Begonias Like a Bit of Tough Love

If ever there was a plant with members that prefer you take a hands-off approach, it is the Begonia. Not all of them, of course. Just the two that no longer grace my stable of houseplants. They arrived in very tiny pots in good condition considering it was November. Recommendations for Begonia masoniana 'Iron Cross' (rhizomatous) included keeping it warm (between 65 and 75 degrees F) and on the dry side.
Begonia masoniana 'Iron Cross'

Another variety called 'Plum Paisley' (Rex cultorum) also bit the dust. Its instructions included keeping the leaves dry, giving it high light and low moisture. 

Begonia 'Plum Paisley'
Both of these Begonias came from the same place and arrived on the same day. One of my first mistakes, in retrospect, was repotting them. 

The pots were so tiny, after all--barely 2" in diameter. But I remember now that a plant's roots should not be judged by its leaves or the size of the plant.

It's not that Begonias are all difficult. It's just that it's a huge family, and there are bound to be some divas in the clan.

Begonia 'Bower's Black'
I'm growing plenty of other Begonias that are amazingly easy going. 'Bower's Black', for instance, is still in the container it was in when I bought it Jan 23. This variety has become the poster plant for the rule that says you should avoid repotting most plants in the winter.

I'd put this one in the "slow grower" category along with another one called 'Black Fancy', which arrived with the two Divas listed above. 'Black Fancy' didn't seem to mind having a pot too big for its feet. Sure, I've had to be very careful not to overwater it. In fact, I pretty much ignore it.

Begonia 'Black Fancy' shares a container
with Oxalis and Paphiopedilum
Fancy-leaved Begonias play well with others, or look great by themselves. And while they do produce flowers, many are known better for their leaves. I found just the right container in which to place the tiny pot of 'Bower's Black'.

Begonia 'Black Fancy' has a completely different personality. It cries out for close friends like the nearly monotone orchid, Paphiopedalum 'Napa Valley' and Oxalis 'Plum Crazy'. This adorable shamrock look-alike has leaves nearly as dark as the Begonia's, but with lots of deep pink splotches and occasional and unnecessary bright yellow flowers. I tucked all three into a concrete planter with stones at the bottom to make sure they don't sit in water in case I get lazy and water them where they live instead of taking them each out individually.


  1. I do love my Begonias. They always look so ratty by the time spring comes around I wonder why I keep them over winter but it doesn't take long when you can set them outside that they perk up and look gorgeous. Yours look like they have survived the winter in good health. I like the dark varieties and the big leaf ones. They make a nice statement in a pot.

    1. Yes. If it weren't for Begonias it would be a drab winter.