Tuberous begonias are super plants for containers and hanging baskets. They have large, luscious blooms in colours ranging from white and pale pink to brilliant yellow, orange and red. And they do well in shade! What’s not to love about them?
Caring for tuberous begonias
The most important thing you can do to keep your begonias healthy is to water them appropriately. If they are kept in soil that stays wet (such as a pot without adequate drainage), they will rot. They do need to be watered thoroughly (i.e. water until water runs out of the bottom of the pot or hanging basket) each time they’re watered, but this should only be done when the soil is starting to dry out.
Remove blooms when they’re finished in order to make the plant look better and encourage more blooms.
Begonias can get mildews and other diseases, but the only time I’ve ever had a problem with that was during one very wet summer—I wasn’t watering my plants but the skies were. Every. Day. The solution was just to wait it out and then remove any of the diseased foliage when it was finally dry enough to go out. This was pretty easy, as the rotten stems usually fell off in my hands at the slightest touch.
If you’re watering them appropriately and you find that you’re getting mildew or mold your problem might be a lack of air circulation. Move them to a location where they’ll get at least a light breeze.
What’s the difference between a tuberous begonia and other types of begonia?
Tuberous begonias have a type of fleshy root that stores energy and can be used to grow a new plant, very similar to the process of growing tulips from tulip bulbs.
There are quite a few types of begonia, other than tuberous begonias, including wax begonias, rhizomatous begonias, etc. etc. If you’re interested in learning about all the different types of begonias, this website from a begonia breeder, looks to have good information.
Upright vs. trailing
You can buy tuberous begonias that primarily grow upright (i.e. the plants have shorter stems and stand up straight in their pots) or those that have more trailing habit (i.e. they have longer stems that will flop over the edge of their pot). I enjoy hanging a basket of trailing begonias from one of the trees in my front yard, and plant upright begonias in the planters on my front steps.
Buying tuberous begonias
In late winter/early spring you can buy begonia tubers at your local garden centre. They’re quite easy to plant. You can follow the instructions here, which were for dahlias, but the process is exactly the same.
Buying begonia tubers and growing them into plants is the least costly way to have tuberous begonias in your garden. However, you can certainly buy mature blooming plants at your local garden centre in late spring and into summer.
You can treat your begonias like annuals, and let them die when frost hits. But, if you want to keep your begonias from year to year you can follow my instructions for lifting begonias in the fall and the instructions for storing begonia tubers over the winter.