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Begonia’s For Beginners by Esmee McCornall

By Esmee McCornall

Last year I had a white tuberous begonia and a yellow tuberous begonia outside. The white one flourished but the yellow one failed. This year, I put the white one outside and bought a new yellow one and it thrived but the white one didn’t make it. I blamed the puppy next door. The white tuberous begonia was in his line of travel and he trampled it several times. But I think I was wrong – more on this in a minute. I have a pink begonia that I did not put outside because it was kind of puny last spring. Okay, let’s talk begonias…

Let me tell you about begonias. They are gorgeous but they are not all alike. The pink begonia is a fibrous begonia and is usually considered an annual rather than perennial plant. (They also come in red, rose, and white – mine happens to be pink). They love the sun and I kept this one inside near a south-facing window. It blooms non-stop. Its Latin name is Begonia semperflorens which translate more or less as begonia always flowering. The problem I had with it last spring was that I had over watered it. It needs to be in a soil that drains well and it should be allowed to dry out between watering.

The fibrous begonia is started from seeds or from cuttings. The tuberous begonia, on the other hand, begins with a tuber (no surprise there, given their title). They come in a variety of colors such as red, orange, yellow, white, salmon and pink. They are much different to grow than the tuberous begonia.

I learned about this difference the hard way. The tuberous begonia likes to rest between seasons, unlike the fibrous begonia. I brought the white one in last year and then blamed the dog because it failed when I put it out in the garden this year. Turns out I should have dug it up, cut it back, dried out the tuber, and let it rest for the winter in a cool spot, all wrapped up in vermiculite. A friend says she has luck wrapping the tubers in newspaper.

Next spring, I have to plant the tubers in shallow flats and keep them in the shade until their roots settle in and the shoots are a couple of inches high. Then I can put them in 6-inch pots and move them outside to get acclimatized.

I am off to the garden to see if I can dig up the tuber for the white begonia. It’s worth a try. And you know me: I love to get my hands dirty…

Esmee McCornall is a ‘Gardoholic’ publisher and writer. One of her best-known projects is the website about Flower Gardening [].

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