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Timeline Through Landscape Design - ARCHIVES

2016: Year of the Begonia

When the weather outside is frightful, I like to research new plant varieties that I can introduce to my garden in the spring or summer. While I was exploring, I discovered that 2016 marks the Year of the Begonia. Begonias are a favorite of mine and with good reason.

The National Garden Bureau announced that 2016 is the Year of the Begonia in the annuals category. The honor is most deserved for this staple garden plant offering over 1700 species and nearly ten types, ranging from wax to rex, to tuberous and boliviensis (heat tolerant-trailing type). Begonias have come to be a common flower in many residential and commercial landscapes and their popularity will continue due to their reliability and variety.

Begonias are tender annuals that provide consistent blooms from May to October. Wax begonias (or Begonia x semperfloren-cultorum) are the most common type seen in garden centers, often having green or bronze foliage and red, white or pink blooms. However, several of the other types offer a wide range of bloom and foliage colors, double flowers, and cascading habits. Some begonia varieties are prized also for their striking patterned, textured, and swirled leaves (Begonia 'Rex Escargot'). In Illinois, Begonias typically range from 6 to 18 inches in height depending on the variety. To view and learn about the many types of begonias click here.

The adaptability of begonias offers more reason to honor this plant. Begonias prefer shade but do well in full sun once established and if adequate moisture is provided. Whether planted in ground or in containers begonias will provide constant blooms. They benefit from high organic matter, well-drained soil and regular fertilization. Be sure to allow soil and air temperatures to warm before planting. Planting in cold conditions can result in stunted growth. In general, begonias are fairly carefree from major insect and disease problems and will provide long-lasting blooms and attractive foliage.

Many species of begonias are available on the market. Most growers will likely produce begonias from cuttings considering that by weight begonia seed is more expensive than gold. The seed, as fine as dust, also makes production by seed a challenge. Even more reason to give a nod to the begonia. So, next time when you are looking for annuals to spice up the landscape make note of the newer varieties below.

'Monza' is a wax type that provides nonstop flowering, many flower colors and green foliage.

'Havana' is a wax type that offers nonstop flowering, many flower colors and bronze foliage.

'Bada Bing' and 'Bada Boom' are wax types and both offer sun tolerance and continuous blooming.

'Unbelievable First Kiss' provides an upright form, is heat tolerant with semi-double blush pink blooms and black-green leaves.

'Bossa Nova White' is a trailing type with brilliant white blooms.

'Santa Cruz Sunset' and 'Bonfire' offer cascading orange-red blooms, bronze or green leaves and are heat and drought tolerant.

'Jurassic-Rex' series is grown for large leaves, white, pink, yellow, or purple color and intricate foliage patterns.

'Little Lava' was trialed in 2015 with great ratings and provides bright orange blooms with black-green foliage.

To view some of the newer varieties listed above click here.