I always thought of begonias as annuals until I discovered a perrenial variety for sale in a neighborhood fund raiser 20 years ago. For a dollar, I brought home a clump and planted it. Pretty much forgot about it and for my neglect, I’ve been rewarded with year after year of spectacular masses of lovely pink flowers. Pretty awesome return on my investment! And how cool to have begonias that don’t need to be planted every year.
Hardy begonias, Begonia grandis, are the darling of the late summer perennial garden. A herbaceous perennial that can survive Northeast winters, it flowers from late July into October and is hardy in zones 6 to 9. The new growth foliage appears later than most plants in spring so remember where you planted it so you don’t inadevertently dig it up.
Hardy begonias thrive in shade but can tolerate partial sun. They do not need to be fertilized. With panicles of gorgeous pink or white pendant flowers on arching stems, the plants form clumps up to 2 feet tall and just as wide. Deadhead to encourage repeat blooming although I just let mine do their thing.
The large, heart-shaped bright green leaves with bold fuchsia veining and pink undersides are an attractive bonus.
The plants will naturalize if you allow them to drop their bublets, those pretty yellow centers, in late fall. Plant them where you don’t mind if they spread because they are prolific growers.
The foliage will decompose naturally when the cold weather arrives. The plants can be divided in fall and transplanted. A prolific propagator, it is a great plant to gift to other gardeners, as my friend Lorelei recently gifted me.
I have had success growing it in a planter that over winters outdoors, where it returns every year. Growing it in a container also controls its spread if you don’t want it to naturalize in large swaths.
The genus name Begonia, coined by Charles Plumier, a French patron of botany was adopted by Linnaeus in 1753 and honors Michel Bégon, a former governor of the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti).
Hardy begonias are simply gorgeous, no maintenance plants that add so much color in the shade garden when just about everything else is done blooming. They can be purchased in most quality nurseries or you can find a generous gardener like Lorelei to give you some!
Sources: missouribotanicalgarden.org; gardenista.com; wikipedia.org