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ALASKA HAWAII MIDWEST NORTHEAST PACIFIC NORTHWEST SOUTHEAST SOUTHWEST WEST Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3 Zone 4 Zone 5 Zone 6 Zone 7 Zone 8 Zone 9 Zone 10
What is this To help gardeners understand which plants will grow well for them, the entire USA has been segmented into ‘Plant Hardiness Zones’.

How to Grow Begonias

how to grow begonias in a windowbox

If you have shade, you must grow begonias. The 'wax' or bedding plant begonia is most common and adds effortless color under trees and in shade gardens. However, you can also mix and match begonias with unique leaf colors and shapes, such as Rex and Angel Wing begonias, in containers and shady beds. Tuberous begonias have stunning, colorful flowers, especially when grown in hanging pots on a deck or patio.

When & Where to Plant Begonias

Light: Begonias are classic shade-lovers that are only reliable perennials in zones 9 and 10. Most are grown as annuals in all other zones. Some newer varieties can tolerate direct sun, especially if it's morning sun. In cooler areas, begonias can tolerate more sun than in hot climates. Most like bright, dappled light to grow their best.

Soil: Begonias grow best in light, fertile, well-drained soil. Begonias are very susceptible to root and stem rot when exposed to cold, wet soils, so proper drainage is essential.

Spacing: Plant begonias 8 to 12 inches apart if growing wax begonia types in garden beds. Tuberous begonias grow from tubers that should be spaced about 1 foot apart.

Planting: Plant begonias for the garden in spring after danger of frost has passed. Begonias are very sensitive to frost and cold, wet weather, so don't hurry to plant them outdoors. Even temperatures below 50F can damage young begonias depending on the type you're growing.

planting begonia tubers

How to Grow Begonias Throughout the Season

Growth Habit: Wax begonias grow 6 to 24 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide depending on the variety. Some are upright growing while others are trailing. Wax begonias are often grown as bedding plants in a shady annual garden or in containers. Tuberous begonias can be upright or trailing depending on the variety. Tuberous begonias can be grown in the ground, but more often are grown in containers and hanging baskets. One plant per 12 inch diameter container is usually sufficient.

Staking: Trailing varieties of tuberous begonias are meant to creep and need no staking. Nor do the wax begonias. Upright tuberous begonias, though, can benefit from staking so the flower stems stand tall to make viewing the beautiful flowers easier. When upright varieties are 4 to 6 inches tall, place a narrow bamboo or metal stake in the soil near the main stem. Fasten the stem to the stake with plant ties or garden twine, being careful not to damage the stem. Add more ties to provide ongoing support as the plant grows.

Watering: Begonias need moist soil, but are very susceptible to rotting under wet conditions. Water less frequently with wax begonias in the ground if rains are regular. Water containers of wax and tuberous begonias more frequently, but always watch to not over water or stems might rot off.

Fertilizing: Amend the soil before planting wax begonias in the ground with compost. Begonias are heavy feeders, so fertilize plants in the ground and in containers monthly with an organic balanced fertilizer. For container begonias use a liquid fertilizer, so the nutrients are more readily available.

Mulching: Since begonias are susceptible to rot due to wet conditions, mulching should be done carefully. Use bark mulch around plants to preserve soil moisture and prevent weeds from growing. Keep mulch a few inches away from the succulent begonia stems or they may rot. Begonias in containers don't need mulching.

Trimming & Pruning: Pinch back wax begonias after their second set of true leaves form. This will create a bushier plant with more flowers. Pinch plants again in summer if they become leggy or if you want to stimulate new growth. Deadhead wax begonias to help keep them flowering and tidy up the plant. Some newer varieties are self cleaning, meaning that they drop spent flowers and don't need deadheading.

Pinch back the growth tips of tuberous begonias when the new growth is about 3 to 6 inches long in the spring. Pinch back to the second healthy bud from the tip and repeat this process monthly until mid summer to encourage bushiness and more flowers. Deadhead regularly to not only clean up the tuberous begonia's look, but also remove rotting old flowers that might infect the plants.

Begonias: End of Season Care

Dividing & Transplanting: All begonias can be propagated by stem and leaf cuttings. This is an easy way to produce more plants quickly. Angle Wing, Rex and other specialty fancy-leaf begonias benefit from dividing every few years, especially if grown in containers. In the spring, remove the begonias from the pot and carefully separate the newer side plants from the mother plant. Replant in a new pot with fresh soil.

Tuberous begonia tubers need to be dug and stored indoors each winter in most areas.

Pests/Disease: The biggest problems with begonias is their propensity to rot if exposed to poor drainage or wet conditions. Botrytis rot is one of the more common fungal diseases that attacks begonias. Use light potting soil with extra perlite to promote proper drainage. In the garden, grow begonias in sandy loam soil. If you have heavy clay soil, grow begonias in raised beds filled with compost and topsoil.

Powdery mildew also can attack begonias causing the leaves and flowers to yellow and drop prematurely. Look for disease resistant varieties if mildew is a common problem in your areas. Otherwise, space plants further apart to increase air flow. Try spraying Serenade (Bacillus subtilis) organic fungicide on the plants to prevent mildew growth or use the home recipe of 1 tablespoon baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon horticultural oil in 1 gallon of water. Both of these sprays work best if used as a preventive.

White flies and mealybugs sometimes will attack begonias especially those grown indoors. Spray insecticidal soap to kill white flies and dab mealybugs with a cotton swab drenched in rubbing alcohol.

Begonias: Extra Info

Tuberous and fancy begonia leaves can be stained and discolored by water. Avoid watering with cold water or tap water that is high in minerals. Use distilled water instead. For fancy leaf begonias that you're growing indoors as houseplants in winter, set up a pebble tray under the pots and fill it with water periodically to keep the humidity high.


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