Types of begonia. Indoor and outdoor care

Begonia is one of the top 10 plants in our gardens and houses along with nasturtiums, marigolds, violet lilies and other well-known flowers. In Gardenprue we have made a space for this fantastic and well-known genus of plants to give you the keys to its care both indoors and outdoors. This article cannot cover so many species and we are going to generalize very often because as you will see, there are thousands of begonias. Go for it.


There are roses, daisies, camellias, hydrangeas, lilies, gardenias, violets, irises, dahlias … as flower names and as women’s names. And we could think that Begoña has its origin in the Begonia flower. Well, I’m going to disappoint you like that to begin with. Begoña has Basque origin and the resemblance to the flower is a mere coincidence of letters.


The history of the discovery of Begonia involves two names. The first, Charles Plumier, the discoverer of the begonias themselves and the one who named them. The second name has to do with the graceful French naval officer Michel Begón and passionate about plants, whom Plumier entertained by calling these plants Begonias in his honor. The two were contemporaries so we understand that they had some relationship and their common point was plants and botany. Plumier ended up studying botany and in one of his expeditions to the Antilles he ended up finding this genus of species.

Although it was Plumier who was the first to classify them and therefore discover them from a botanical point of view, the truth is that this family of plants is native to the subtropical and tropical areas of Asia, America and Africa, so when they were discovered they were already quite scattered around the world.

Surely we could think of begonia as a species to speak of, or a genus with a few dozen species. I’m sorry to tell you that if one day you decide to plant begonias, you will find a larger catalog than Ikea’s. And is that when we talk about Begonias we are not talking about four plants. To begin with, the genus begonia comprises 3 groups of plants whose classification is made by very clear morphological differences in the root system. These three groups that we will see in detail are:

  • Rhizomatous begonias
  • Begonias tuberosas
  • Fribosa root begonias or also known as fasciculates

In addition, the sum of all its varieties and hybridizations made by the human being, today widely exceed 10,000 and around 1500 species of the 2400 that exist listed in total of the genus Begonia have been accepted . Those other 1,100 are under classification study, not accepted within the genre or are synonyms of others that are already accepted.


Taking into account the great variety that there is, it is difficult if we do not have more details but we have to tell you that the Begonias most cultivated indoors or in the garden do not exceed 200 species so we are narrowing the search territory a bit. Although when we think of Begonia the flower comes to mind, the truth is that there are begonias that are grown for their spectacular leaves rather than for their flowering or both. This is the example of Begonia rex with some fascinating leaves. Although almost certainly most of the time it is Begonia semperflorens.

Begonia rex leaf detail. Photo by Maja Dumat



Let’s start with this classification. First of all, we must define slightly what a rhizome is. It is an underground stem whose development goes horizontally that allows the emission of both roots towards the ground and aerial shoots towards the surface. The clearest example of an edible rhizome is ginger. Well, this type of Begonias have this special root structure. Within this group, the following stand out: Masonian Begonia, B. boweri, B. imperialis and B. rex.


In this case and in contrast to the previous group, this group of begonias have tubers in the roots as a nutrient reserve element. We imagine that it goes without saying which is the quintessential edible tuber as an example. In Cantabrian climates, humid, temperate and free of frost, this begonia can do well since they ask for more humidity and less sun than rhizomatous ones in general. If we have them indoors we must be very constant and attentive with the risks.

It is often said that tuberous begonias are the most abundant, impressive and last flowering during the year. For this reason they are often highly acclaimed by expert gardeners. Specifically, the hybridizations achieved over decades have produced truly spectacular specimens. In this group, B. evansiana, B. pearcei, B. socotrana, B. gracilis, B. sutherlandii or B. picotee, among others, stand out. But if one stands out, it is B. tuberhybrida and all its variants.

Begonia tuberhybrida. Photo from Wikimedia commons


This is the most common root system and the one we all have in mind. Primary and secondary roots that extend their dominance over the soil to obtain nutrients. This group differs in its flowering since all the species in the group flower in clusters . Let us put as famous within this group B. semperflorens, B. venosa, B. metallica, B. fischeri, B. luxurians, B. maculata. 

This is usually the most common classification because morphologically it groups them very well although, depending on the ornamental element that we want to enhance, we could make other classifications according to:

  • Leaves as ornamental value
  • Flowers as ornamental value
  • Wear as an ornamental value (pendants, shrubs, creepers, climbers…)

This classification already completely dilutes the previous one because there will be all types.

Begonia semperflorens. Photo by: Serres Fortier


Begonias are not easy plants to care for. They are not the typical plants that you can forget to water and you must be careful with the places in the house where they will be. In addition, Begonias are there to give and take and not all require the same care. This article is intended to give an overview of the care of these plants. In other articles we will get into more specific groups. Still, many of the begonias share the following cares.


We can generalize and say that begonias need filtered light. Some are more tolerant of shade than others, but they require light. Of course, the vast majority must be filtered light so indoors we will not put them right next to a south-facing window since their evapotranspiration will be greater, therefore the waterings must be much more frequent and we run the risk of burning them. . The tuberous can tolerate somewhat more shade than the rhizomatous for example.

We must be careful with the shade, in some cases, excessive shade causes foliage to grow and throw little flower.


Just by seeing the native places of this genre we can already imagine in what range we move. Remember that they are from tropical and subtropical areas so nothing cold. And we are not talking about frost, we are talking about cold. The minimum temperatures are close to 10ºC depending on the species. There are some whose minimum is around 15ºC. With this we get an idea according to the climate to which we belong. Here in Spain (peninsula) we have to move indoors, galleries or greenhouses to be able to grow them happily and without much problem. And if not, then they will be seasonal flowers that can be had outside of winter. The temperatures of a home are ideal, around 20-21ºC. Depending on the group we can establish that


Since the interiors are usually dry environments, and more in winter with heating, begonias will require a moderate-high watering. We cannot forget to water them often or they will inevitably wither. They need a humid environment and can be kept on a plate with pebbles, expanded clay balls … with water around it so that the immediate environment of the plant has a little more humidity.

We will avoid waterlogging at all times even if irrigation is abundant. We will simply monitor that the earth is with a certain humidity most of the time. We cannot space the waterings of 15 in 15 days. With a controlled irrigation and a humid environment there will be no problems. Beware of excess watering that is usually something common in indoor plants.

One of the mistakes when wanting to maintain a humid environment is spraying leaves and flowers with water. Remember that they are not ferns and wetting the leaves and flowers will have dire consequences since cryptogamic diseases (fungi) will come hand in hand.

Begonia maculata. Those spots are not fungal problems. The species is that whimsical. Photo from Wikimedia commons


The substrate must avoid waterlogging so it is light aerated and with good water retention capacity. This balance is not easy to achieve but it is what you need. You can use bonsai substrates such as akadama mixed with humus or peat that give it that airy and humid support over time as well as a correct amount of organic matter.

Classic NPK fertilizers with balanced formulations in their main components can be used. The most common are usually 15-15-15 or 20-20-20. If you remember the article on complex fertilizers, the fact that a fertilizer has the three balanced elements means that the percentages of potassium (K) and phosphorus (P) are somewhat higher than usual. Begonias need both of these elements for abundant flowering. Commercial houses have liquid fertilizers also specific for flowering plants with slightly more phosphorus content, which is the element that unquestionably helps in flowering. As they are plants that can bloom all year round, there is no specific time when there is more or less fertilization.

In leaf begonias like B. rex, nitrogen fertilizer is more important since nitrogen is the element that improves the vigor and growth of the green parts.


Pruning does not go beyond controlling growth according to the space that we want to allow it to develop and eliminate dead leaves and flowers to generate new shoots.


The main difference between indoor and outdoor care mainly varies in climate and irrigation. In climate because, as we have said, they cannot bear the cold and we will have to assume that in cold periods they will be seasonal flowers that we can only take to the balcony or garden in spring, summer and / or autumn depending on the climatic zone in which we are.

If we can cultivate it in the garden, because the temperatures are mild and we have a frost-free climate, the normal situation is usually in areas that do not have direct exposure continuously and if so, they are usually grown shaded by a larger tree that sifts the light and avoid burning.

Begonia x winter. Photo from Wikipedia


Bud or flower drop: It may be due to a too dry environment or lack of irrigation.

Brown leaves: It can be or by burns by direct exposure to the sun, too high temperatures or low humidity. As you can see, the three factors can go hand in hand.

Leaf fall, rot: Overwatering the vast majority of times.

Yellowish leaves: This symptom is somewhat more delicate since it could well be lack of light or lack of some nutrient in the substrate as well as low levels of irrigation. The diagnosis is somewhat more uncertain but it can be any of these three things. Here it already depends on the history of the plant that you can conjecture what reason it may be. If you have been on the same land for 3 years or you have not paid for a long time, you may lack power. If you’ve moved it recently, check out the differences to find out why.

Leaf spots : Symptom of fungal diseases. Mainly Mildew or Phytophthora .


Yes. Some of the Begonia species are used with great appeal in the most advanced gastronomy to give color and aroma to numerous dishes. Among the edible flowers, begonia is one of the most widespread, specifically the Begonia semperflorens . Do you want to know what other flowers are edible?

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