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Gardening from Southern California

...Tuberous Begonias
by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke

email: geraldb571@aol.com

Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association


February 29, 2004

For a long time I didn’t think I could grow tuberous begonias in the inland area until I saw a neighbor’s plot of them blooming madly alongside his sidewalk. They were in the shade but got a little sun and even in June and July when it was hot, they looked pretty good. I told him I couldn’t believe his growing them here, and he said he didn’t realize they were that touchy and that he simply saw the tubers in the nursery and planted them. This shows why experimentation in the garden is a good thing.

Most catalogs list tuberous begonias from both seed and tubers, or bulbs as they’re commonly called. However the seed is tiny, hard to handle, and the easiest way is to plant the tubers. They need to be taken up each fall and stored in a cool, dry spot, then you can plant them again in the early spring.

And what’s best about tuberous begonias is the many different types of flowers they produce and the exciting colors. Some kinds produce camellia shaped flowers, some carnation shaped, and some look like roses. And the electric colors are pink, white, yellow, rose, red, apricot, and salmon. Some kinds have ruffled blooms, some have bicolored picotee blooms, some plants are upright, some trail nicely making them very attractive in hanging baskets.

Names you can look for are Bridesmaid, a big double flower, Non-Stop Hybrid Mix, Pin-Up Flame Hybrid, Cascade Double Mix, Giant Camellia Mix, and Sensation Hybrid and Show Angels in the hanging type. You may find some already started in good nurseries, but most will have the tubers available until March and April.

Plant tuberous begonias where they’ll get good light, but not much direct sunlight. They need some fertilizer and will respond to a good moist environment and plenty of water, and it helps to cover the bed with a good mulch. Disease isn’t usually a problem, but sow bugs and snails sometimes chew on them. When they’ve finished blooming and begin to decline in late summer, take the bulbs up and store them to replant next year. You may not save all of them, but if kept cool and dry, many will live.

 

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