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Growing Hybrid Tuberous Begonias Is Easy
by John Harmon
February 16, 2003

jhBegonia.jpg (47567 bytes)We are up over eight hours of daylight now and gaining. It's time to plant tuberous begonias from seed so they will be ready to perform for you this summer. Growing tuberous begonias from seed is easy if you follow a few simple rules and once you've started your collection it's easy to breed your own hybrid variety.

The genus Begonia holds in fact a world record with 1550 botanically described begonias: species, subspecies, forms and varieties (Fort Worth Botanical Garden - Texas - Check list 1990) and the last check list for the hybrids (quoted in literature for 150 years) reaches the figure of 12,680 named cultivars . (Buxton check list 1957 - American Begonia Society review - May 1990). That's why it is one of the most important genera of the flower kingdom (only orchids or some compositae, looking like daisies can provide such diversity).

Some begonia varieties are available from most seed companies but for one of the largest list of seeds for hybrid begonias available that I've found check out:
http://www.thompson-morgan.com/seeds/us/list_begonia_0.html.
They list 22 varieties.

The thing to remember when planting seeds is to follow the cultural directions. The most important of which is to make sure the seeding mix never dries out. It must always be evenly moist. If they dry out even slightly as they start to germinate or the young plants start to grow they will immediately go dormant and then try to form tubers. The plant will slowly disappear and you will end up with an empty flat of soil.

Use a good peat based starting mix and water it well 24 hours before you want to plant. Take all the usual precautions to make sure the mix is sterile. Bottom heat will greatly increase your germination rate but room temperature will work. Ideal temperature is 72 degrees F. I like to buy pelleted seed because the raw seed is like fine dust and hard to plant evenly.

The next most important thing to remember is that begonias require moderate light conditions when grown outdoors. If planted in full sun, most varieties will not reach their full potential. Begonias just don't like full sun. If they are in full sun the plants will be small and not produce much for flowers. The best location for begonias is where they will receive early morning or late afternoon filtered sunlight for just a few hours a day. Shady locations like under covered porches or patios will produce the best results. Tuberous begonias are heavy feeders so feed them 20-10-20 once a week throughout the growing season.

Begonias prefer moist, but not wet, conditions. Water adult plants on early in the day allowing the media surface to dry out only occasionally. Splashing water on the foliage should be avoided as this encourages mildew and Botrytis. Here's just a few of the different types you can grow.

Picotee Types: These begonias are ideal for flowerbeds, patio pots and other large containers. Their plant habit is upright with large blooms, which make them ideal for mass plantings. The flowers are ruffled, double blossoms whose petals are in a contrasting color from the blossom itself.

Picotee Lace Types: This category is comprised of large, double flowered plants whose flower edges are ruffled. This ruffled edge is a delicate white, which gives these varieties an eye-catching appearance not found in any other begonias. These varieties are upright growers that make excellent plants for flower beds and patio pots.

Rose Types: This category is comprised of large, double flowered plants whose smooth edged petals contribute to the striking rose appearing flower form. The blooms are large and exhibit remarkable consistency from flower to flower. These varieties are upright growers that make excellent plants for flower beds and patio pots.

Novelty Types: This category contains striking examples of eye catching begonia plants that "must be seen to be appreciated". Daffodil Salmon is best suited for flowerbeds and patio pots while Mini-Picotee 'On-Top' is a hanging basket variety.

Hanging Basket Types: This category is comprised of large, double flowered plants that produce many blooms and breaks all season long. These varieties are for hanging baskets sized form 6" and up.

Ruffled Types: This category is comprised of large, double flowered plants whose large (5 - 9") blooms are ruffled on the edges. The blooms exhibit remarkable consistency form flower to flower. These varieties are upright growers that make excellent plants for flower beds and patio pots.

For more information on hybrid begonias have a look at
http://www.wwbrg.michel.com.au/country/france.htm. This man spent a lifetime collecting and breeding begonias. Another good site for information on growing is: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~vicbeg/cultural_notes.htm

No matter which type you try if you follow the few simple rules for starting and growing them you will have some great plants blooming all summer.

**Join John on Saturday at 1 ET for our Live Chat...his specialty is greenhouse growing but he can also answer any other gardening questions!

 

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