Propagating Begonias

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2010

Known for their beautiful leaves, begonias are a colorful plant that were particularly popular for their hardiness during Victorian times, when homes tended to be chilly and drafty. Their leaves can measure anywhere from 1/2 inch across to more than a full foot, and can be rounded or shaped like a star with a texture that's either smooth and glossy or soft and fuzzy.

Begonias thrive in locations with strong, filtered light, and they do best when exposed to early or late direct sun. It's also important to protect begonias from strong winds. Almost all begonias are considered tropical plants, though some are native to the rain forest while others hail from drier locations. Overwatering is the greatest problem associated with growing begonias.

Propagating Begonias
One of the easiest ways to make more begonia plants is to propagate them using this simple leaf-cutting technique from Peace Tree Farm begonia expert Lloyd Traven.

1. Fill tray with loose potting mix.

2. Water gently.

3. Turn leaf on its back.

4. Cut into wedges with clean, sharp knife. You can trim the size of the wedge so they don't lose too much water -- remember they have no roots right now. Each piece should have a vein in it.

5. Insert leaf wedges into the tray on an angle, all facing the same direction -- that way, they won't cover the growing plant.

6. Place the plant in a humid area, or in a plastic bag out of direct sunlight. Mist sparingly, several times a day at first; after a few days, mist only as needed. You do not want water sitting on the leaves all the time, particularly at night.

7. A plant should root in approximately 3 to 4 weeks. At about 6 to 8 weeks after propagation, the new plantlet will start growing actively and should be transplanted.

Plants Seen on the Show
Begonia Snoopy
An American hybrid with lovely flowers, the Begonia Snoopy has a lovely round, mounded shape, striking leaf markings, and an incredible chartreuse color.

Begonia Acetosa
The Acetosa has an intensely dark and smooth leaf surface with a vibrant red underside, and it's one of the oldest continually cultivated begonias. A wonderful landscape plant, this begonia has a lovely white flower that blooms during the summer months.

Begonia Hiro
Hailing from Japan, the visually stunning Begonia Hiro has ruffled edges and complex shapes that vary from plant to plant. This begonia does best when not in full sun.

Begonia Caravan
A robust growing plant, the Begonia Caravan is a specimen derived from the popular Rex Begonia. With beautiful colored leaves, the Rex Begonia can get powdery mildew, a foliar disease, that has to be combated with MilStop; the Caravan has the vibrant look of a Rex Begonia without the weaknesses.

Begonia Luxurians
This cane-type begonia can grow up to 7 feet if planted in a proper place, and it benefits from regular pruning and pinching.

Begonia Bob Hamm
With vivid green foliage and masses of bright-pink flowers that bloom in the middle of winter, the Begonia Bob Hamm is known for its beautiful shape.

Resources
For more information on begonias, visit begonias.org and peacetreefarm.com.

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