Are you an amateur gardener who loves growing houseplants bearing flowers all year round? Or are you looking for a flowering plant to bring brightness to any corner of your home with its vibrant colors? If yes, the wax begonia plant can be a great addition to your garden.
The wax begonias (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum) are warm, perennial plants popular among expert gardeners. The plants have round, glossy, and waxy leaves, hence the name. They are known for their dark green or bronze-colored waxy leaves, which have a sparkle of their own.
These plants are prolific bloomers and can bloom all year round. The flowers have varied colors, ranging between red, pink and white, and many varieties even have two types of flowers growing on the same plant.
These plants have been popular since the Victorian age and are still prevalent in gardens and homes today. Also, the flowers are related to pumpkins and melons, and most of them are edible and possess a citrus flavor.
Characteristics of Wax Begonias
Wax begonias are compact, mounded, succulent, and fibrous-rooted plants with fleshy stems and green to bronze leaves. The flowers bloom either singly or doubly depending on the variant, are of various colors, and bloom from spring to frost.
These plants require less maintenance and can grow up to a size of around 6 to 12 inches high with a similar spread. Once planted, wax begonias adapt to a wide range of light conditions and grow quickly in warm and sunlit environments. Not to forget, they require moderate, humus-rich, well-drained soils with less fertilizer usage per month.
The bronze-leaved varieties of wax begonias grow better in sunnier locations—also, mulch and compost help protect roots and keep the soil hydrated.
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Varieties of Wax Begonias
- Super Olympia Series: Super Olympia series wax begonias feature glossy green leaves, are perennial, and grow in full bloom in the garden producing larger flowers and brighter colors. The plant can grow up to a height of 10-12 inches tall.
- Queen Series: The Queen series is a double-flower begonia breed, meaning it’s able to produce two types of flowers in the same plant consistently. One of the notable characters of this plant is its excellent heat tolerance, which makes it an ideal choice for harsh gardening environments.
- Coco Mix: Coco mix breed is mainly known for its rounded foliage and double flower-producing breed characteristics. This variety produces flowers ranging from white to red colors, and the leaves have a characteristic burgundy color.
- Cocktail Series: This variety of wax begonias produces single white blossoms with yellow centers along with bronze or maroon foliage. The plants are compact, shorter in height, and bloom all summer long.
- Varsity Series: The Varsity series of wax begonias grow short and are more heat tolerant than other begonias. They produce red, white, or pink flowers and have bright or dark green foliage. Even better, these plants grow well in containers or planters.
- Victory Series: Like the Varsity series species of wax begonias, this variety produces blooms that are red, white, or pink and have dark green foliage. The plant may grow up to 8-10 inches tall and is perennial.
- Paint Splash Pink: This variety of wax begonia shows brighter foliage, and the leaves are green, including characteristic cream spottings. The plant produces pale pink flowers that offer excellent contrast and make it eye-catchy.
Growing Wax Begonias
The best way to grow wax begonias is by propagation, which has been discussed later in this article. However, you can also use seeds to grow the plant.
Here are the steps to successfully grow a healthy wax begonia plant by planting seeds.
- Almost 12 weeks after the winter season, start to plant the wax begonia seeds on well-drained and organically rich soil.
- Press the seeds gently into the soil, but don’t push them too deep into the soil. The wax begonia seeds need bright sunlight to germinate. If natural sunlight is absent, artificial sunlight is considered a great alternative as well.
- Cover the pot with a plastic bag or humidity dome to keep the soil moist. A humidifier can also be used for doing the same.
- The wax begonia seeds might take a long time to germinate, so be patient.
- Make sure to keep the seeds warm and hydrated, with enough sunlight. Placing the pot on a heating mat can help speed the germination process.
- Once the germination process is complete and leaves start to originate from the baby plant, it’s time to shift the plants to separate pots and plant them outdoors.
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Caring for Wax Begonias
As stated earlier, the wax begonia plants require less maintenance and thus are an excellent choice for rookie gardeners and collectors. They’re also easy to grow compared to other begonias varieties and need few primary conditions for raising the plant.
Let’s take a look at how to care for wax begonias.
Wax begonias grow and bloom best under direct sunlight, but there are different sunlight requirements for the plant according to other subspecies and locations.
If the plant grows in a place experiencing high temperatures and intense summers, keep checking that the plants get exposed to indirect sunlight by providing some shade. On the contrary, if the plant grows in a place experiencing a temperate climate, exposure to direct sunlight is a better option.
Keep in mind, the bronze-leaved variant of wax begonias prefers a bit harsh sunlight than its green-leaved relatives.
When grown indoors, keep them in rooms receiving plenty of bright sunlight all day long.
However, if the atmosphere indoors is not compatible with the plant, using semi-transparent curtains will work just fine.
Wax begonia plants don’t have any specific requirement for soil types, provided the soil is well-drained to prevent wetness or overwatering. Ideally, any light, well-draining, humus-rich soil or using a general-purpose potting mix is preferred for ideal growth cycles.
Loosening of the soil is quite essential for wax begonia plants. The soil can be loosened by adding peat moss or any other organic substance. This helps in smooth water flow inside the potting mix, thus preventing any sogginess in the soil.
Remember to water the plants regularly by following a fixed watering schedule, depending on the prevailing weather conditions. In general, try to water the plant almost once or twice a week to keep the soil slightly moist.
Water the plants only when the upper half to 1 inch of the topsoil dries out. Wax begonia plants enjoy damp soil but overwatering the plants can lead to root rot.
Also, try avoiding any water accumulating on the plant’s leaves, as wet leaves promote fungal growth, which is unhealthy. To abstain from doing so, water near the base of the plant around the soil.
Using mulch around the roots also helps in maintaining the water retention capacity of the soil.
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Temperature and Humidity
Wax begonia plants are native to Central and South America. Thus they prefer warm temperatures and humid environments. If the plants experience warmth all year round, they can comfortably be grown outdoors as perennial plants.
The average temperature required for the healthy growth of the plant is between 14 to 16 degrees Celsius during the night and 18 to 24 degrees Celsius during the day. However, they are not suited to cold temperatures and cannot tolerate frost. Thus, during winter, move the plants indoors to keep them away from freezing temperatures.
These plants thrive in high humidity in their natural habitat or outdoors. In case you keep the plant indoors, place the pot on a tray of pebbles. Fill it with water and make sure it does not touch the bottom of the pot. The evaporating water from the tray will help maintain humidity around the plant.
Wax begonias don’t require much fertilizer during growth, so using a generic weaker fertilizer is sufficient for the plant. Also, use balanced, granular, liquid fertilizers during the early growing period of the plant every month to encourage growth.
For indoor plants, use a half-diluted liquid fertilizer and apply it to the soil every week. Using a high phosphorus fertilizer every third or fourth week also helps in the healthy growth of the plant.
Using compost is a good alternative to fertilizers. Not to forget, well-rotted manure for aged compost mulching helps gain the same advantages as an artificial fertilizer offers.
Additional Methods to Care for Wax Begonias
There might be cases where the begonias grow a bit off shape, or some reduction in overgrowth may be necessary to make the plants look even more beautiful.
Here are some additional caring requirements for these plants.
Wax begonia plants don’t need much care after their growing period, but they still require some special attention before the onset of winter to survive the cold. Removing the plants from the ground is necessary as they might die due to extreme cold situations. As a result, the plants need to be shifted indoors to provide a warm and sustainable environment.
This method of shifting plants indoors to protect the plant from cold environments is known as overwintering. While moving the plants, ensure that the pot contains well-drained soil to lower the chances of root rots.
Ensure there are no drafts (passing cold air from a leak in the window during winter), as they can severely harm the plants. Also, since wax begonias may die in frosty temperatures, keep the plants indoors until winter is over.
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Wax begonias are exclusively grown in large nurseries in huge batches. As a result, plants do not accurately grow from the seeds but propagate easily from leaf cuttings, also known as sprigs.
To start propagating a wax begonia plant:
- Use a pair of clean snips to cut a three to four-inch sprig from the plant during the spring season.
- Remove the leaves present about two inches from the bottom.
- Place the severed end in a rooting hormone like an agar solution.
Finally, plant the sprig into well-drained and moist soil. To keep a humid environment for the baby plant, place a plastic bag upside down to conserve the moisture while the plant grows steadily.
Alternatively, place the sprig into a jar of water instead of an agar solution, and wait patiently for the roots to appear, which might take a week. Once the roots are about an inch long, transfer the sprig to the soil, and a new plant will grow.
Potting and Repotting
Potting and repotting is an essential element for wax begonia plants due to the overwintering process.
For general purposes, try using a small pot containing peat-based potting mix. Since the plants are root bound in nature, they don’t require much repotting, just once or twice in their lifetime. In most cases, expert gardeners today prefer planting the cuttings of older plants and promoting propagation rather than potting and repotting the same plants.
Pests and Disease Management
Wax begonia plants are vulnerable when it comes to pests and diseases. As a result, necessary precautions must be taken to help the plant remain healthy. Some of the dangers faced by these plants are stated as follows.
These plants are prone to various fungal diseases such as botrytis, powdery mildew, gray mold, and pythium.
It is better to use the drip irrigation method or pour water directly from the hose onto the soil and mulch to help manage fungal diseases. In case of a fungal threat, make sure to use a copper-based fungicide and provide proper spacing between the plants to prevent its spread.
Wax begonias face an equal amount of threat from pests as well. As a result, watch the plants for tiny pests such as aphids, thrips, and caterpillars.
Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects found on growing tips of leaves and stems, feeding on sap. An aphid invasion can cause the plants to become stunted and deformed.
Thrips mainly feed on the upper surface of leaves, destroying the sheen of the leaves. They also feed on pollen in flowers, thus preventing pollination.
Caterpillars feed on plant leaves and stem mainly during nighttime, thus destroying the plant’s beauty.
To pack things up, wax begonias are certainly one of the most appealing varieties of perennial flowering plants. Their bronze to magenta-colored leaves, along with the brightly colored flowers, exhibits mind-blowing contrast and beauty.
To protect the attractive flowers and the bronze or maroon foliage, you can make a DIY neem-based soaping mix to retain their shine and repel pests and insects.
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