Houseplant enthusiasts looking for flowering colour indoors can look no further than Begonia elatior.
These semi-tuberous hybrids are known to be everblooming, producing flowers for a long period of time and continuously. The flowers themselves come in a variety of colours from pink, red, white and orange with lighter and darker shades giving the double or semi-double petals a unique depth that is captivating. These beauties are perennials, but are often used as annuals and after their flowering time from late winter though spring and summer, make their way to the compost heap. However, with proper care, they can last for many seasons.
What they need
Soil – potted plants will come fully prepared for the growing season. However, if you fancy repotting these plants, use a good potting soil with added drainage materials like perlite or coarse sand and a few handfuls of compost to increase the nutrients in the soil. Repotting can be done when the plants are too crowded in the pots, or every 2-3 years and, they can also be divided into several pots. Make sure all the drainage holes are free from clogging so that water can drain freely.
Light – bright medium light is best and avoid direct sunlight that will scorch the leaves.
Warmth and humidity – hailing from tropical regions in South America, they like warmer temperatures and lots of humidity. Use saucers with stones and water to increase humidity levels when dry and water frequently. Misting can help but not too much so as to invite fungal diseases or mark the pretty flowers.
Water – keep watering enough so that they do not dry out. When the top 5cm of soil is dry, they need water. They like moisture but being semi-tuberous don’t like to stand in water so water must be allowed to drain thoroughly before replacing in its place. Water the soil and not the plant. Wet leaves and flowers can develop leaf spot and other fungal diseases.
Feeding – once a month in the flowering and growing season is enough for these plants. Use a good liquid plant food. Avoid feeding in autumn and winter.
Pruning – once flowering is finished, these begonias can be trimmed back to bush out and produce new growth. They can be propagated by stem cuttings at this stage. Cut off any dead leaves and flowers all season long.
Pests and diseases – look out for fungal diseases like leaf spot, when the weather is very humid or the plant has been overwatered, which shows up as yellow spots that turn brown and treat with a fungicide. Isolate the plants from any others surrounding them to treat them. Keep an eye out for aphids and scale in stressed plants.
Note that these begonias are not edible.
Indoor begonias are grown by LVG Plants and are available from retail outlets and nurseries.