How To Grow And Care For Begonias

Keep these beauties cool, and they will show off all summer long.

If you are looking for a plant that produces beautiful colored flowers, is easy to grow, and does well in the shade or containers, the begonia is just what you need. Depending on the more than 2,000 species, begonias can grow eight inches to over five feet tall and are available in annuals, perennials, shrubs, and climbers. 

Flowers come in various colors, including red, white, pink, and yellow, and can be single or double blooms with delicate, ruffled, or smooth petals. Begonias grow well in flower beds, container gardens, or window boxes. 

begonia hanging basket
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Relatively easy to grow, begonias prefer warm climates, especially in rich, fertile, well-drained soil. Remove dead flowers, leaves, and stems when necessary. Most importantly, begonias cannot tolerate freezing temperatures—bring them indoors before the first frost, but be aware that these plants are toxic to animals. Also, begonias are considered invasive in some environments due to their spreading nature.

Plant Attributes

Plant Attributes
 Common Name:  Begonia, Wax Begonia, Clubed Begonia
 Botanical Name:  Begonia (Semperflorens Cultorum Group)
 Family:  Begoniaceae
 Plant Type:  Perennial, Annual, Bulb, Tuber, Shrub
 Mature Size:  8 in.-5 ft. tall, 4 in.-1 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure:  Partial, Shade
 Soil Type:  Well-draining, Loamy
 Soil pH:  Acidic (5.5 to 6.5)
 Bloom Time:  Summer, Fall
 Flower Color:  Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, White
 Hardiness Zones:  Zones 9-11 (USDA)
 Native Area:  South America, Central America, Asia, Africa
 Toxicity:  toxic to dogs, toxic to cats, toxic to pets

Begonia Care

Begonia seeds are one of the smallest in the world of flowers. One ounce of seed can produce as many as three million seedlings, which can cause issues in particular environments as it can be invasive due to its spreading nature in roadsides, harvested forests, old fields, overgrazed pastures, and waste places. A flower meaning "be cautious," the begonia is related to pumpkins, squash, gourds, cucumbers, and melons. 

Caring for begonias is relatively easy in good soil conditions. These flowers store water in their stems, helping to make them drought-tolerant. You can also grow begonias indoors, but meeting their light and humidity needs might be more challenging.


Begonias thrive in warm environments but, depending on the variety, might need full or partial sunlight. Most begonias do best when planted in an area with morning sun and afternoon shade. Allow enough sunlight to keep the soil moist and healthy. Don't plant in direct sunlight in regions that experience scorching summers.


Begonias are relatively tolerable to any well-draining soil. Keep the soil damp, but do not oversaturate it because it can cause rot. If the flower bed or garden area does not contain soil rich in organic matter, supplement it with fertilizer. When growing begonias in containers or hanging baskets, use a soil mixture of leaf mold, garden loam, and coarse sand to help with soil moisture retention and draining. Potting mix can substitute leaf mold if unavailable.


Keep the soil continuously damp but do not saturate the soil. If the first few inches of soil are dry, you can tell if your begonias need more water. Allow the soil to drain entirely before watering again because the wet or soggy ground can cause root rot. Also, water the plant base instead of the leaves because wet foliage causes fungal growth.

Temperature and Humidity

Due to their native environment, begonias thrive in warm, humid areas. Depending on whether you intend to keep begonias as annuals or perennials, these flowers grow outdoors in areas where temperatures stay above 60°F or indoors in climate-controlled rooms. Adding a humidifier indoors can help simulate the humid climate begonias want, making it easier to grow as a perennial.


Begonias need fertilizer as these plants are heavy feeders. For best results, fertilize plants every two weeks with a balanced 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 slow-release blend. A 10-10-5 high in nitrogen used early in the season and an additional monthly fertilizer during the growing season can help begonias bloom and encourage new growth.

Types of Begonias

  • Cane-Type Begonias: They get their name from their stems, which are tall and woody, with prominent bamboo-like joints. This group includes angel-wing begonias, named for their folded, often spotted or speckled leaves, which resemble wings. Cane-type begonias, such as 'Bubbles' and 'Honeysuckle,' have multiple stems, some reaching five feet or more. Most bear profuse large clusters of white, pink, orange, or red flowers from early spring through autumn, and some are even everblooming.
  • Dragonwing Begonias: A hybrid between angel-wing (cane-type) and semperflorens begonias, this variety has shiny green leaves with bright red flowers that bloom from spring until frost. Dragonwing begonias are excellent as bedding plants and in containers and do best with morning sun and light afternoon shade. Beware: Dragonwings tend to burn in the hot afternoon sun.
  • Semperflorens Begonias: Also known as fibrous, bedding, or wax begonias, dwarf and taller strains are grown annually in garden beds or containers. They bloom from spring through fall, producing many tiny flowers in a range of white through red. They can thrive in full sun in the Upper South and prefer filtered shade elsewhere.
  • Hardy Begonias: Several begonias are hardy throughout the South, but B. grandis, known as hardy begonia, is the best known. It grows from a tuber and reaches two to three feet tall and wide, with pink or white summer flowers borne in drooping clusters. Hardy begonias like moist, woodsy soil and light shade are excellent planted with other shade-loving plants such as ferns, hostas, and hellebores.
  • Tuberous Begonias: These magnificent large-flowered hybrids grow from tubers. They range from plants with saucer-size blooms and a few upright stems to multi-stemmed hanging basket types covered with tiny flowers. Except for some rare kinds, they bloom in summer and fall in almost every color except blue.


Begonias need pruning to maintain healthy stems, which can get leggy if left untouched. Cut branches every two to four weeks, depending on your begonias' growth, which will encourage new growth as stems emerge from the pinched point. Since begonia stems break easily, pruners or garden shears are not necessary. If you have a tuberous begonia, these plants will die back yearly, so digging and storing the tuber to replant the following year will help protect the roots. Move begonias grown from rhizomes indoors during the winter and regularly deadhead the plant to maintain its appearance and health, which will also prevent diseases.

Propagating Begonias

Begonias can grow as annuals or perennials, but when transplanting annuals indoors, these plants often suffer shock or grow leggy, so propagating new plants is an easy, effective solution. Begonias propagate differently depending on the varieties, but often using cuttings is the simplest way to achieve the best results. Here's how to propagate begonias using stem or leaf cuttings: 

  1. Start by cutting four-inch stems below a node from the begonia in spring using a clean knife or gardening scissors. Choose mature stems, but not ones that are fibrous or woody, with a few nodes to encourage new growth.
  2. Remove the lower leaves and dip each cut stem into a rooting hormone, if desired. 
  3. Fill a container with well-draining soil and use your fingers or a pencil to create deep holes. 
  4. Place the stem cuttings in each hole and gently pack the soil around them. 
  5. To help retain moisture and promote humidity, place a plastic bag over the entire container without touching the stems or leaves. Allow air to circulate the plant. 
  6. Keep the soil moist while the plants form roots, which takes about three to four weeks. Six to eight weeks from starting, transplant the plants to their final destination. 

If propagating with a large leave, cut the mature leaf with a sharp knife where it meets the stem. Cut the end of the leaf into a point and follow the directions for stem cuttings. 

How to Grow Begonias From Seed

There are several ways to start growing begonias. Sowing seeds in a starter tray, potted plants, or tubers are all options after the last frost. Growing begonias from seeds or fibrous roots can start indoors, but gauge when the last frost is expected in your area, so you are prepared to transplant them outdoors—start seeds usually three months prior. 

  1. Use a seed starting tray and soil formula to sow the seeds in a shallow container. Place the tray in indirect sunlight to help germination. 
  2. Begonias need warm weather, typically around 70°F to 75°F, to keep the soil moist and healthy.
  3. After about three weeks, seedlings should emerge. 
  4. Continue providing natural light to seedlings or grow under fluorescent plant lights. Turn lights off at night to give seedlings a rest from the heat. 
  5. When seedlings contain two leaves each, position the new growth, so it has room to spread. 
  6. Add a fertilizer after one month of growth and transplant begonias to their final location after the last frost. 


Winter care depends on the variety of begonias, tuberous or fibrous. Tuberous begonias need little watering to maintain growth. Frequent watering will encourage new growth or rot the bulbs. Continue pruning weak sprouts if the growth continues, and suspend watering until the spring. Remove moldy or rotten tubers. Fibrous or root-bound begonias act like other houseplants over the winter, meaning they need indirect sunlight, healthy and moist soil, and infrequent watering. Do not scorch the plants with too much direct light or heat. Wait until you are sure the final frost of the season has passed before moving plants outside—slowly introduce begonias to the spring temperatures so they can adjust.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Begonias are susceptible to diseases including stem rot, Botrytis blight, and powdery mildew when growing in humid conditions without proper air circulation or in oversaturated soil. 

Pests can be an issue for begonias, as these plants are sensitive to insecticidal soaps, so prevention is critical. Mealybugs, spider mites, scales, and thrips are often associated with begonias. Insecticidal soaps will treat these pests. Use it sparingly at first to test for leaf scorch. Deer also enjoy eating begonias, so sprinkling blood meal near the plants can help deter them.

How to Get Begonias to Bloom

Begonias can bloom for up to six months in partial sun and ideal temperature conditions. Adding fertilizer every two weeks in pots and containers can help promote new growth—garden beds only need fertilizer every three to four weeks. Fertilizer or soil high in nutrients will help promote begonias to bloom, but use a slow-release formula to not pull energy from the flowers by creating more foliage and roots. Begonia stems are pliable, so use your fingers to remove spent blooms, deadheading the wilted or dead flowers to make room for a new showing.

Common Problems With Begonias

Begonias are susceptible to diseases and pests. Some are more challenging to treat, but knowing what can go wrong will help you understand what to look for in your plants.

Browning Tips

Browning leaves result from too much direct or harsh sunlight. Although begonias prefer well-drained soil, underwatering is still an issue that can cause foliage to dry out and brown. Additionally, if growing begonias indoors or in unideal climates, take precautions to ensure enough humidity near the plants. Do not place indoor begonia plants near air vents.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Yellow leaves are a classic sign of overwatering—gauge when begonias need more water by feeling the soil with your hands. Use a well-draining container and amend the potting soil with peat. If yellowing persists, white spots might appear, signifying powdery mildew is present. Use a fungicide to treat the affected foliage, but do not scorch the leaves when spraying—begonias are susceptible to leaf scorch.

Leaves With Holes

Several pests enjoy begonias, including slugs and snails. One of these pests might have infected the foliage if it appears to have holes throughout or a slimy residue. You can remove slugs and snails by hand or use an organic solution like crushed eggshells to treat this infection. Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from sediment of fossilized algae and found at garden centers, which can also help treat this issue. Reapply the solution after heavy rain.

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