Begonias have become one of the hot go-to plants for today’s gardens.
Depending on the variety, they will tolerate heavy, dry shade or full on, blazing hot sun where insects and disease cause minimal problems.
The indoor varieties are also enjoying overwhelming popularity, especially with the younger generation. A quick check on Instagram reveals over 232,000 posts on the hashtag begonia, and the begonia brigade numbers well over 20,000 followers.
Not only have the colourful, old-fashioned ‘Rex’ and ‘Murina’ begonias made an impact, but Begonia maculata has become one of the most sought-after houseplants. The same is true outdoors.
This year will be the last time that we have mildew-prone impatiens because in 2020 plant breeders will be bringing to market the new downy mildew-resistant varieties ‘Beacon’ and ‘Imara’, thereby repositioning impatiens back to the dominant ‘morning sun and afternoon shade’ ground covers they once were.
When that happens, wax leaf or fibrous begonias will be the biggest competition for impatiens. For almost 40 years at our gardens, we relied with great success on wax-leafed begonias for these exact situations. Available in both dark bronze and green foliage, fibrous begonias come in a wide range of colours and sizes that will perform beautifully well into fall, and in almost any weather situation.
For eye-popping containers or garden displays, the giant ‘Whopper’ series with its huge flowers, often growing 71 to 86 centimetres high and wide, will turn heads. Also coming with green or bronze foliage, these impressive plants are totally sun and heat tolerant.
When the summer heat is on, few plants in hanging baskets or pots perform as well as the ‘Dragon Wing’ begonias. They are big, bold and thrive in intense heat. I love the fact that in full sun, the green, dragon wing-like foliage turns a deep red. To date they bloom only in red and pink, but they are truly remarkable.
Still somewhat hard to find, a new yellow foliaged fibrous begonia will knock your socks off. ‘Canary Wing’ has large yellow leaves and contrasting red flowers that go on and on till frost. This stunner is a shade-only plant as we found out when we tested it in a hot sun location. It’s a must have, especially if you want to impress.
Shade-loving, non-stop tuberous type begonias are enjoying a huge resurgence in popularity. Equally at home in containers and garden beds, they need dry shade to thrive. Once established, they are incredibly drought tolerant, and when you have to water, please do it in the morning so the foliage is dry at night.
These non-stops really do bloom till frost, and I also find them very self-cleaning. The newest innovation has been the development of a darker foliage variety called ‘Mocca’. I love to pair the green foliage of the yellows, oranges and reds with white ‘Moccas’ for a stunning combination.
Emulating the older giant tuberous California begonias, there are now beautiful bicolours called the Picotee ‘On Top’ series, featuring the white-edged red ‘Fandango’, the yellow and red-edged ‘Sunset Shades’ and the orange red-edged ‘Sunglow’. They certainly spice up containers.
You would normally think that the delicate hiemalis begonias would not tolerate sun, but the ‘Solenia’ series begonias changed all that. These fully double begonias, coming in a wide colour range of yellow, red, pink, cherry and apricot, will take full hot sun once they have been acclimatized. Growing only 20 to 31 centimetres tall and wide, they are self-cleaning and provide a powerhouse of colour all summer. They don’t actually trail, but they will spill nicely over containers, so some growers use them in hanging baskets as well.
Speaking of begonias for baskets, there has been a dramatic change. The older seedling ‘Illumination’ trailing varieties have been replaced with a wide range of more sun tolerant, disease resistant varieties. The Dummen Orange Company has introduced the ‘I’Conia’ series which only grows 30 to 40 centimetres tall and wide, but spills nicely over the edge of containers or hanging baskets. Their double and semi-double blooms come in an attractive array of colours from hot orange to whites, pinks and reds. They are both sun and shade tolerant and tough as nails.
Proven Selections, a brand of Proven Winners, has introduced the ‘Belleconia’ begonia series which are more pendulous, although they grow to only 30 to 35 centimetres. They, too, are incredibly resilient in most weather conditions; however, they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. They are so floriferous, it’s simply amazing to see them perform.
June is the month to spice up the garden colour with new additions. Begonias thrive in summer heat, and they always seem to add a classy finishing touch.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019