Wax Begonia – Begonia semperflorens

Wax Begonias are popular summer bedding plants in parks and gardens, and they look equally — if not more — attractive when grown in rough clay pots or wooden tubs and window-boxes on a patio or balcony.

They also make decorative plants when grown indoors, particularly if the pots are placed inside an attractive container.

Wax Begonias are really quite undemanding, but they will do best when grown in a rich compost that is well-drained — they dislike wet compost.

The low, compact and bushy plants produce a succession of flowers from late May to September or October, or whenever the first frosts appear and prevent further growth. The glossy, rounded leaves can be green or red.Wax Begonia - Begonia semperflorens

A fast-growing plant, the Wax Begonia will reach a height of 15-23cm (6-9in) or more in a matter of a few months. When it has reached the limit of its vertical growth it begins to branch out, and can spread as wide as it is tall.

Colours and forms Begonia semperflorens has been hybridized for many years to improve the colour, of the original plant. There are now many forms and hybrids in cultivation. The older varieties are very dependent on the weather: for example, in cool, wet conditions the flowers get bedraggled and the plant may be attacked by various fungus diseases. New F1 hybrids are much healthier and more robust. They include ‘Organdy’, with a mixture of pink, white and red flowers and green foliage, and ‘Danica Scarlet’, a plant with red foliage and red flowers.

Growing from seed

1 Sow seed in trays or boxes of seed compost. Cover with glass and a sheet of newspaper. Keep compost moist, but remember to turn the glass every day to prevent damping off.

2 Keep at a temperature of 16°C (61°F). When the seeds have germinated remove the cover and bring the tray into the light.

3 Once the first true leaves appear, transplant into boxes or trays of soil-based compost.

4 Harden off young plants that are to be grown outdoors by placing them out during the day in fine weather and bringing them in at night. Plant out when the danger of frost has passed.

5 For indoor plants, pot up in 8cm (3in) pots, and when they are growing well, repot in 13cm (5in) pots.

Plant Problems

The stems of the older forms grown outdoors develop brown or black edges if the plants are growing in a damp position, or if there has been a lot of rain.

Prevention: Try to protect your plants from too much rain. Choose the newer forms and hybrids, which are much more resistant to bad weather.

White powdery patches on the leaves are powdery mildew, caused by excessive dampness, poor ventilation and too much shade.

Prevention: Avoid putting outdoor plants anywhere they will get dripped on, such as under the eaves. Make sure the air circulation is good and that the plants are getting enough light. Mist the leaves occasionally, but do this early in the day and do not allow them to remain wet overnight.

Yellow patches on the leaves are a sign of viral or fungal attack.

Treatment: There is no cure for this. Discard the plants and buy new ones.

PLANT CARE

This plant is quite easy so long as care is taken with watering. Handle the plant as little as possible, as both stems and leaves are easily broken. Remove withered blooms to prolong the flowering period.

  • Potting: Transplant seedlings into 8cm (3in) pots, and pot on later into 13cm (5in) pots. Use a rich, well-drained soil-based compost.
  • Water moderately; never allow the compost to become too wet.
  • Feeding: Feed every 2 weeks with a dilute solution of a standard liquid fertilizer.

GROWING CONDITIONS

  • Light: Both indoor and outdoor plants should be grown in good light, but shaded from direct sun.
  • Temperature: Wax Begonia will tolerate normal summer temperatures.

Wax Begonias are dainty, compact plants that are usually grown as annuals. They can be cultivated either indoors or out, in pots, window boxes or tubs.

When to buy

  • Wax Begonias are available as bedding plants in May from garden centres and nurseries; or grow from seed.
  • Choose plants with succulent leaves and lots ot flower buds. Avoid any with damaged leaves.
  • Grow as an annual.
  • The simplicity of pure white forms, such as Begonia semperflorens ‘Thousand Wonders White’, can be quite stunning.

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