535 Begonia x semperflorens-cultorumCommon Names: wax begonia Family: Begoniaceae (begonia Family)
The popular wax begonia is available in a galaxy of varieties representing a wide spectrum of flower and leaf colors. To be precise there is actually a universe of begonias of over 1300 species and hundreds more hybrids. Botanists categorize these into several groups based on growth and root characteristics. The wax begonias are representative of the Semperflorens Group. These tender herbaceous perennials have succulent stems and, depending on the variety, form attractive mounds from 6-18 in (15-46 cm) in height. Leaves tend to be glossy ovals and come in a range of colors: shades of green, mahogany, bronze, red, as well as variegated patterns. Flowers may be single or double with colors ranging from red to pink to rose to white. The bronze-leaved Cocktail series is a dwarf hybrid that is great for edging (I especially like the red flowered 'Vodka').
Wax begonia, Begonia x semperflorens, is native to Brazil. This plant has been popular in gardens since the Victorian era.
CultureWax begonias like good garden soil that is high in organic matter that will retain moisture keeping the soil cool. If plants become scraggly pinch the stems back to encourage compact growth. Light: Most varieties prefer bright sun but will tolerate some shade. Some varieties have been developed especially for shady areas. Moisture: Wax begonias require regular watering to look their best but will survive periods of drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. This tender perennial is usually cultivated outside this range as an annual. Propagation: By cuttings which root easily. This is another great plant for gardeners on a budget. Bring plants indoors for the winter. In spring make cuttings - small pieces of stem will root to form nice plants in a few weeks. These are planted outside, about 10 in (25 cm) apart) when danger of frost has past.
Wax begonia is a favorite bedding plant - use them to create masses of color in low beds and borders and individually in container gardens. Many of the dwarf varieties only grow to 6 in (15 cm) and are perfect for edging. Mix shade tolerant varieties with ferns and impatiens.
The many wax begonia varieties provide nonstop flowers in a palette of colors that combine dramatically with beautiful leaf shades and textures. Relatively pest free, this plant is easy to propagate and is an inexpensive way to bring continuous color to the summer garden.
Steve Christman 02/14/99; updated 08/19/01, 05/20/03, 11/26/03