Appreciation Post: Begonias
What plant surprised you this year?
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Everyone has plants that intimidate or mystify them. Maybe it’s because someone told you they were hard to grow, maybe because you had a bad experience growing them elsewhere — whatever the reason, you look at them and think not for me.
I used to feel that way about begonias. I felt sure that I’d either screw up the planting and get nothing, that the leaves would rot, that I’d never get the profusion of blooms that you see in the photos of those little plastic packs two-packs they sell at the garden store. But last summer, I grew a few non-flowering ones (painted leaf, purchased as small plants from Fred Meyer) in a random shade pot, and they got massive. This year, I thought I’d try growing from tubers in three of my big containers in total shade. And I feel deeply in love.
First off, they’re incredibly, incredibly easy to grow. I bought several two-packs like this from my local nursery; I think they cost around $8 a piece.
Now, this is the same brand that I recently advised people not to buy when it comes to dahlias (importers of often diseased tubers with unstable DNA). But begonia tubers (at least at the level I’m operating at) are apparently similar to tulip bulbs, at least in this regard: buy from pretty much wherever (Costco! Brecks! Your local nursery!) and you’ll be fine.
For prep, I used brand new potting soil. You basically just push the tuber into the soil and very, very slightly cover it with soil…..and then wait. Here in coastal Zone 8A, I put them out in early May because any earlier and I was risking some soggy rot conditions, but I might try late April next time. They took a few weeks to sprout, and then a month to really, REALLY get going.
They were in total shade, and I watered them (not deeply) about once every three days. Depending on the planter, I planted some fancy vinca, dusty miller, fuschias, and some delicate frothy ferns alongside. Sometime in July, they started to get glorious. When I gave my dahlias some fish fertilizer (once in late July, again in late August) I gave my begonias some, too. And now, as we’re edging toward first frost, they’re more robust than ever — not leggy, not scraggly, just lush.
You can get ones that are more upright, ones that trail, angel wings, “doubles” (aka, more like what you see in that yellow flower above) or “singles.” You can get them in red, in deep pink, in orange, in yellow.
And you can (allegedly!) dig the tubers and save them for next year — I’m going to at least give it a try when I dig and store my dahlias. For this week’s discussion, I’d love to hear about your own experience with begonias….or another plant that you avoided and have come to love. I’m also here to answer questions about shade pots, which were my MVPs of the season.
**As always, try and post your zone in your comment so as to give others some perspective on your growing conditions — and come back after you’ve left your comment (and look for others’ replies) to keep the conversation going.**