We dedicate the previous entry to the tuberous begonias, a concrete variety of the many that exist of these popular plants that, for their beauty, make almost all lovers of plants and garden fall in love. Today we will talk about the different types of begonia that exist; from wild species to man-made cultivars. All receive similar basic care, but there are differences according to the category of each plant.
The begonia was discovered by Charles Plumier, a monk and botanic explorer sent to the West Indies to study the flora of tropical regions. On one of his trips, made in 1688, it was when he found this new plant that he named Begonia, in honor of his benefactor Michel Begón. Since then, begonias are plants desired by all botanical researchers that have reproduced and hybridized to obtain more beautiful plants every day. In the 19th century, they became especially popular as decorative plants inside the house and in gardens.
Begonias are ornamental plants, some for their showy flowers and others for their striking foliage. The genus comprises more than 1,500 different species from Asia, America and Asia; and more than 10,000 varieties and hybrids. Its maintenance is simple but, being plants of tropical origin, they need special care if they are grown under other climatic conditions. Most are perennials, although some go dormant during the winter until they wake up again the following spring. In general, they all need warm temperatures, sifted sun, humid environment, and well-drained soil.
There are various scientific classifications of begonias, but as gardeners, we are interested in knowing those that affect their morphology and growth habits. These characteristics are the basic ones to distinguish them and know how to take good care of a begonia.
Types of begonias according to their morphology
According to the shape of its roots
Fasciculated or fibrous root begonias
In the fasciculated plants, there is no main root, the entire underground structure of the plant grows homogeneously forming a fibrous mass. B. semperflorens belongs to this type.
Its main feature is that the root is a rhizome, an underground stem with buds that grow horizontally emitting herbaceous shoots that will give rise to new stems. They are plants that cover, over time, large areas of land. The Begonia rex is a clear representative of them.
Its roots are thickened and form a tuber whose objective is that the plant can accumulate nutrients in it. We previously dedicated a large article to tuberous begonias.
According to the aerial part of the plant
They are plants whose decorative value falls on the leaves, bright colors, and striking shapes. The flowers, on the other hand, are small and without ornamental interest. B. masoniana, B. imperialism, B. rex, etc. belong to this group. Also, many hybrids and cultivars obtained from them, such as the beautiful Begonia rex “escargot”.
They are characterized by producing very colorful and ornamental flowers, but for this, they need very bright light, cool temperatures, and high ambient humidity. They usually bloom from spring to fall, although some have the peculiarity of doing so during winter when the days are shorter. They stand out for their flowers B. elatior, B. semperflorens, or B. Lorraine. The latter is a winter flowering begonia.
Begonias according to their growth habits
They are varieties that grow with multiple erect stems up to considerable heights that give the plant the shrub bearing. They are usually planted with pubescent stems, that is, they have hairs on their epidermis with the purpose of retaining moisture. A tree begonia can reach 2.5 meters high. B. Tamaya (known as Begonia Bambu) is a fabulous species that grows on straight stems and forms a cup of leaves at the end. The flowers, pink, appear in spring and hang like bunches.
Creeping and climbing begonias
These are plants whose stems have a tendency to fall and do not raise much height unless we guide them on a support. They are perfect for growing in hanging baskets, where the flowers will hang as if they spilled from the container. You can also guide a tutor and make them grow up, but you have to do it delicately so as not to break their delicate branches. Among them are the curious B. prismatocarpa and the striking B. solananthera.
Cultivation of begonias
They are perfect plants for shady gardens. All varieties of begonia have in common that they do not support direct sunlight. They need to be planted in the shade, but a bright shade or sunlight sifted by the tops of trees and bushes higher. The sun is especially harmful to large-leaf begonias, such as B. Rex, because it causes severe burns. However, some flower begonias, such as B. semperflorens, appreciate some sunlight if the weather is cool.
Begonias are tropical plants and for them, the temperature range in which they function properly is between 17 and 23ºC. They do not tolerate low temperatures and will die as soon as it is cold.
Inside the house, avoid putting them near radiators or other sources of heat, as well as keeping them away from drafts.
All types of begonia need moisture, both in the soil and in the environment. If the weather is dry, we can help by spraying water near its leaves. Another way to create a wetter environment is to put several plants together.
Begonias can be grown on the garden floor or in pots, both outdoors and indoors. It is important that the earth is light and moist but without flooding. To also be rich in nutrients, we will add organic matter.
During the winter the soil does not dry out excessively and it will not be necessary to water very often, but it should be checked that it is always slightly damp. In summer and while the plant blooms, the irrigation should be greater. But you have to be careful and avoid that the substrate is flooded for a long time. The roots could rot.
Maintenance of the begonias
Flower begonias are commonly used as annual plants for their cold intolerance; but if the conditions accompany, they can last several years. Semperflorens, for example, are quite resistant begonias that in a climate like mine (Mediterranean) can live quite a long time.
It is convenient to eliminate the withered flowers that affect their appearance and reduce energy to produce seeds. We will also remove the leaves that spoil or get sick. Begonias are prone to mildew and other fungal diseases. That is why it is important to control irrigation and prevent water from stagnating.
All types of begonia reproduce well by stem cuttings or leaves in summer. Tuberous and rhizomes, spread very likely to succeed division of the tuber or rhizome.