There are three basic types of begonia propagation, stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, and division.
In this section we describe the various ways to propagate begonias through cuttings. Starting begonias from seed is covered in another chapter so won’t be addressed here. Rooting cuttings to form new plants is basically a type of cloning. To make new copies of begonia hybrids, cuttings are the only way they can be reproduced. It’s also an easy and quick way to make new plants of begonia species.
Propagation involves taking portions of a begonia plant and rooting them to grow into new plants. Some types of propagation require more skill than others do or more specialized conditions. Everyone should be able to propagate begonias without too much difficulty.
Nearly all begonias can be started from stem or tip cuttings. Rexes, rhizomatous, tuberous, and a few other types can be started from leaf cuttings or portions of leaves. All begonias can be divided except for some tuberous begonias.
The following pages contain descriptions and illustrations of the various types of propagation.
- Tip and Stem Cuttings
- Rhizome Cuttings
- Leaf cuttings
- Wedge Cuttings
- Cone Cuttings
- Mallet and Heel Cuttings
Rooting Mediums and containers
The simplest medium to root cuttings in is water. Nearly all the types of cuttings will root in water, except for leaf section cuttings that require sterile conditions. The best containers for rooting in water are small baby food jars. Whatever container you use should be relatively. The reason for using a small container is that cuttings release a rooting hormone in the water as they root. The least amount of water, the more concentrated the hormone. You can put several cuttings per container. Once roots are half an inch long, they can be potted up in regular potting mix and grown on. Forget any myths you’ve heard about water roots, the cuttings will transplant just fine.
Other common mediums for rooting cuttings are perlite and vermiculite or a combination of both. These mediums can be used for cuttings including ones needing sterile conditions. Perlite and vermiculite are rock/mineral products so contain no organic matter that can harbor disease or promote rotting. When using these products, you’re basically still rooting in water. They act as little rock sponges to hold water for the cutting to root in. They also contain air pockets. Perlite and vermiculite don’t require sterilization to use, although you do need to use distilled or sterile water to keep it sterile. Vermiculite is less commonly used now, I believe it was determined to contain asbestos. When using either product, you should wear a mask or avoid breathing in the dust when mixing or pouring it.
Another medium for rooting is peat moss or various combos of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. This works for all types of cuttings but unless sterilized for sure, it may rot cuttings since it contains organic material. It is mostly used for stem cuttings or rhizome cuttings that don’t require sterile or specialized conditions. It’s also used for cuttings that are overly fleshy and tend to rot in water only.
Many begonia cuttings can be started directly in your potting mix in a shady location. Most rhizome, shrub, thick-stemmed and canes will start directly in mix. You should only use this method for the sturdier varieties though.
There are many clear containers such as sweater boxes that work quite well for rooting begonia cuttings. Leaf and wedge cuttings require some type of container to root in. It has two benefits. It keeps the humidity up so the rooting medium doesn’t dry out and is less stress on the cuttings. It also keeps spores that cause disease from your medium.
Credits / references:
Brad Thompson | Brad’s Begonia World