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Is it terribly difficult to grow begonias from seed?

Posted by flora2 7 (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 30, 13 at 10:49

I am fairly new to begonias but by accident I got to reading some posts on this site and got terribly excited about the possibility of growing begonias from seed--especially the Bolivienses type. I live in the Seattle area so heat is not a concern, I can only imagine the possibilities if seeds are an option!
Any advice? Where to get the seeds, how early to start them, etc?
Thanks so much
Flor de Maria

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Is it terribly difficult to grow begonias from seed?

Germination is fairly easy (if the seeds are viable). The difficult part is moving them up to their next pot if you sowed a bunch of seed. Just keep them in a moist environment until they are big enough to grow on their own.

The ABS has seeds to sell for members.

Mainstream seeds such as boliviensis, tuberous, Gryphon, wax, and others can be found from many vendors. I am growing a hybrid from boliviensis ('Santa Cruz') that I got from Park seed and the nice thing is those seeds are pelleted so the sowing is much easier than unpelleted dust like seed.

Any time is good to sow the seeds but you should take advantage of spring time planting so that you have the entire summer to grow them to a mature size.

Here are the seeds I started in Jiffy peat pellets very early this month.

RE: Is it terribly difficult to grow begonias from seed?

Here are some of the same seeds 4 weeks later: I'm growing cuttings in the same tray too.

RE: Is it terribly difficult to grow begonias from seed?

Thank you--your pictures are impressive. I think I will give them a try--the only thing I wonder is if I will get them to flower this season. I have grown more impatient with the years. Thanks so much, again, for the info.

RE: Is it terribly difficult to grow begonias from seed?

You should be able to get them to flower the first year if you get them growing very soon. The summer season is getting very close.

RE: Is it terribly difficult to grow begonias from seed?

She got lucky.

Growing begonia from seed is a challenge for any gardener. There are many pitfalls and I tried unsuccessfully for more than 10 years until I found a method that works. Hybrid begonias will not come true ie. may be different to their parent.

1. Pre-preparation: take a sheet of kitchen paper and dampen it. Lay on a flat surface.

2. Collect the seed. Wait until the flowers are completely over and have formed pendent papery husks. Scrunch the husks with your right hand with your left hand underneath. You will notice some tiny reddish seed falling onto your palm. It’s best to collect as much as possible as not all the seed will be fertile.

3. Sprinkle the seed onto the damp paper then spread over a saucer. Try to keep the paper above the surface of the saucer. Never allow the paper to dry out.

4. Cover the saucer with a transparent cover that does not contact with it. I use a plastic cake cover.

5. Put the saucer + paper+ seeds inside a tray and fill the tray with just enough water to cover its surface. Keep in a brightly lit, warm place. Avoid direct sun. The idea is to give the seedlings in 100% humidity. You can see if this is effective by water droplets forming inside the cover. Temperature 70-80F ( 20-27C). If you think there is any danger of your seedlings drying out, re-dampen with a mist sprayer. If your “seal” is good, however, this should not be necessary. It is better to add water to the tray.

6. Leave completely alone for 2 weeks. Avoid the temptation to “have a peek” as this will allow fungal spores to enter.

7. After about 15 days some of the seeds will be beginning to germinate. Remove the paper from the saucer and cut into pieces. I find a knife is easier than scissors. The number of pieces will depend on the amount of germinated seed and how many plants you want. 4 is a good average but if you are skillful you can get more.

8. Place the pieces of cut paper with the germinated seed on the surface of some good quality, rich organic compost.

9. Mist-spray with clean water to ensure good contact.

10. Keep in a warm, well-ventilated location, with semi-shade.

11. After about 6 months, divide and repot as necessary . After about a year repot to their final pot or into the garden. First flowers after about 2 years.

Good luck.


RE: Is it terribly difficult to grow begonias from seed?

This is good advice from Ian. It isn't that easy, and new seedlings are very susceptible to fungal disease. I used to be a member of the Houston Begonia Society, and am no expert, but did go to a seed growing workshop and here's what I learned:

Get some small plastic cups with lids.
Get some spagnum moss and wet it thoroughly, then squeeze excess water out You can use a small amount of a fungicide such as Consan in the water.
Put it in the small plastic cups.
Put the seeds into the plastic cups on top of the sphagnum.
Put the lids on the cups and put them where they can stay for a while and leave them alone.
You can watch them germinate and grow, but leave the lids on for a few weeks, then you can take the lids off and let them grow on the sphagnum until they are large enough to transplant.

And Ian is definitely right, it can take a couple of years for them to bloom, and you won't get the same thing if you harvest your own seed because of complex breeding in the parent plants. But it's fun!

You can follow this same procedure to germinate fern spores, too, though the rarer, more expensive ferns are harder and may take more sterile technique, and germination can be low, which is why they are expensive in the stores. But wood ferns, Boston ferns, holly ferns all germinate very easily.

RE: Is it terribly difficult to grow begonias from seed?

The best advice I know is to have patience! Be sure and note the date you sowed your seeds, otherewise in a week or so you will be swearing that it has been three weeks, etc. and get angry and toss them. Hybrid seeds should be up in about a week and seeds of the species, depending on how fresh they are and if they have been collected and stored properly, may take as long as a month,

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