Begonia is a genus of approximately 1,000 species, part of the Begoniaceae family and native to tropical and subtropical areas of the planet. There is a great deal of variation among the numerous species, however, typically, begonias are normally fleshy. The flowers are either male or female. They don’t have true petals but vibrant sepals — portion of the calyx, which, in different species, encloses true petals. Begonias can be perennial or annual.
Tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida) have big, showy blossoms in hues of white, yellow, pink, orange and red. The plants are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, and grow from 12 to 18 inches tall, with slightly pointed leaves. Tuberous begonias go dormant in the winter. Popular for container growing, the plants are available in single- or even double-flowered varieties and feature several distinct flower forms, like rose and camellia. Smaller-flowered tuberous begonias with a pendulous habit are often planted in hanging baskets.
Rex and Angel Wings
Rex begonias (Begonia rex-cultorum) are evergreen perennials, hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11. They are often grown in containers and also are known for their brilliantly colored leaves. “Merry Christmas” has bright red and green leaf, and is among the several rexes with leaves which are ruffled, curled or twisted. Angel wing begonias, also hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11, are grown for their wing-shaped leaves and their panicles of white, pink or red flowers. They are a part of the cane-stemmed begonia group, composed of evergreen varieties. The leaf is occasionally spotted or marked.
Most gardeners consider the low-growing — to 12 ins — wax or bedding begonia as an annual. In fact, Begonia semperflorens cultorum team is an evergreen perennial, hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11. This variety includes fibrous roots and green to green-bronze leaves. Red, pink or white flowers bloom in clusters and can be double or single in form. Wax begonias benefit from regular moisture during the growing season and flower most abundantly in full sun.
Winter-flowering begonias are sold as vibrant container plants, which most people discard after flowering. All these are actually evergreen perennials, hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11. The group encompasses well-known types such as Rieger and Elatior begonias, known for their compact growth habits and floriferous natures. They flower in the winter and also thrive on a diet bright indirect light and relatively large humidity of 40 percent. Rieger and Elatior begonias have a variety of flower forms and the full range of begonia colors, encompassing all colors except purple and true blue.