is only the tip of the iceberg.  There are many others.

You might have noticed above that their planting zones are only zones 10-12. These plants are definitely suited for warm climates if planted outdoors. If not, they would be annuals if planted in the ground but more likely, you'll be using them in pots that you can move indoors during the winter.

This variety of begonia prefers indirect or filtered light. That means shade. Because of this, many people leave this plant inside all year or take it outside during the summer to a covered porch or other shade area, then brought in during the winter. Generally, you might find these plants in the store where indoor plants are grown.

Pots are the preferred vehicle for planting and because of this, the rhizomes will not have the chance to grow outward and produce other multiple plants because of their confined space in pots.

If you're planting them in pots for use indoors, their preferred location is in an east facing window. Avoid south or west facing windows where the sunlight might be more direct. In addition, they like it moist, so don't let them dry out for extended time periods. Once a week watering indoors should be enough, more if they are outdoors.

Due to their wide variety of leaf shapes, colors and textures, rhizomatous begonias make great additions to porches, or even shade gardens if you can move your pots around during the year.

Types Of Begonias - Your Final Choice

The choice you make as to which begonia variety you'll plant has everything to do with you and your planting location.

Where you do want to plant them? What is the effect you're after? If you want bright colors, perhaps you want the tuberous variety. If you want your garden to be filled in with a mass of color and foliage, perhaps the wax begonia is your choice.

Note that when their growing conditions say "annuals everywhere except certain zones," what that means is that they are not cold hardy so anywhere there's a potential of frost, all begonias will not survive. This doesn't mean that they are perennails though which die back each winter. What it means is that in warmer climates they will continue to grow year round.

None of the choices are bad ones. Use one or more types of begonias in your gardens and they will come alive.

If, you are still confused, read our article about the differences between annuals and perennials.

For more information on other plants you can use in your landscape, visit our plant guide now.

Happy gardening.

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