Begonias at Pinecrest Gardens

Begonia soli-mutata
I have the distinct pleasure of working in a botanical garden setting with a wide variety of climates to work with. A large portion of the Garden is heavy shade, with numerous rock outcroppings and riverine areas, perfect locations for growing Begonias, especially some of the species which like wet, rocky areas. One of our favorites is B. soli-mutata, with the curious name arising from the fact the leaves change color depending on how much light they receive. The effect can be seen easily in strong light by shading part of a leaf with a sheet of cardboard or even your hand for a few minutes. The leaf will get darker in the shaded areas, and revert to its "sun" color right in front of you ! We are propagating 300 more of these plants for planting in our numerous rocky areas where rocks are covered in moss and near the waterline.

B. imperialis

One of our other favorite plants is Begonia imperialis, a handsome groundcover type which likes constant moisture at its roots. This makes a great candidate for much of our rainforest area. This species propagates readily by leaf cuttings, and makes a great accent to a shaded rock outcropping. There are numerous species for outdoor culture, including several for sunny or high-light areas. 

In brightly lit areas, there is an array of species and hybrids which will do well, both as tall accent plants and as foundation or hedge plants. The 'coccinea' group of cane-types really needs strong light or direct sun to grow best, so we use them in spots where the plantings will get 4 or more hours of morning sunlight. They can get several feet tall, and always have attractive flowers.

B. 'Flamingo'
can grow to 6 feet or more,
flowering almost all year
 For almost any exposure and landscape need, there are Begonia types for you. Some of them are a bit hard to find, but once you start asking nurseries for different types, the word always gets around, and fairly soon you'll have the types you're looking for. Once again, there are societies and chat groups to help with selecting the right plant for the right place.  
B. 'Black Coffee'
a short,ground cover type
for sunny areas
After years of experimenting, I found that each species and hybrid has its own personality. Don't be afraid to move a plant to a different location if the plant doesn't do well after the first year. The plants are also fairly heavy feeders, and need a reliable, yet gentle supply of fertilizer to support their growth. Many growers use organic fertilizer materials with excellent results. One of the best ideologies to use in growing Begonias is they like consistency in their lives: consistent watering, light, and especially fertilizer.   

B. nelumbiifolia
The Lotus-Leaf Begonia
excellent for bright light areas

Try a number of different types, and see what grows best for YOU. The plants are forgiving of a few mistakes, can be easily propagated, and are rewarding in many climates. You could even become a "begoniac !" 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens


1 comment:

  1. My begonias are all blooming in the shade with filtered sun. What I love beside the beauty, is they are pest free. I have another area that gets full sun most of the day, on the side and center of my swimming pool. I would like to bring a pop of color to that area so we can enjoy it from inside our home. Can you recommend a good bloomer with an interesting leaf for a sunny spot? White flowers would work also.