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What is a Wax Begonia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2018
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A wax begonia is a flowering plant in the genus Begonia, cultivated for use as an ornamental plant. These plants can be grown indoors and outdoors in a wide variety of settings and are readily available from nurseries and through catalogs. For unusual cultivars of interest, cuttings can be taken from mature plants and used to propagate new plants. Wax begonias are very easy to grow and can be used in the garden in many different ways.

The plants are named for the waxy texture of their large, simple leaves. The leaves can be dark green or bronze in color and the fleshy twinned flowers may be white, pink, red, or orange. Variegated foliage and flowers can be seen in cultivars like 'Derby,' a wax begonia that produces white flowers with pink edging. Most wax begonias flower profusely and will bloom throughout the summer, adding color to the garden.

These plants are native to the tropics and are very frost tender. In cool climates, people can grow wax begonias as annuals, allowing them to die off in the fall and replanting them in the spring. Seeds require several months for germination and seedling development and should be sown in a greenhouse during the winter, allowing the seedlings to mature by the time the last frost has passed. People can also buy seedlings ready to plant in the spring, or may use cuttings of mature plants.

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In warm regions, a wax begonia can be grown as a perennial. Perennials will grow larger, into shrub-like plants instead of low bedding plants, and they can start to overrun the garden if they are growing in an area they like. The wax begonia is suitable as a bedding or specimen planting and also does very well in containers. One advantage of container gardening is the option of overwintering the plants indoors in cool climates with ease.

Also known as fibrous rooted begonia, the wax begonia is a very popular plant in cultivation. It requires medium-quality, well-drained soil and has moderate water needs. Allowing the plant to dry out between waterings is recommended and in the case of perennials, periodic trimming to keep air and light circulating throughout the plant is recommended to deter pests.

A number of interesting wax begonia cultivars have been developed and may be available through specialty catalogs and gardening exchanges. Some gardeners hybridize their own to develop unique begonias for their homes and gardens.

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