Hanging begonias stand out due to their overhanging growth and their multitude of beautiful flowers, making them an eye-catcher not only in hanging baskets.
How to care for your Begonia boliviensis is explained here.
Origin of the hanging begonia
The hanging begonia, which has the botanical name Begonia boliviensis, belongs to the family of slate-leaved plants (Begoniaceae).
This family also includes well-known begonias such as the leaf begonia and Begonia maculata.
Originally, hanging begonias came from the Andes of Bolivia and Argentina. It is mainly found in montane cloud forests, especially rock crevices, and slopes near streams.
Today’s indoor, garden, and balcony plants came to Europe with the plant hunter Richard Pearce in 1864.
Appearance and characteristics of Begonia boliviensis
Begonia boliviensis owes its name to its overhanging, thin shoots.
These can grow between 30 and 50 centimeters tall and almost as wide as a sprout from a tuberous rootstock.
Its green foliage leaves are elongated and asymmetrically shaped. That is particularly typical of slate-leaf plants.
The somewhat darker margin of the leaves is distinguished by its “serrated” to “toothed” small serrations.
The orange-to-red hanging flowers of the hanging begonia are stunning.
The good thing about them? Because Begonia boliviensis is a perennial bloomer, you can view the pretty, short-stemmed flowers from May through October.
They form in twos or threes in the leaf corners of the stems. Mostly, each flower has five petals, which are pointed at the end.
As is usual for plants of the begonia genus, the hanging begonia also forms capsule fruits.
They contain many tiny seeds spread by the wind over time.
The perfect location for Begonia boliviensis
Ideally, your hanging begonia should enjoy the sun to partial shade. If you like to put the plant outside, a south or south-west facing balcony would be ideal.
Since the hanging begonia is very sensitive to frost, younger plantlets should not be moved outside until there is no longer any danger of frost.
Wintering the hanging begonia
Ideal overwintering is of high importance for the tuberous plant. From the middle of August, fertilizers should be stopped and water reduced.
Then it is standard that begonia leaves turn yellow and wither. That is because it allows the balcony plants to store reserve substances in their tubers.
After the first-night frost has hit the hanging begonias, you can cut back their shoots sharply.
Their tubers are now freed from the planting soil and should be stored for “hibernation” in a shallow box in a cool, frost-free, dark, and dry place.
From the end of February to early March, the tubers of begonias should begin to sprout again.
To do this, place them together in seed trays* or in individual pots.
The first shoots can form again when the tubers are grown again at about 68 °F in a bright indoor space under even watering.
Then, they can be placed outside for a few hours on mild days. That allows them to harden off.
In May, you can place the hanging begonias outside wholly. Usually, there is no danger of frost anymore.
Watering the hanging begonia
You should water suspended begonias as evenly as possible. However, the balcony plant does not tolerate waterlogging and should be avoided.
The soil can be allowed to dry out between waterings. Especially when it gets warmer in the summer, you should always be careful that the begonia does not dry up.
Fertilizing the Begonia boliviensis
Low-dose fertilization with No products found. at intervals of about two to three weeks is suitable.
The optimal substrate for the Begonia boliviensis
You can use the simple No products found.. The optimal pH value is 6.5.
So that the water can drain off well and no waterlogging occurs, you can fill the pot of the hanging begonia as follows:
For this purpose, the water drainage hole is covered, for example, with a clay shard. An inch of expanded clay balls is stacked on top of this, which serves as a drainage layer. The soil is then finally layered on top of the clay balls.
There are wide varieties and cultivars of the hanging begonia. I want to list the most important and interesting ones briefly:
- Begonia boliviensis ‘Bonfire’ – red-orange flowers
- Begonia boliviensis ‘Crackling Fire Orange’ – orange flowers
- Begonia boliviensis ‘Sparkler‘ – pink to white flowers
- Begonia boliviensis ‘Million Kisses Elegance’ – pink flowers
- Begonia boliviensis ‘Mistral’ – white, pink, red, or yellow flowers
- Begonia boliviensis ‘Bossa nova white’ – white flowers
- Begonia boliviensis ‘Summerwings’ – yellow, orange, red, or white flowers
Repotting the hanging begonia
The tubers of the hanging begonia are repotted every spring in March into small plant pots and then into larger containers as the plant grows.
Most often, the begonia is planted in hanging baskets or window boxes.
Pruning the Begonia boliviensis
All shoots should be cut back when the balcony plant is hit by the first night frost of the year.
This process should occur every year before the bulb of the hanging begonia is stored indoors for the winter.
When the balcony plant is in bloom, new flower formation can be encouraged by pinching off or cutting off wilted flowers.
Propagating the hanging begonia
If you want to propagate your begonia, you can do it through cuttings and division.
Propagation by cuttings
First, cut a cutting from a shoot tip. The cutting should be about 4 inches long. For the cut, you should use a sharp knife. Put the cuttings into a growing soil with a pH value of 6.5.
From now on, keeping the cuttings and the substrate moist is necessary. However, make sure that they do not get too wet.
The humidity should be between 85% and 95% during the whole time. That is best achieved with a seed tray*.
Root formation usually occurs after 12 to 14 days. After four weeks, you can plant your seedlings in their pots. Their care is now no longer different from the mother plant.
Propagation by division
The hanging begonia can be propagated by dividing its tubers (preferably with a sharp, clean knife). The perfect time to do this is shortly after budding in the spring.
It is crucial to ensure that each division has at least one bud.
Tip: If you disinfect the cut with charcoal powder*, you can avoid possible infections.
Diseases, pests & care mistakes of the hanging begonia
Gray mold rot
Gray mold is a plant disease caused by the mold Botrytis cinerea. The plant is especially susceptible to this disease in cool and persistently wet weather.
To control gray mold, detecting it as early as possible is essential.
You should cut off all affected parts of the plant and disinfect the utensils afterward. Likewise, the plant should be moved away from other plants or shielded.
In case of severe infestation, you can also use a No products found..
Caution. Fungicides should be treated cautiously, as they interfere with nature and may harm other beneficial insects.
Infestation by aphids
The small aphids attack the plant, especially its young leaves, and shoots mainly in spring.
Those who cannot recognize the green, reddish-brown, or blackish-brown winged little animals by themselves may discover the sticky honeydew that coats the plant.
You can use special patches with insecticidal contents to control them, which, if applied once, will work against aphids for two months.
Aphid colonies can also be easily sprayed with a strong jet of water. Severely damaged leaf tips can be disposed of along with the aphids.
You can also use natural enemies such as No products found..
A No products found. can also be used on these pests if necessary.
Thrips are tiny blackish-brown pests. Crippling shoots, growth retardation, and silvery-white spots on the plant leaves characterize their damage pattern.
The infested plant should be separated and rinsed with soapy water to control them.
In addition, you can use No products found. or natural enemies such as No products found. and lacewing larvae.
Finally, it would be best if you carried out a substrate change.
Infestation by soft skin mites
The tiny, whitish, or yellowish-brown mites damage your hanging begonia by sucking out its plant sap, thus severely affecting it. They behave similarly to spider mites.
If there is an initial suspicion, the plant should be cut back. Heavily infested plants can usually not be saved and are best disposed of in the household trash to protect other plants.
One of the few ways to control pests is the application of systemic acaricides. However, if you have your plant outside, these must be approved for ornamental plants in the garden.
Since the care of the hanging begonias is relatively simple, there are hardly any typical care errors that should be observed.
Only the wintering of Begonia boliviensis should be done correctly and carefully. In addition, you should take the frost sensitivity of the plants into account.
I will answer your questions!
Is the hanging begonia suitable for plant beginners?
Yes! The balcony and garden plant is robust and easy to care for, making it a super starter plant.
Are there different varieties of the hanging begonia?
Meanwhile, different varieties of Begonia boliviensis have been bred, characterized by their different flower colors.
These include, for example, Begonia boliviensis ‘Bonfire’, ‘Sparkler’, ‘Million Kisses’, ‘Mistral’, and ‘Summerwings’.
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