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Begonias: A Shade Alternative to Impatiens

Megawatt Begonia

I started working at Behnke’s 30 some odd years ago, and I only remember a handful of begonia varieties being available for sale at that time. I recall the basic wax-leaf begonias in bedding flats with flowers of red, pink or white, and with either green or bronze leaves. Also popular were double begonias in red, pink and the occasional white, along with the “Charm” begonia which had a green and yellow variegated leaf and red blossoms.  Finally, the ever popular tuberous begonias with their large camellia- like blooms in an array of colors. I remember thinking: “Wow, we sure do sell a lot of Begonias!” We had one half of a greenhouse dedicated to just begonias and had to continuously restock it as they sold down.

Dragon Wing Begonia

Things have really changed over the years and plant breeders have worked long and hard to introduce new and improved varieties of the old favorites. In today’s market we now have several series of begonias that boast large leaves as well as very large blooms. These include “Big,” “Whopper,” and my favorite “Dragon Wing,” all suitable for sun to shade gardening. They have incorporated new colors by breeding with other begonia species, bringing in oranges and even yellows. The Bigs, Dragon Wings and Whoppers are wonderful for large landscapes and provide color until frost. Dragon Wing Begonias definitely will not disappoint when you are looking to create masses of color in your front yard.

Begonias have gained popularity over the last few years as they are being used instead of shady impatiens, which have been plagued by a plant fungal disease called downy mildew. Pushing the plant envelope, this year the plant breeders have taken it to the next level and have introduced a new series of begonias called “Megawatt.” The tag-line for them is: “Bigger than Big, they are Megawatt!” I am so looking forward to seeing how they work in the garden!

Be sure to stop by and see the beautiful collection of begonias that is available here at Behnkes. The ones discussed above are just a fraction of what we will have available.

by Marian Parsley, Seasonal Plants Buyer

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for your very informative and interesting posts. I learn so much and after reading I am ready to run over and get some of the things. Which is what I did with strerptocarpus. However, the blooms soon dried up and disappeared. How long does it go dormant???? I was going to use it as a gift (graduation). But I’m glad I didn’t. It is not so beautiful now. Please keep up the great posts and p;lease include the down sides of these flowers.

  2. P.S. I think you always include the catagories of SHADE and CONTAINER plant some where in the text of the posts. I would like the catagories to be highlighted or put in caps so I can scan for the one I want. I’m picky, picky. I know.

  3. I would like to BUY a parental begonia plant. One I don’t have to replant (after buying again) and maybe buy more of the same. My zone is 7b, a little sandy but I have been adding better soil each year as I plant. By the way, where is 7B,upper Maryland or lower where it may be a little warmer?

  4. I grow mostly cacti and succulents, but this article has me wondering if I can carve out a little space for some begonias. They are truly great plants. I know I’ve overwintered them under lights and they did just fine for a few seasons. But, eventually my tastes changed. Thanks for this article; maybe you’ll get me to change back.

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