How to Care for Begonias

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Flush with color, begonias (​Begonia​ spp.) are a beautiful addition to most gardens. However, they do take a bit of know-how to bring them to their full flowering potential. They are great to grow in containers, and they love moist soil, but begonias are also a bit finicky. The colorful, bouncy blooms of begonias also make beautiful friends in the garden bed. Before bringing home begonias, or if you already have a specimen struggling at home, there are a few basics to know to get the best from your tuberous plant.

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Begonia Basics for Beginners

Although there are cold-hardy perennial begonias, most types are commonly grown as annuals. Annual begonia plants can sprout up quickly under the right conditions. Location and water are two important factors when growing begonias. Some begonias grow best in full sun, while others prefer shadier conditions. Annual begonias are originally a subtropical species of ​Begonia​ (Semperflorens-Cultorum Group, USDA zones 9-11), also called wax or bedding begonias. These plants come in green or a reddish bronze leaf with single or double flowers in shades of blush pink, ruby reds and creamy whites. The green-leaf types perform better in shady locations, and the bronze-leaf types favor sunny spots.

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Moist Soil Matters

Begonias love humidity so keep the soil moist, but not soaking. If the soil is too wet, the picky begonias will show their displeasure at having their roots soaking in water. If the soil is too dry, the thick leaves will show signs of shriveling rather quickly. Finding that happy medium can take a few trial runs. Extra perlite in light potting soil will help with the begonia's need for proper drainage. Sandy loam soil can be added if the begonia lives in a large garden bed outside. Outdoor garden spaces that have a heavy clay soil aren't ideal for begonias, but a raised bed filled with lush topsoil and compost will help keep the plant in good spirits.

Location Solutions

If the leaves begin to show signs of sun damage, move the begonia to a shadier part of the outdoor space it inhabits. Make sure to clip off the spent blooms to keep the plant thriving in its happy home. They love a good haircut to keep them bushy year round so don't be afraid of cutting them back before frost hits your region.

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