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Trailing / Scandent Begonias

Trailing / Scandent begonias are grown mostly for their trailing habit but put on a spectacular show of flowers

The trailing type of Begonias usually flower in the spring, however the flowering season can vary by plant. Some of the newer varieties have a longer blooming period or are everblooming.

trailing-begonia-on-treeMost have glossy leaves and look like a philodendron, but there are types that get large leaves and will climb. In their native habitat these types will climb up the trunks of trees.

Most of the trailing types have white or pink flowers. Scandent refers to begonias that climb and use roots to attach to trees, rocks, steep banks, and walls.

Trailing begonias are great for hanging baskets. They feature pendant growth with beautiful displays of flowers, sometimes year-round. Most pendant begonias have bright-green leaves.

Trailing begonias need plenty of light but not direct sunlight. Lots of light will cause the plant to bloom often with many flowers. If the leaves are pale the plant is receiving too much light. Whereas if the leaf stems are elongated the plant needs more light.

New stems are fragile, so potting trailing begonias must be done carefully. Shallow containers are best, because the root system is shallow on these plants.

Good soil drainage is essential in caring for begonia plants because the shallow roots can easily lead to a drowned plant. They should be watered when the soil feels dry to the touch and more often if the plant is growing in a hanging basket or if there is hot weather, because it will dry out faster in these circumstances.

Trailing-Scandent Begonias by Beryl Clark

The following article appeared in the Begonian, the official newsletter of the American Begonia Society

This group of begonias is small, consisting of about 35 species and 35 cultivars to date. The name is taken from their growth habit, “trailing” meaning to grow to some length over the ground, and scandent meaning climbing. They grow somewhat like vines.

One would think from the word meanings that this group are only trailers, but this is not so. They usually have many branches and send up basal shoots, thus lending themselves superbly to hanging baskets or to being trained up posts, a trellis, or totem poles. Stems can grow eight feet or more, while their thickness is quite varied and the internodes are quite long.

leaf sizes and shapes can be quite varied also, while the texture/surface can be glabrous, hairy, puckered, or pustulate. Most are packed with small leaves and bloom in clusters, more or less profusely, the flowering season varying from plant to plant.

The first species in this group to be discovered, B. glabra, was found in the West Indies in 1775. Brazil is the country of origin of Begonias fagifolia (1836), radicans (1831), and the beautiful fragrant solananthera (1859). B. mannii was discovered in 1862 at an elevation of 1300 feet on the peak of Fernando Po, an island off the coast of West Africa.

These begonias are good subjects to grow hanging from tree limbs. Plenty of light is a must; they will even take some sunlight, but not midday sun. Good light will help produce a full plant with lots of bloom. If leaf stems elongate, and the space between the joints gets longer, you know the plant wants more light. If the foliage pales, the plant is getting too much light.

Potting is more crucial than for some other begonias, because the long pendulous stems are fragile. If you use plastic pots be careful not to overwater. A shallow container is best, because these begonias are shallow rooted. Do not overpot. Only pot up one size larger than the present pot. Too much extra space can produce weak plants and retain too much water, the result being a “drowned” plant.

Soil pH should fall within the 5 to 6.5 range. Use a reasonably open mix, so as to get good drainage. A good rule is to water only when the potting mix feels dry to the touch; but if the weather is hot or the plant seems to dry out faster because it is in a hanging basket, water more often.

Staking is not necessary, but pruning and pinching can make the difference between a “so-so” plant and a great one. Prune out the old stems and long bare sections. Pinch stems often to encourage branching and to obtain stems of varying lengths, resulting in a shapely plant. A good rule is to cut back the stems of those with long internodes after the 3rd node; those with shorter internodes after the 4th or 5th.

When flowering time is nearing, leave the tips to produce and develop the buds. A complete fertilizer used throughout the active growing season should be supplemented just before and during the flowering season with a high phosphorus food.

Trailing-scandent begonias can be propagated easily using stem cuttings, especially tip cuttings you create when you pinch and prune. Check the Seed Fund list and try growing some trailing-scandent begonias from seed. Remember that seed from species will produce plants true to the parent plant.

The article continues with Beryl’s list of trailing scandent begonias that she has grown Continue…

Credits / references:
Trailing-Scandent Begonias by Beryl Clark | Begonian – The American Begonia Society