The genus Begonia is a huge and rapidly growing group with over 2,000 tropical and semi-tropical species (as of 2022) from Africa, Asia, Central and South America as well as hundreds of hybrids. While most are recognizable as annual bedding plants or in containers, more and more Begonia species have been discovered to be winter-hardy perennials...at least from zone 8 south, with some hardy in zone 7b or colder. We think you will enjoy our ever-increasing hardy Begonia selections to add color to your woodland garden. Those few species that are cold hardy in zone 7b-8 tend to be summer and fall flowering ...but of course in their native tropical habitat or when grown indoors, Begonia species have a wide and varied bloom period.
More Information About Begonia
Most Begonia species prefer a lightly shaded environment and a well-drained, consistently moist soil. Established begonia plants are also fairly drought tolerant. Our Begonia selections produce charming flowers in shades of white, pink, or red and provide interesting foliage in a variety of shapes. Once they start blooming in early summer, Begonia plants continue producing until fall and the flowers are followed by curious, dangling, winged seed pods that are also quite ornamental.
How to Grow and Care for Begonia
Where to Plant Hardy Begonia
Here at Plant Delights, we have trialed several winter-hardy Begonia and have released the best selections to the public. Some of our hardy Begonia such as Begonia grandis ‘Alba’ and Begonia grandis ‘Pink Teardrops’, are winter hardy as far north as zone 5a. Hardy begonia are a great addition to a butterfly garden or to use along trails, borders, or in mass plantings. Provide each plant with 1-3 ft. (30-90 cm.) of space when planting. Many Begonias, not including Begonia grandis, also make terrific house plants and thrive in containers and terrariums.
Water and Soil Requirements
Whether growing in containers or in the garden, Begonias love well-drained soil.
Some species of Begonia are hardier than others. Begonia grandis is considered winter hardy to zone 5a.
Some Begonia are winter dormant, while most others would remain evergreen if the temperatures allow. If growing outside, an extra layer of mulch in the late fall will help with winter-hardiness. Well drained soils during the winter are critical.
Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis) tend to have a long bloom season typically from July to October depending on local climate.
Begonia grandis will self-propagate through tiny bulblets that form in the leaf axils in the fall and drop to the ground. They may also self-seed, but will not come true to the parent.
Begonias prefer light shade for most of the day, but a few hours of direct morning sunlight can really increase the volume of blooms. If planting indoors in a container or terrarium, avoid placing in direct sunlight.
Begonias should be fertilized only when they are actively growing, with a natural, organic fertilizer. Avoid fertilizing seedlings or new cuttings. Once your Begonias have bloomed and start to go dormant (typically fall for outdoor plants), you should cease fertilizing and let the plants rest until the next grow season. Begonias do not grow or use fertilizer when the temperature is below 60 degrees F.
Pests and Diseases
Mites, mealy bugs, scale, whiteflies, nematodes, slugs and snails are all pests that can affect your Begonias. Some diseases that could affect them include leaf spot, mildew, root rot, and crown rot. Good growing conditions and proper care are usually all that’s needed to prevent pests.
We often see it repeated that begonias are an irritant to pets and humans, but despite having calcium oxylate, we can find absolutely no scientific basis for these claims, which seem to fall in the category of fake plant news.
Begonia Companion Plants
Here are just a few suggestions for other perennials that will make a great match to most any Begonia.
- Asarum (Wild Ginger)
- Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant)
- Carex (Sedge)
- Hosta (Plantain Lily)
- Heuchera (Coral Bells)
When you're ready to buy hardy Begonias for your perennial woodland garden, we hope you'll check out our on-line list of hardy Begonias for sale.
For more detailed information on how to grow and care for Begonias, visit the American Begonia Society.