As every gardener knows, purchasing plants gets expensive fast, but not every type of annual, biannual, or perennial is easy to grow from seeds. While some flower seeds require little or no attention after they are shaken onto loose gardening soil, others are more demanding. Begonias have gotten the reputation of being touchy, but a few tips can help even a novice gardener master the art of planting begonia seeds. Sterile planting medium and conditions, high-quality seed, and sufficient light are requirements, as are the right type of potting mixture and fertilizer.
In most parts of the United States, the best period for gardeners to begin planting begonia seeds indoors or in a protected area is in mid-fall through December. This gives seedlings a good head start, so they will be ready to plant outdoors in late spring when the ground is sufficiently warmed. Indoor grow sites that have an abundance of sunlight might mean a lucky gardener doesn’t need to use artificial lighting, but except for greenhouses, few interiors offer enough sun for begonia seeds to germinate.
Seedlings might grow on a windowsill, but they will most likely grow too tall in a desperate attempt to reach more sunlight. The result will be leggy baby begonias with undeveloped root systems. Once these long-legged guys are set into the ground, they’ll limp rather than bound to full-flowered glory. Even more likely, they’ll simply keel over and give up their flowery, little ghosts.
Purchased grow lights are one way to go. They offer the perfect range of lighting for seedling needs, but they cost considerably more than a standard fluorescent bulb. There is debate among gardeners as to whether the added expense is worth it. Some gardeners claim a simple fluorescent tube or bulb will do.
Using sterile soil is a must for begonia seedlings to be willing to take a chance on life. Gardeners can either purchase ready-made mix or save money by preparing their own. One part perlite to two parts peat moss works well.
Before reusing pots, it’s important that they are sterilized with hot water and bleach, rinsed, and dried. Each container should be carefully packed with the soil mix to a little below the rim. Begonia seeds are tiny. Mixing them with fine sand helps avoid planting too many tiny seeds in one pot.
It’s a good idea to give begonia seeds a little boost with general-purpose flower fertilizer that has been mixed to 25% of full strength. One tip savvy gardeners find helpful is to add a small amount of vitamin B-1. Before laying down the seed sand on top of the soil, the pots do best if they soak a bit in fertilizer and water until the peat moss is wet all the way through.
One nice thing about planting begonia seeds is that they don’t want any kind of soil blanket. They cannot germinate without direct exposure to light. This means the gardener needn’t worry if the seeds have been planted too deeply or packed in too tightly. It’s important, though, to make sure the soil surface remains damp while the seeds begin to sprout by setting them in a shallow pan of water if the soil appears dry.