Marveling at Begonias

tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida)Lately I have been marveling at a certain wax begonia (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum), used ubiquitously as a bedding plant. Actually, there are at least six different popular versions of this bedding begonia. What you have are green-leafed and bronze-leafed types, each appearing with three different flower colors – white, red and pink – for a total of six different bedding begonias.
In my estimation, it is the pink-flowered, green-leafed bedding begonia that is special. The bronze-leafed begonias have a somewhat funereal look (and seem to attract a white fungus) and the green-leafed begonias with either white or red flowers leave no lasting impression. The beauty of the pink-flowered, green-leafed begonia is twofold. It seamlessly blends into virtually any landscape design, serving admirably as filler between perennials and shrubs. At the same time, it highlights the colors of adjacent flowers and leaves.
Almost any annual flower will look better when planted next to the pink- flowered, green-leafed begonia.
The wax begonia is probably more versatile, in terms of its wide range of tolerance for shade and sun exposures, than any other bedding plant. While commonly considered a shade lover, the wax begonia can handle full sun quite well as long as it is planted during the fall or early spring, allowing it to settle into its surroundings before the brunt of summer’s heat is upon it. The wax begonia’s foliage may get a bit crispy from scorching weather in July, August or September, but it should bounce back once the cooler days of October prevail.
Although considered an annual, wax begonias may persist for up to two years or longer in the garden if they are cut back on a regular basis, say every four to six months. Fertilize begonias every other month with a humus-based fertilizer such as Gro-Power.
And, while you’re at it, don’t forget those hybrid tuberous begonias. No plants have more sumptuous blooms, resembling miniature roses, than tuberous begonias.
Speaking of pink-flowering spring plants, it is impossible to hold back enthusiasm for the ever popular India hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica). From late winter until the end of spring, India hawthorn holds forth with a dazzling floral display. It is probably the best plant to use for an informal hedge in the Valley since it can adapt to a wide variety of soil conditions and will grow in either full sun or partial shade. There are medium-size India hawthorn varieties, such as “Jack Evans,” that grow to 3 or 4 feet at maturity, and larger varieties, such as “Springtime,” that can reach over 6 feet when fully grown. Short or semi-dwarf varieties do exist, but they do not grow as well in the Valley as their taller cousins.

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