Gardening TipsWhat you Need to Know When You Don't Have a Green Thumb
Although we are in the middle of winter and spring is still weeks away, now is the time to start thinking about planting tuberous begonias. These beautiful shade loving plants require a long growing season, and if planted now, will reward you in a few months time with beautiful flowers in a wide array of colour. There are many different varieties to choose from and each have their own attractive characteristics.
Camellia types: are known for their large, double rose-shaped blooms that are similar to a camellia flower. There is an assortment of colours to choose from including the variety ‘Bouton de Rouge’ known for its pink/red edged petals and white centres. They are the perfect substitute for roses, in those shady spots. They tend to grow 30-40 cm tall.
Frimbriata types: also known as frilled or fringed because of the serrated flower edges, that resemble large carnations. Flowers come in bright colours of red, white, pink and yellow and grow on strong sturdy stems to help them stand tall. Plants grow 25-35 cm tall.
Pendula types: are perfect for your hanging baskets and window boxes as the flowers cascade down from slender stems. Attractive semi-double flowers are available in yellow, white and red. Also available are the Giant Pendula which have beautiful large double flowers that come in colours of apricot, scarlet, yellow, pink and white.
NonStop begonias are known for their continuous bloom. The attractive rose shaped, double flowers are available in white, red, apricot pink and yellow. As the old flowers fade and fall off new flowers appear, making it an easy plant to care for. Plants grow 20-30 cm tall and have a nice branching habit, making it a good choice for containers as well as flowerbeds.
Novelty varieties include Bertini Skaugum which is ideal for containers. It is a large plant that can grow 40 cm tall that produces single, brilliant red flowers that hang down. Picotee Yellow produces attractive, rose-like blooms that grow upright. Each petal is yellow with orange/red edges, making it a very colourful display. Another Picotee is the Picotee White which has white petals that are edged in bright pink.
Marmorata is another novelty who’s flowers have white petals that have red edges and red veining. The edges of the flower petals are ruffled and look similar to a carnation.
Tuberous begonias are not hard to plant. Plant individual tubers in 4 inch peat pots filled with a light weight potting soil. Place the tuber with the hollow side facing up just below the soil surface so there is only 1-2 cm of soil covering the tuber. After it has been planted, carefully moisten the soil trying not to get water in the hollow part of the tuber which can cause it to rot. Put the planted pot in a tray with a dome and place it in a well-lit, warm area as heat will speed things up. Once there are signs of growth, remove the dome. For even healthy growth provide lots of light but avoid direct midday sun as begonias are shade loving plants. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy and fertilize with 10-52-10. For a strong stocky plant, don’t keep it too warm and rotate the plant every few days for even light if grown on a window ledge.
Tuberous begonias do not handle any frost, so wait till all threat of frost has passed before placing plants outdoors in the spring. Plant in a shaded area that receives early morning or late afternoon sun. Begonias can be susceptible to mildew so always water in the morning and avoid getting water on the foliage. Place plants in an area where there is good air circulation. For good flower production, fertilize weekly with 12-36-12.
In the fall after the first killing frost, tubers are dug up and stored indoors over winter and re-planted in February.