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As a large group of tropical foliage and flowering plants, begonias are very popular in both indoor and outdoor gardens. Their abundant, beautiful flowers and handsome foliage make them a star in any gardener's eyes. Begonias are divided into three major groups according to their root structures: fibrous-rooted, rhizomatous, and tuberous-rooted begonias. Of the tuberous begonias, the best known come from a sub-group bred from American stock called Tuberhybridas. Although the tender tubers must be dug up from the garden and stored over the winter, they can last for 10 years with proper care.
Tuberous begonias grow 12" – 18" tall, spreading 1' – 1-1/2' wide at maturity. The new compact multi-flora types grow to about 6" tall.
The showy, waxy begonia blossoms vary from red, pink, yellow, orange, and white. They come in single or double forms — bi-colored, ruffled, or smooth. They bloom during the summer and right up until frost. Male and female flowers appear separately on the same plant, and some gardeners pinch off the smaller female buds for larger male blooms.
The leaves of tuberous begonias are almost as varied as the flowers. Appearing alternately on the stem, each leaf — or in some cases, the vein — may be colored reddish brown instead of the usual medium green. Leaves are oblique and sometimes called "elephant's ears".
Q: If it freezes where I live during the winter, how do I winterize?
A: In late autumn, when the leaves fall off and stems separate easily from the tubers, begonias are ready for storage. Cut plants back to the ground. Leave them in containers in a cool, dark spot where the temperature remains above 35°F. Don't water until the following spring. Or you can lift tubers and store them in dry peat in a cool, frost-free place until the following spring.
Q: Help! My bulbs are slow to come up!
A: Make sure you planted them with shallow covering — only 1/4" – 1/2"of soil. You might want to make sure that they were planted top-side up.
Q: Why are some of the flowers different sizes?
A: Male flowers are the largest, female the smallest. Usually there's one male to two females. To increase the size of the male flowers, pinch away the females. This can add 50% more size to the male flowers.