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Houseplant of the Month for April 2019: the Begonia

The Story of the Begonia

Flowering begonias have full, plump flowers in cheerful colors such as red, pink, orange, white and yellow. The enthusiasm with which the plant blooms means in practice that you can hardly see the plant for the flowers. 

Foliage begonias have their own distinctive beauty in the form of velvet leaves that are beautifully marked with silver, pink, burgundy and green patterns that more than make up for the absence of flowers. 

They’re both plants with a luxurious look, yet still surprisingly simple and easy to care for. 

Begonias fit well with the trend where plants provide a soft, friendly buffer against non-stop news updates and the harsh outside world. 


There are 1895 different species of begonia, most of which grow in warm, damp forest regions in South and Central America, Africa and southern Asia. The wild species come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but are generally herbaceous (non-woody) plants with asymmetric leaves and numerous flowers borne on branching stalks. The flowers are monoecious; that is, there are separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Most begonias have upright or creeping stems, often with distinct nodes. Many have tubers or rhizomes.

Begonia Range 

Elatior begonia flowers and rex begonia leaves. Styling: Elize Eveleens – Klimprodukties

The begonia range is very extensive. 

The most common flowering houseplant begonia is the Rieger or Elatior begonia (Begonia × hiemalis) with single, semi-double or double flowers. One new addition is the Bodinia Line with extra full flowers and curly foliage. The Betulia line is also very suitable for use both indoors and out. 

There is even more diversity among foliage begonias. 

Rex begonias (B. × rex-cultorum) are available in various attractive leaf colors, structures and shapes. The Beleaf line has an attractive structure and eye-catching colors. 

Another popular group are the various rhizomatous begonias, including the eyelash begonia (B. bowerae), with creeping rhizomes and colorful leaves. They’re classics within the foliage range. 

And then there are the upright varieties with canelike stems, often called angelwing begonias, like B. maculata, many characterized by pink flowers and leaves with silvery-gray spots.

What to Look for When Buying Begonias 

  • Pot and plant must be in proportion, and the plant must look attractive and full.
  • With flowering begonias, there should be sufficient ripe buds visible. 
  • To be on the safe side, check whether it’s an indoor or outdoor begonia. 
  • Damaged leaves or leaves with marks indicate shipping damage, yellow leaves indicate a lack of water.
  • The plant must be free of pests and diseases. 

Care Tips 

Begonias need bright light, but not necessarily direct sun.
  • Begonias need a lot of light, but don’t like bright sunlight in the summer months.
  • Water as needed to keep the growing mix slightly moist at all times.
  • Try to avoid spraying your begonia; it can cause mildew (a fungus).
  • Removing wilted flowers can help stimulate new ones.
  • Fertilize lightly at each watering to keep blooming begonias in flower.

Showing Off Your Begonias

Rex begonia (left) and Elatior begonia (right). Styling: Elize Eveleens – Klimprodukties

The fabulous display of begonia flowers and foliage is always appealing. 

Reinforce the soft, plump appeal of Elatior begonia flowers with soft ornamental grass and plants with velvety leaves. 

Foliage begonias can be effectively displayed in different sizes to show how versatile they are. 

For both the setting should be soft and friendly: fluffy rugs, lovely cushions, planters that seem covered in fur.

Text and photos from a press release by

For more information on begonias, read 2016: Year of the Begonia.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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