Begonias: How to Plant, Grow and Care for Begonias

Discover some begonia varieties to try in your home and garden and find out how to make sure they thrive with our begonia care tips.

March 19, 2021

Begonia is a genus of about 1,300 species of annuals, perennials, shrubs and climbers. They are characterized by their fleshy stems and are mostly grown for their showy flowers or colorful leaves. They are generally easy to grow plants that will add interest to your garden throughout the growing season.

begonia

Begonias, like this Begonia Upright Double 'Non Stop Apricot' are annuals or tender perennials that come in a striking array of colors and varieties.

Begonia Types

Begonias can be categorized in several ways. Here are some of the most common groups of begonias:

Wax Begonias (Semperflorens)

Also known as fibrous begonias, they are the most prolific bloomers of the begonia family. This group of begonias features a fibrous root. These begonias are prized for their tight mounds of waxy leaves and bright colored petite blossoms.

Pink Wax Begonia Semperflorens

Wax Begonia Semperflorens

Semperflorens begonias, commonly called wax begonias, are one of the most popular bedding plants in the western world.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Christopher_PB

Shutterstock/Christopher_PB

Semperflorens begonias, commonly called wax begonias, are one of the most popular bedding plants in the western world.

Wax begonias, typically grown as annuals, are usually sold in market packs and used as bedding plants because they proliferate, are low maintenance, and offer plenty of color for most of the growing season. They're also great in containers and hanging baskets, where they bloom in scarlet, pink, yellow, apricot, salmon and rose.

  • Bloom Time: Spring through fall
  • Light Needs: Part-shade to full sun
  • Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11

Cane Begonias

This group of begonias is commonly referred to as angel wing begonia. They are evergreen, perennial plants with an upright growing habit. Cane begonias have woody stems with bamboo-like joints. They are grown for their impressive form as well as attractive leaves and flowers. Angel wing begonias are popular houseplants.

Begonia maculata Angel Wing

Begonia maculata Angel Wing

Begonia maculata, also known as the Polka Dot begonia.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Hvoya

Shutterstock/Hvoya

Begonia maculata, also known as the Polka Dot begonia.

  • Bloom Time: Seasonal
  • Light Needs: Part shade
  • Hardiness Zones: 10 to 11

Tuberous Begonias

Most gardeners are familiar with tuberous begonias. This group features a large and diverse collection of brightly colored, summer-blooming flowers with waxy petals. Tuberous begonias are characterized by their thick tubers that store water and nutrients. Cultivars in this begonia group are mainly grown for their showy flowers and are ideal for hanging baskets, window boxes, garden beds, borders and more.

Amerihybrid Ruffled Pink Tuberous Begonia in a container.

Amerihybrid Ruffled Pink Tuberous Begonia

Amerihybrid 'Ruffled Pink' tuberous begonia.

Photo by: Ballseed

Ballseed

Amerihybrid 'Ruffled Pink' tuberous begonia.

  • Bloom Time: July to September
  • Light Needs: Part shade
  • Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11

Rhizomatous Begonias

These begonias are mostly grown for their foliage, and many varieties resemble Rex types. This begonia group features a compact, mounding habit with large, often colorful leaves from thick rhizomes that grow along the soil surface. The group encompasses hundreds of species and thousands of cultivars and hybrids. The flowers are typically white or pink.

A bed of Rhizomatous Begonias in flower.

Rhizomatous Begonias

A bed of rhizomatous begonias.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Dwi Windaryanto

Shutterstock/Dwi Windaryanto

A bed of rhizomatous begonias.

  • Bloom Time: Seasonal
  • Light Needs: Part shade to full shade
  • Hardiness Zones: 10 to 12

Rex Begonia

Rex, or rex-cultorum, is a subcategory of rhizomatous begonias. They get their unique recognition because they are popular houseplants. These begonias are widely hybridized and cultivated for their showy foliage. In contrast, the flowers produced by Rex begonias are relatively insignificant. The leaves range widely in color, texture and size. Although most rex begonias grow from a thickened stem structure called a rhizome, they are not classed with other rhizomatous begonias.

Begonia Rex in a container.

Begonia Rex

'Jurassic Green Streak' rex begonia.

Photo by: Ballseed

Ballseed

'Jurassic Green Streak' rex begonia.

  • Bloom Time: Year-round (indoors) unremarkable blooms
  • Light Needs: Bright, indirect
  • Hardiness Zones: 10 to 12

Interspecific Begonias

Interspecific begonias are a cross between two species of begonia. Begonias in this group tend to be larger with more prominent blooms. Most interspecific varieties feature flowers in shades of red, pink, and white and will bloom profusely until frost. Interspecific begonias are used in both garden beds and containers. One of the most popular varieties is dragon wing begonias.

Begonia "Dragon Wing"

Begonia "Dragon Wing"

Dragon wing begonia.

Photo by: GettImages/REDA&CO

GettImages/REDA&CO

Dragon wing begonia.

  • Bloom Time: Seasonal
  • Light Needs: Shade, partial sun
  • Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11

Rieger Begonias

These are the gorgeous flowers you often see sold as disposable plants in nurseries and garden centers in late winter or early spring. They are prized for their waxy green foliage and brightly colored flowers that bloom bountifully from spring until autumn. Botanically they are known as Hiemalis begonia or Elatior begonia. Originally Rieger was a cross between wax begonia and tuberous begonia. However, the variety has since evolved into a category of its own. Riegers are available in bright red, yellow, pink, white and orange.

Begonia Elatior Rieger

Begonia Elatior Rieger

Elatior begonia.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Maria Pomelnikova

Shutterstock/Maria Pomelnikova

Elatior begonia.

  • Bloom Time: Seasonal
  • Light Needs: Partial shade or filtered light
  • Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11

How To Plant Begonias

There are many ways to get started with begonias. You can buy starter plants at the garden center, propagate begonias from cuttings or start them from seeds. Seed starting is the most challenging of the three due to the seeds' miniscule size and the length of time required for germination. Leaf cuttings root easily, but you need something to start with. Most gardeners start with young plants.

Plant both annual and perennial begonia types in partial shade, with moist, well-drained soil high in organic content. They need bright light to flower, but too much direct sunlight may scorch the leaves. Ideally, choose a site with morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled sunlight beneath an open tree canopy. Bronze leaf wax begonias offer the best sun tolerance, while greenleaf plants need more protection.

Begonia Care

Begonias are not heavy feeders. Apply a slow-release fertilizer or a granular organic fertilizer at the time of planting to supply all of their needs through the growing season. Fertilize perennial hardy begonias in late spring each year.

Although wax begonias and some others tolerate dry conditions, all types grow best with consistent soil moisture. Planting in high-quality soil is the key. Amend garden beds with compost to boost organic content for excellent moisture balance. Apply 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch to retain moisture and buffer temperature extremes. For container plants, choose glazed pottery or plastic containers that retain moisture better than unglazed terra cotta. Water often enough to keep the soil from drying out.

Prevent plant stress that leads to disease and pest problems by giving your begonias the right growing conditions. Excessive moisture from frequent overhead irrigation invites disease problems. Water outdoor flower beds in the early morning, when the foliage is already wet from dew, and only when the soil begins to dry. Better still, use drip irrigation to avoid wetting the leaves. Also, avoid over-fertilizing, as too much plant food results in too much soft plant tissue, which attracts insect pests.

Growing Begonias Indoors

The best way to ensure the survival of any begonia houseplant is to select the proper location indoors that matches their lighting needs.

Rhizomatous and fibrous-rooted species like Rex begonias are often grown as houseplants. While you can grow tuberous begonias indoors, they are harder to take care of due to their light and humidity needs.

Like most houseplants, begonias prefer bright, indirect light and plenty of humidity. If the air in your home is dry, especially in the winter, set the begonia houseplants on a shallow tray filled with pebbles and water, but keep the water level below the pebbles to prevent water from wicking into the pot through capillary action. Or, invest in a small humidifier.

While begonias enjoy a humid environment, that doesn't mean that they need frequent watering. Allow the top inch or so of potting soil to dry out before giving your potted begonia a good drink. It's a good idea to water until it runs out of the bottom of the pot to make sure that the soil is completely saturated.

Also, begonias love company. Amanda Spangler, a horticulturist and lecturer for the University of Tennessee's Department of Plant Sciences, suggests grouping a few of your favorite houseplants together to create a microclimate of increased humidity in the area around your begonia plants.

In cold regions, wintering hardy tuberous begonias inside is an excellent way to keep them from year to year. These types perform best in a brightly lit room, but indoor humidity is drier than these plants prefer.

Repotting Begonias

When your begonias are ready to move into a bigger pot, choose a container that is only an inch or so larger than its current pot.

"Putting a small begonia in a big container or potting one before the plant is ready for an upgrade may lead to root rot and other fungal problems," says Spangler.

Choose a potting mix that has some good organic matter or a soil-less mix with slow-release fertilizer mixed in. If you are happy with the size of the pot that your begonia is currently growing in, you don't necessarily need to re-pot it to maintain a healthy plant.

Topdress with an inch or so of fresh potting mix every year and root prune if needed.

Next Up

Planting and Growing Yarrow

Learn what you need to know about growing yarrow.

How to Grow and Care for Pansies

Pretty, perky pansy plants are one of the easiest flowers to grow. They bring bold color during cool seasons, unfurling blooms in a rainbow of hues. Learn how to coax the best show from your pansies.

Dahlias: How to Care for, Plant and Grow

These gorgeous flowers unfurl one of the widest-ranging color palettes. Get HGTV garden experts' best tips for dahlia care.

How to Grow Hibiscus

So many varieties, and easier to grow than you think.

Peonies 101: How to Transplant, Grow and Divide Peonies

Learn how to bring these fragrant, fluffy flowers to your garden.

How to Grow Daylilies

With some advance planning, you can have glorious daylilies for spring by planting in the fall with this advice from HGTV gardening experts.

How to Grow Bold and Beautiful Bulbs

To get your flower bulbs to bloom in the spring, start planting in the fall.

Southern Belle: Magnolia

This quintessential Dixie tree boasts sumptuous blossoms and rich, glossy leaves.

The Franklin Tree

Add a bit of history to your landscape with this native American tree.

How to Grow Sesame

Want to make your own sesame seed tahini or hamburger bun topping? Try growing nutrient-packed sesame.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.

Related Pages