1260 Saxifraga stoloniferaCommon Names: strawberry begonia,strawberry geranium,creeping saxifrage,mother of thousands,creeping sailor Family: Saxifragaceae (saxifrage Family)
Strawberry begonia is a ground hugging herbaceous perennial that spreads out on strawberry-like stolons, eventually forming a mat of green and silver foliage. The leaves are kidney shaped to almost round, coarsely toothed, 1-3 in (2.5-8 cm) in diameter, and borne on 2-3 in (5-8 cm) petioles. The leaves are arranged in a tufted rosette and, erect on their petioles, never more 8-10 in (20-25 cm) tall. On the upper side, the leaves are mid-green with silver veins, and underneath they are pale violet or reddish. The inflorescence is mounted on a stalk 12-16 in (30-40 cm) above the foliage, and consists of a loosely branched raceme with numerous white flowers. The flowers are about an inch (2.5 cm) across, with two long (0.4 in; 10-20 mm) lower petals and three shorter (0.2 in; 3 mm) upper petals. There may be violet spots on the little upper petals.
‘Tricolor’, also called ‘Magic Carpet’, is a variegated cultivar with dark green, white and pink markings on the leaves. ‘Harvest Moon’ has yellow-green leaves.
Saxifraga stolonifera is native to China and Japan, where it grows in woodlands and rocky hillsides.
Light: Outdoors, strawberry begonia does best in partial shade and does well even in deep shade. Indoor container plants should get bright light, but not direct sun through the window. Moisture: Strawberry begonia thrives in a moisture retentive, but well drained loam. They need plentiful water during growth but can tolerate dry conditions when not actively growing. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 10 . This is a ground cover plant for the South, and a plant for hanging baskets everywhere. Most of the other species of Saxifraga are much more cold hardy than strawberry begonia. Propagation: It’s easy to start new plantings of strawberry begonia by detaching individual rosettes and rooting them as you would a cutting.
As a container plant in a hanging basket, strawberry begonia has few equals. The threadlike stolons dangle dainty rosettes of green and silver foliage over the sides. The plant grows fast and tolerates the low light conditions found indoors. Strawberry begonia is perfect for planting on a shady rock wall where it can send its runners and plantlets cascading over the sides.
Strawberry begonia makes an excellent groundcover, spreading on above-ground stolons to carpet partly shady areas that have adequate soil moisture. Let it colonize under trees or shrubs where few other plants can survive. In just a few years, under ideal conditions, it will have covered an area of several square feet. I like to use strawberry begonia at the edge of pathways and the front of borders that do not get much sun. The sprightly flowers, appearing in mid spring and standing conspicuously above the leaves, are a delight to behold.
Where not hardy, you can still use strawberry begonia outside: just bring a few rooted sprigs indoors before the first hard freeze and then put them back out in spring.
Neither a strawberry (Fragaria X ananassa), which is in the rose family, nor a begonia (for example, Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum), which is in the begonia family, our strawberry begonia is one of more than 475 species in the saxifrage family. The family includes annual, biennial and perennial herbs occurring in temperate and polar climates on all continents save Antarctica.
There are some 370 species in the genus, Saxifraga. Since the leaves of many species are shaped like kidneys, it was assumed by early physicians and other deep thinkers that the plants would cure kidney stones, hence the name was derived from the Latin, saxum, which means stone, and fragere, which means to break.
The genus Saxifraga includes some very cold-hardy plants, with some species growing in the Arctic tundra, in rocky alpine scree, and on the edges of melting snow.
Steve Christman 5/8/16