Newbie Questions

lisazone6_ma(z6 MA)June 11, 2009

Hello everyone - I am completely new to begonias. I know NOTHING about them, and have only ever grown tuberous begonias outside in the summer. I recently bought two - one called Escargot, and the other from Logee's called Phoe's Cleo.

Anyway, I want to repot them into nice pots. Do they require anything special as far as soil? Do they like low light/high light? To be kept wet/let dry between waterings? I guess I'm looking for general cultural info.

I am a longtime gardener and I know a fair amount about plants, I have orchids and have grown other specialized plants, but as I said, these are my very first begonias and I know nothing! I usually do research first and then buy, but I was just captured by the leaves on these plants, and being a lover of foliage just about as much as flowers, I couldn't pass them up!

Thanks so much! I'm really looking forward to caring for my plants and I'm sure I'll be adding more soon! I saw one that I believe is an "angel wing(?)" type - long dark green leaves with white polka dots on it, that looks so cool! I just might have to get that one too lol!! I can't believe I've never noticed these plants before! I guess when I heard "begonia" I only ever thought of the tuberous ones or bedding-type wax begonias. Who knew about all these other wonderful types??!!


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First of all, welcome to the wonderful world of begonias. You are so right on what most people think of as begonias - tuberous, wax, and an occasional cane begonia (aka angel wing). I did the same thing. The internet changed my view on that about 10 years ago.

B. 'Escargot' is not the easiest begonia to grow (at least for me). I've bought huge ones in the past and killed those. They seem to be mildew prone too. So now I am on my 3rd one and it isn't the happiest camper.

B. 'PHOE's Cleo' is a great begonia. I've had mine since I originally bought it at PHOE (Palm Hammock Orchid Estate) in Miami in 2005. In the past winters it has totally defoliated in winter, bloomed afterwards, and then put on a flush of new growth in summer. I grow it outdoors in summer and was growing it under lights in my basement for winter. This year it stayed in the kitchen on a baker's rack with sunlight coming in from a southern exposure. It lost a few leaves but for the most part they all stayed on this year. It usually has a chartreuse cast on its leaves but can be a full green too depending on light.

There are lots of cane begonias with large polka dots. Flamingo Queen, Sierra Mountain King, Texas Lone Star, My Special Angel, Matchmaker, and the species - maculata are a few of the popular ones.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 4:06PM
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lisazone6_ma(z6 MA)

Wow - I didn't realize they could lose all their leaves! And I'm a sucker for chartreuse foliage. I have numerous combinations in my perennial beds of chartreuse and burgundy - a color combo I absolutely love and probably the reason this particular plant attracted me!

And thank you for the info - I didn't realize what "PHOE" stood for!

Any cultural oddities I should pay attention to for begonias?


    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 4:15PM
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Losing leaves is sometimes due to the shock of moving the plant. It isn't uncommon for new plants to go through some shock - after being grown in ideal conditions to being transported and finally being bought and taken to less than ideal conditions. Some plants need a rest - almost all rexes will lose all their leaves or most of them in winter. Just don't think they need more water if they do start dropping leaves else you might cause rot. Check the soil for moisture if you aren't sure.

Wow, that is a tough question on cultural oddities. I would read through the old posts, search for other information on begonias, and start experimenting. I think you learn best by making mistakes. Over watering may be the number one killer of begonias. Let them dry out some before watering again. Some may like it wetter than others. Some prefer it drier. Under watering may be the second killer of begonias but most perk up after a thorough watering (you might lose some leaves).

A fast draining mix seems to be the ideal for most folks (at least for me since I probably tend to over water). A peat based mix can be problematic but most commercial growers seem to use it. Best thing to do is replant it if that is the case. The other thing to do is start a new plant ASAP for insurance.

Here is a wonderful source for growing begonias:

Brad's Begonia World

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 5:02PM
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Escargot is an extremely popular Rex hybrid begonia that is quickly becoming a household name.

There are other kinds of begonia like: Begonia Fireworks, Begonia Marmaduke, Begonia Cowardly Lion and Begonia Stained Glass. You can google it for more information.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 6:48AM
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lisazone6_ma(z6 MA)

Thanks! I went to the American Begonia Society site and looked up some cultural info. They advised to let them dry out between waterings and that they don't like temp fluctuations much. I'll probably grow mine exclusively indoors for now until I get more used to them. I saw the one called Fireworks - really nice. And my sister has Marmaduke.

I will check out that site hcmcdole - thanks for the link.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 3:41PM
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Hmmm, I wonder about how wide a temp fluctuation they are talking about. Night time to day time temps here can swing 20 degrees or more and I haven't seen any problems.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 4:37PM
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