New Begonias for Spring 2012

January 24, 2012 at 10:04 AM Leave a comment

Begonia lovers will be rewarded for thinking Big

Big Begonias

Big Begonias reach 18 to 24 inches in height and width forming an almost shrub-like appearance. (December 4, 2011)

 

By Norman Winter McClatchy-Tribune2:17 p.m. CST, January 16, 2012
If you have been looking for a big begonia that can take full sun, by all means remember the word “big.” Big is a hot new series of begonias that came out three or so years ago.Now, you may be asking why I am talking begonias in the dead of winter. To be honest, it is like therapy, taking our mind off winter as we wishfully think about getting our fingers in the warm spring soil.

You might wonder about the name. Is it big? You bet: Texas size. Big, which comes in three colors, reaches about 18 inches tall and as wide. Good fertile soil will find it pushing 24 inches plus.

The three colors: Big Red with bronze leaves, Big Red with green leaves and Big Rose with bronze leaves. When we all saw it at the California Pack Trials it commanded immediate attention. But everyone wondered how it would perform.

The answer from trials was superior. Big was considered among the elite at Kansas State University, Penn State University and the University of Georgia, to name just a few.

(For those unfamiliar with the term, a trial is how the plant industry evaluates new varieties. A plant is measured by how well it will perform in different parts of the country; trials are conducted by universities and/or public gardens across the U.S.)

These plants are ever-blooming with dark bronze or green leaves and almost form a dwarf shrublike appearance. It lends itself to stunning landscape performance when planted en masse 12 inches apart, as a filler plant in large mixed containers, or monoculture in mid-size pots. It will simply dazzle on the front porch or patio.

In the landscape, plant them in front of evergreen shrubs so that their brilliant colors will stand out. Big begonias have the ability to make partial shaded beds look like Puerto Rico or Jamaica when combined with plants like bananas, cannas, elephant ears, fatsia, gingers, hostas and the yellow shrimp plant.

Although I am partial to the fiery scarlet variety, there is definitely something to say for the rich rose pink. Consider finding a place to use both.

Norman Winter is executive director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.

Planting Big

When you shop for these plants in the spring, you won’t find them in a dinky 4-inch pot; they are too vigorous for that. They’ll be sold in a 6-inch or gallon-size container.

You will get the best performance and size planting these begonias in partial-sun beds that are well drained and organic-rich. When the time comes, work in 3 or 4 inches of organic matter, turning the soil to a depth of about 8 inches.

While tilling, add 2 pounds of a slow release 12-6-6 fertilizer with minor nutrients per 100 square feet of bed space.

Keep them well-watered and feed monthly with light applications of the fertilizer. Apply a good layer of mulch to conserve moisture and keep the soil temperatures moderate. They also exhibit some cold hardiness and can take several hits of low 30s with no problem.

— N.W.

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Entry filed under: Green Information.

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