Botanical Name: Begonia x hiemalis
Origin: Begonia socotrana hybrids were discovered off the East African coast, on Socotra Island, while some tuberous hybrids originate from South America
Height: Begonias can grow up to a height of about 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 in).
Soil: African Violet potting mix and other soil-less, peat based mixes tend to work very well. Good drainage must be provided to prevent the soil from becoming soggy.
Light: These plants love bright light, but should be kept out of direct sunlight, as this may scorch the leaves.
Humidity: Levels of humidity should be medium to high. They can be raised sufficiently by placing the pot onto a wet pebble tray.
Temperatures: Fairly warm days (around 18 to 24 degrees C, 65 to 75 degrees F) and cooler nights (between 13 and 16 degrees C (55 to 60 degrees F) will help to trigger budding.
Water: The soil should be kept fairly moist, but not soggy. Only the top 2.5 cm (1 in) of soil should be allowed to dry out from one watering to the next.
Fertiliser: Begonias should be fed with a diluted (1:1) liquid high phosphorous fertiliser once every three weeks while in bloom.
Propagation: To propagate this plant, stem cuttings about 7 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) long can be taken at the beginning of the growing season. They should root fairly well in fresh potting mix.
Description and Care Tips
Often referred to as Winter-blooming Begonias, the house plants providing some of the most spectacular flowers, often for months at a time, are Begonia socotrana hybrids and hybrids of tuberous Begonias.
Bushy, full and growing low, the reddish, thick stems of the Begonia grow from its tuberous roots. Large, dark green and soft leaves provide a lovely backdrop to the clusters of gorgeous white, yellow, orange, pink or red flowers.
Grouping these plants with amaryllis, cyclamen and/ or other winter-blooming plants will provide a stunning display of colour. Placed into a bright window, they will bring cheerful colour throughout the dreary winter months.
The soil needs to be kept moist at all times, as allowing it to dry out will leave the plant susceptible to diseases. It should not, however, allowed to become soggy. If over-watered, the leaves of this plant will turn yellow and wilt. Affected leaves should be removed immediately, as leaving them in place will cause rotting and attract fungus.
Spent flowers should be pinched off to keep the plant looking attractive and encourage new flowers. After flowering, it is normal for the plant to become dormant, resulting in many owners discarding the plant once blooming has ended.
It is, none-the-less, possible to encourage the plant to flower again. Once flowering has finished, watering should be cut down, without allowing the soil to dry out altogether. During this period, the plant should be kept out of the light. The foliage will begin to die back within 6 to 8 weeks. It can then be pruned away, leaving 7.5 cm (3 in) long stems.
Once new growth appears, the stems can be removed from the parent plant - which can then be discarded - and potted into fresh soil.