Autumn Oak Lane: Begonia dreaming
Ode to begonias: from houseplants to outdoor hanging baskets and terrarium species, this genus of plants has thousands of species to pick from and thousands of cultivars to select and hybridize on your own time.
A cultivar is a specially bred variegation of a plant. For instance, you may have a green-leafed begonia and you want to cross it with an orange streaked-leaf begonia. The resulting seed pod of this will have several seedlings that will produce different specimens. One may be compact and form a mound and have all orange leaves, another may be leggy in growth and have green streaked leaves while being drowned in orange hues, the list goes on and on.
Now for the houseplant enthusiast, you will need a humidifier to keep these moisture-loving plants looking spazzy in your cozy humble abode. They are tender perennials which means they need to be kept warm in order to live year-round. Some begonias are called rhizomatous which means they creep along the soil bed by a modified stem sending out leaves asymmetrically. Others have fibrous roots that grow bamboo-like canes with asymmetrical leaves off-shooting from the stem, and others have cane-like growth and grow from each leaf node. There are thousands of houseplant-suitable species to collect. They come in all shades and markings from orange starbursts to purple and grey spirals. Their leaves can be star-shaped, oblong or angel wing-shaped. They like to be grown in WELL-drained soil and like to dry out between watering.
Now, for the hanging basket begonias grown outside, these are usually tuberous or cane angel wing begonias. The tuberous ones have showy flowers that mimic the peony blooms and the angel wing varieties are grown because their leaves are very harmonious. With red undersides mimicking the Louboutin heel, these plants are incredibly beautiful for showing off in entryways or backyard trees so that they cascade down from above.
The angel wing begonias can be solid-colored or have polka-dotted or frilled leaves, amping up their display. Fertilize once a month from January to May and then every other week from May to September. Let them go dormant in the winter so they can focus on sending out roots and storing energy to keep growing next year.
My favorite begonias to grow so far are probably the angel wing ones. They are so beautiful and very vigorous growers and are easy to propagate and collect more of when taking cuttings. I hope this blog inspires you to do some research and perhaps become a plant parent.