Can You Barey The Stem Of A Sun Flower Plant Tuberous Begonias

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Tuberous Begonias

If you appreciate plants that boldly express their presence without hesitation with huge, almost artificially perfect flowers, then tuberous begonias are for you. While some may find them over-the-top, even downright rude, if you like color in abundance, with subtlety being more of an option than a must, then look no further.

These tuberous-rooted perennials, which bloom from late spring when the days last more than 13 hours until deep fall when the foliage dies back, have been extensively hybridized and refined to the point that the larger flowered forms are nothing short of spectacular. For those with greenhouses or very mild winter climates, there are even species that bloom in winter, if not the colder months.

Description and classification and groups

Begonias are among those handy plants where the proper name is also the common name. The genus is found in the tropics and subtropics, especially in the Americas, and consists of about 900 species, of which about 130 are cultivated, from which many cultivars and hybrids have developed. These garden designs are divided into 8 main categories. These are:

1. Cane-like, having narrow, upright stems with conspicuous leaf nodes and evergreen foliage.

2. Shrubs, which are bushy plants with branched stems.

3. A thick stalk that resembles a cane, but with much heavier stems that sometimes form a trunk.

4. Semperflorens, which are fibrous-rooted species usually considered summer-flowering annuals.

5. Rhizomatous, which can be evergreen or deciduous and are often grown for both foliage and flowers.

6. Rex-cultorum, these are the Rex flower-leaf begonias, which are usually grown as houseplants.

7. Tuberous plants that have thickened tuberous roots and usually die over the winter or, in the case of winter-flowering species, that may dry out at other times.

8. Trailing Scandent, which are trailing, ever-flowering plants, often with long internodes and should not be confused with tuberous begonias.

Group Seven is therefore, although quite a few types of begonias have tuberous roots, when we speak of tuberous begonias we generally mean a group of fancy flowering garden plants known as Begonia × tuberhybrida. They evolved primarily from South American species and first appeared in Europe in 1867, just three years after the introduction of the most influential of the early parent species, Begonia pearcei. Since then, thousands of hybrids have been bred and we now have tuberous begonias in a wide range of sizes and bloom styles and growth habits.

There are hybrids with small, medium and large flowers; they may have single, semi-double or fully rose or camellia-like double flowers; they can be small and form clumps, trailing or erect to almost a meter in height. And while the flowers are spectacular, don’t ignore the foliage. Although tuberous begonias, unlike, say, Rex begonias, are never grown for foliage alone, their velvety, deep green leaves add a rich luxuriance that is the perfect foil for flowers that would certainly be weakened without the contrast of the foliage.

Cultivation

So, tuberous begonias are beautiful. You don’t need to be told this, the pictures speak for themselves, but how do you get the best out of them? Well, as garden plants they are not for everyone and not for every location, although with careful selection and placement you may be surprised how well they thrive outdoors in many parts of New Zealand.

Begonias prefer cool, moist conditions and a climate that does not suffer from extreme summer heat or winter cold. They need bright light to bloom well, but they should not be exposed to direct sunlight, especially during the hot part of the day, and they also need shelter from strong winds, as the flowers can turn brown at the edges and the soft foliage can be torn or bent. Tuberous begonias bloom best with humus soil, plenty of moisture and regular feeding.

Given these requirements, it is not surprising that many gardeners choose to grow tuberous begonias indoors, as conservatory plants, in the shade or in cool greenhouses. However, if you have a bright south-facing spot in your garden or a shaded north-facing spot, begonias will thrive outdoors, especially in areas that don’t experience frequent summer droughts.

Strong sun and wind, especially hot dry wind, are the main enemies; a light toe that dries quickly doesn’t help either. But in a lightly shaded, sheltered position with soil that has been thoroughly prepared with plenty of well-turned compost, tuberous begonias will bloom from early summer until the first frosts. And all you have to do is stake the tall growers to bamboo poles (wire frames from specialist nurseries), remove any spent flowers, keep the soil moist and add a little liquid fertilizer every week.

If you find that the super trendy big flower forms just aren’t durable enough for your garden, don’t despair. Try some hybrids with smaller flowers instead. The small species of Multiflora, commonly known as Flamboyant Begonia, are very hardy. They are most often seen as a mass litter or in clusters with bright red flowers that often almost cover the foliage, but they also appear in orange and slightly weaker yellow-flowered forms.

Nonstop begonias are crosses between Multifloras and larger flower species. As you would expect, they are of medium height and strength. They bloom continuously, even in winter when kept indoors, and come in many colors. Nonstops are F1 hybrids, so there is no point in saving the seeds and all seed pods must be removed for the plants to continue flowering. Reiger begonias, developed from Begonia × hiemalis, are similar.

And if open beds don’t seem to work, consider growing your begonias in pots so you can find the right spot for them. Upright types bloom and grow well, but are quite fragile and need to be staked. Trailing species, often hybrids of Begonia boliviensis, have more flexible, pendulous stems and, when grown in hanging baskets, are easy-maintenance plants that make a great show. Trailing begonias usually do best in wire baskets lined with sphagnum rather than solid pots, their roots appreciate cool moist sphagnum.

Waking up and deadhead

Begonias have separate male and female flowers. Usually one large female flower is covered by two smaller male flowers. Removing the male flowers before they mature will allow the showy female flowers to reach their full size and prevent the development of seed pods that could reduce the vigor of the plant. Old flowers should be removed when they have faded. They are easy to tear off and thus not only encourage the formation of new flowers, but also help to prevent fungal diseases that could develop among the decaying petals.

Pests and diseases

Begonias are not particularly susceptible to pests, nor are they resistant to them. Snails and slugs feast on young shoots and mature foliage, various caterpillars can chew on the leaves, and crustaceans and sap-suckers such as mealybugs, aphids and mealybugs may be present, but with a little attention and routine care, pests can usually be stopped before they escape from under control.

A bigger problem is fungal diseases, especially soft rot, mold and botrytis. Damaged stems can quickly become soft, watery and rotten, which can lead to the eventual collapse of the plant. Mildew will almost inevitably appear on the leaves in late autumn – this is just part of the winter dieback process – but mold can also appear during the growing season. Good ventilation goes a long way in controlling the severity of fungal diseases, keeping the foliage and stems reasonably dry also helps, although spraying with a fungicide will probably be necessary.

Winter care

As flower production declines from mid-autumn, reduce watering and feeding and allow your begonias to dry out. While the foliage should dry out, turn brown, and fall off without much trouble, keep an eye out for any fungal diseases that might spread to the tubers.

After the foliage has dried, the tubers can be lifted or removed from the pots for winter storage. This is not always necessary in areas with mild winters, but it is a good idea where there are severe frosts or prolonged wet conditions. Tubers can be stored in barely moist sawdust or any other fairly dry, inert medium such as moist, shredded newspaper. Replant them (concave side up) in the spring when new shoots appear. Cover the tubers with a few centimeters of soil, as roots also grow at the tops.

An exception to the procedure is the winter-blooming hybrids Begonia × hiemalis, which result from crossing Begonia × tuberhybrida with Begonia socotrana, a species from an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Yemen. Often sold as Reiger or “reddish” begonias, these plants start blooming in late summer and will be leafy and flowering until spring. It is obvious that these completely frost tolerant plants need a very mild, friendly winter to grow outdoors. However, they are very adaptable to growing indoors and are an excellent choice for winter-blooming houseplants that can spend the summer outdoors in the garden.

Reproduction

There are several ways to propagate tuberous begonias, and the method used varies depending on the type of plant.

The seed

Sow purchased seed to produce F1 hybrids such as Nonstops or to obtain a new crop of vigorous young plants.

Begonia seeds are very tiny, actually like dust. It’s so fine that it usually doesn’t come in seed packets where it gets lost in the folds, but in glass phials that need to be opened quickly before sowing. Pelleted seeds are much easier to handle, although they are not always available.

A seed needs warmth and light to germinate. Sow it in spring, uncovered, in heated trays. Keep the seed moist until it germinates. Young seedlings grow quickly and are soon big enough for potting. When small, they are sensitive to drafts and temperature fluctuations, so they should be kept under cover until spring settles in early summer.

Prepare your garden beds with compost that is high in humus and organic fertilizer, and because the foliage will be tender, plant them when the weather is not too hot and sunny.

Division

Mature plants have large tubers that divide easily, and division is a good way to quickly produce established, vigorous plants. Divide the tubers when replanting in the spring. They are easy to cut with a sharp knife, but since finding the growing “eyes” can be difficult, keep your divisions on the larger side. To prevent fungal diseases, dust the cut surfaces with sulfur dust before planting and allow to dry.

Cuttings

Most tuberous begonias will grow from cuttings and this is a particularly good method for creating large stocks of small-flowered Multiflora species for mass planting. Fresh spring and early summer shoots produce the best cuttings and will germinate very quickly in mild moist conditions. You can continue the cuttings in the summer, but if the new plants do not develop sufficiently large tubers before winter, they are unlikely to survive until the following spring.

Like many houseplant begonias, Begonia × hiemalis is often grown from leafy cuttings. This involves removing a mature leaf, cutting its veins and pinning the leaf to moist soil. A warm moist environment such as a closed breeding tray is essential. You should also start in the spring so that the young plants are well established before the winter.

Displays of begonias

Public gardens often use tuberous begonias in their displays and this can be one of the best ways to see a wide variety of flower species.

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