February 29, 2004

Begonia grandis (Hardy Begonia)

Here is another can't miss shade perennial. This plant is hard to find in the nursery trade. You can find it in mail order catalogs and of course at the annual AOGC plant sale in June. I have grown this plant for years in the same place in my side garden. It has never succumbed to any of the savage weather we have had in the last five winters or summers. The book on this shade plant is height 18", Width 18" Zones 6-9.

Hardy Begonia plant never fails to amaze me. One year in the early part of spring (following a real mild winter) I was working on my flower bed, weeding and mulching. When I discovered that this begonia had already reached its full growth and was starting to bloom! I was indeed a happy gardener.

The leaves of this plant are shaped like an angel wing begonia. It normally blooms in late spring to frost. The flowers of this begonia are pale pink held loosely above the leaves. There are tiny bulb-like tubers that appear at the leaf joints in late summer. These can be used to increase your stock or to pot up and share with a fellow gardener. This plant needs shade and moist well-drained soil.

A brother or sister plant to this one is Begonia grandis 'Alba'. Alba has a wonderful white bloom and needs all of the conditions listed above. I have had a small start of this plant for three years. It is the smallest plant in my garden. It just sits there and has never bloomed for me yet. The jury is still out on this one!

Begonia grandis will need extra watering in the hot summer. In the winter it will freeze to the ground and leave no visible signs that it was ever there. Do not give up on it for this plant will come back with a vengeance the next year. If that is not good enough for you, look under the leaves of the plant and you will see a whole bunch of new plants coming up. This is the plant I pot up every year. It is best to get them potted up as soon as possible, while they are still small plants.

I grow my begonias with wood fern in the background. They are truly a wonderful sight together. As I usually say in this column, this plant is a true Texas star for the garden, in addition to, a superb southern heirloom perennial.

Posted by angie at February 29, 2004 05:47 PM

I planted two begonias last summer. They didn't bloom. I'm wondering what fertilzing needs they may have.

Posted by: Janet Anthony at March 26, 2004 07:21 AM

Janet, I would use any organic fertilizer labeled for flowers. Rabbit Hill Farm has "Buds n' Blooms" and also "Rose Food", Maestro Gro has a rose fertilizer as well. . . and I'm certain there are lots more.

Posted by: angie at March 28, 2004 07:05 AM