- Type Flowering plant
- Lifespan Perennial
- USDA Zones 9-10
- Light Prefers shade
- Water Regular water
- Soil Well-drained
- Design Tip Colorful containers
- Companions Ferns, coleus
- Peak Season Summer
Begonias: A Field Guide
Popular bedding plants since the Victorian era, flowering begonias also add an air of tropical jauntiness to container gardens. In vivid shades of red, pink, white, yellow, apricot, and salmon, begonias may go in and out of style but are always dependable when you crave a shot of color in the garden.
With nearly 2,000 species that fall into three broad categories—tuberous, rhizomatous, and fibrous–there is a begonia for every garden. In cool climates, begonias thrive as container plants and may be grown as annuals in the garden. Native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, South America, and Central America, begonias most begonias will not appreciate cold temperatures. And their definition of cold is generally “below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.” An exception is Begonia grandis, a hardy begonia that grows as a perennial in cold regions. Read our contributor Jeanne Rostaing’s account of how delighted she was to find it thriving in Brooklyn in Gardening 101: Hardy Begonia.
Among our other favorites are Begonia rex species, prized for their beautifully colored and textured leaves. But be warned; they are finicky. (See Houseplant Help: 5 Tips to Keep Finicky Begonia Rex Alive.) Another favorite, ‘Angel Wing’ is an elegant cane begonia with lacy foliage and pretty pink flowers. You can see it stealing the show in 8 Houseplant Ideas to Steal from a Grand Parisian Escalier.
The workhorses of the begonia world are tuberous begonias, hybrids bred for showy flowers and bright colors. In plant nurseries, you can find cultivars with frilly petals, ruffled petals, picotee petals, double petals, single petals–as well as a group of camellia lookalike.
For companion plants to begonias, see our guides to Fuchsias 101 and also consider pairing begonias with ferns for dramatic results.