Begonias are often considered a little passé, but bold new varieties are helping to shed the image of dainty Begonia semperflorens that so often formed the front rows of 1950s and 1960s formal bedding schemes.
From their beginnings in the moist tropical and subtropical areas around the globe, the nearly 1,800 species of begonia have been cultivated by growers, producing varieties that fall into three groups: tuberous (with big, showy flowers), fibrous-rooted (the dwarf bedding kind) and foliage, which include cane-stemmed and Begonia rex types. They’re ideal for pots, baskets and borders in shade.
We’ve picked 10 of the best begonias, for long-lasting flowers and the brightest blooms.
A star performer, begonia ‘Big’ has brilliant flowers, produced right to the end of the season and contrasting well with large, glossy leaves. Available in red or rose, it has an upright habit that makes it perfect for pots.
Begonia ‘Million Kisses Elegance’
In contrast to most begonias, ‘Million Kisses Elegance’ has subtle pink flowers, complemented by fresh green leaves. Incredibly vigorous, abundant blooms are produced on gently arching stems, perfect for hanging baskets and pots.
Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’
Sultry and dramatic, begonia ‘Glowing Embers’ delivers a double-whammy of bronze-purple leaves with prominent veining and almost luminous orange flowers. Its compact growing habit make this variety perfect for pots, baskets and window boxes.
‘Illumination’ has masses of showy, double to semi-double blooms borne on long stems. Available in a range of colours including scarlet and orange, plants form a mound before the stems trail and work well in both pots and hanging baskets.
Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’
The brilliantly coloured, double blooms of ‘Apricot Shades’ are among the largest. Masses of blooms make the foliage barely visible and last all summer.
A real eye-catcher, ‘Waterfall’ has huge, brightly coloured double blooms, lasting well throughout summer. We recommend this variety is planted in a basket.
Compact and bushy, begonia ‘Beauvilia’ is ideal for pots. It flowers freely until late in the season and has a flower shape similar to ‘Million Kisses Elegance’, which was also bred from Begonia boliviensis.
Begonia ‘Super Cascade’
At 12cm across, the massive blooms of ‘Super Cascade’ are the biggest in our top 10. Four large outer petals surround a smaller, double centre. Its long stems and pendulous flowers make this showy variety best in baskets.
‘Flamboyant’ is an old variety with well-shaped, simple, open blooms, in an attractive shade of clear orange-red. Pointed, dark green leaves contrast well with the flowers, which have usually finished flowering by the end of August.
Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’
Offering a profusion of fiery, bell-shaped flowers, ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ is also bred from B. boliviensis (like ‘Million Kisses Elegance’ and ‘Beauvilia’). Better suited to baskets than pots, it’s heat tolerant and blooms well all summer, and into early autumn.
Feeding your begonias
Begonias will enjoy an application of tomato feed in July. Alternatively, add slow-release pellets when planting up. Never feed into September as plants should be encouraged to slow down. Flowers appearing in October and onwards can be removed, so the plant can put energy back into the tuber.