Wax begonia is a hardy perennial that brings bright blooms to your home and garden for the majority of the year. There are more than 1,000 species of begonias, and they come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. They are easy to grow and can be the center of any garden, and they even grow well indoors. In this guide, we are going to discuss how to care for and maintain wax begonias so that you can have a colorful garden this spring and summer.
Growing Zone and Facts
The wax begonia is a plant that thrives in growing zones 10 and 11 as perennials, but they can also grow in other zones within the country as annuals. They also flourish in containers and flower pots, so they make a terrific indoor plant as well. This plant has been popular since the Victorian age, and it is still popular in gardens and homes today.
Depending on the species, this plant can grow anywhere from six inches tall up to two feet. Blooms are red, white, yellow, and pink, and there are variations in the foliage. These waxy flowers are related to pumpkins and melons; in fact, these edible flowers even have a citrus flavor to them.
How to Plant and Care
Begonia seeds are some of the smallest flower seeds that you will find, so when you plant them, be aware that a small seed pod that weighs only about an ounce can create as many as three million seedlings. Once you have a plant growing in your garden, you will find that wax begonias grow best with these conditions:
- Sun – In most areas, these plants will grow best in full sun, but if you live in the more tropical areas of the country, some shade may be required from the hot afternoon sun. If you find that the plants are not blooming, then more sunlight is recommended.
- Temperature – This is a plant that does not do well in cold or freezing temperatures, so you will want to plant it where the temperature will be at least about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures that are up to 75 degrees will help encourage blooming.
- Humidity – Wax begonias like to grow in a relatively humid environment, so if you cannot keep the humidity above 50 percent, a small humidifier may be useful for indoor plants.
- Water – Make sure to keep the soil moist, but not dripping wet.
- Soil – Any light, well-draining soil is going to be good for this plant.
- Fertilizer – A fairly weak fertilizer fed monthly should work well for wax begonias.
Growing in Containers
Wax begonias make lovely indoor houseplants, especially if you live in an area where the plant does not thrive all year long. When planted in a proper container, most wax begonias can live for a period of at least four to five years. Since this plant can grow to be quite large, you are going to need a large pot so that it does not need to be replanted right away. You also want a flower pot with a lot of drainage holes so that the water does not over soak the roots.
When your plant is growing, you will not need to prune it for the most part. Simply trim the leaves and the branches that grow in a curve or overgrow. In fact, in most cases, you will only need to pinch the stems to remove the dead and encourage growth. This will need to be done about once a month, but it will make the plant look much fuller as a result. Sometimes a begonia may get leggy, which means that it is reaching for a specific direction where the light tends to be. Pruning the plant is a great way to force it to grow from a certain part of the stem, which can correct the legginess and create a fuller plant.
Since wax begonias do not grow in cold climates, many gardeners will remove the plants from the ground and place them in a planter so that they can come indoors for the winter. Once inside, they will need warmth and plenty of sunlight to grow, but as long as the temperature is above 60 degrees, it will survive the winter. Frost can kill wax begonias, so make sure that you keep the plant indoors until well after frost is a threat. We wrote a great article with tips on how to overwinter your Begonias.
The best way to propagate a wax begonia is to take a stem cutting from the plant. This cutting should be taken in the spring, and each cutting should be about three to four inches in length. Place the cutting about two inches into the soil. While the cutting is forming roots, you will need to keep the soil moist, and the air around the plants humid. One trick that many gardeners use to give a plant more humidity is to cover the leaves with a plastic bag. It will take some time for the plant to begin growing again, but with the right care, it will thrive soon enough.
You can also start a plant form the seeds of a mature plant. The seeds should be planted about 12 weeks before the first frost of the year. They will need a lot of light to grow, so do not cover them at all. They will grow best between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and you should start to see growth in about 15 to 20 days.
One of the most common problems that you will experience with a wax begonia is root rot. This is because the plant requires a lot of humidity and moisture to grow, but when the moisture sets in the soil, it can cause root rot, which can be quite damaging to the plant. When the leaves of the plant are wet, fungus can also form on the leaves. This will look like a powdery mildew, but it can easily be corrected by adjusting the moisture level and watering the plant from below the leaves. Spots can also form on the leaves. Pests are not a common issue with wax begonias, but there are a few to keep at bay like spider mites, whiteflies, aphids, and scales, which can all cause discoloration and deformities in the leaves.
There are quite a few varieties of wax begonia that you can plant in your garden, but some of the more common options include:
- Super Olympia Series – Large blooms
- Queen Series – Double flowering
- Coco Mix – Rounded foliage
- Cocktail Series – Dwarf size with bronze or maroon foliage
- Ambassador Series – White, red, and pink blooms that flower early
- Varsity Series – Large flowers that grow well in containers
- Victory Series – Large blooms that tend to be red, white, or pink
- Paint Splash Pink – Mottled foliage with pale pink blooms