Commonly known as Wax Begonia, the Begonia x semperflorens is a compact fibrous begonia with succulent foliage. The leaves are either green tinged with red, or greenish brown tinged with bronze or sometimes a dark beet colour. In full sun the red to bronze tinge grows to a rich blush.
Begonia x semperflorens variety flowers generously throughout the growing season in salmon, pink or white colours. These could be single or double petal flowers that bloom in loose clusters.
The plant never gets taller than a foot (30 cms) and doesn’t grow too very wide either. Under proper conditions it has a mound-forming growth habit.
If you plant Wax Begonias 6 to 12 inches apart they quickly grow quite a showy ground cover. Mass planting of Begonia x semperflorens is a great way to cover bald patches in your outdoor garden that are too sunny for other plants.
I grow Begonia x semperflorens like an annual typically and because it’s herbaceous it dies down at first frost. However, I have quite successfully outwintered the propagated cuttings indoors.
If you want to grow Begonia x semperflorens, let me give you a fair warning right at the start. Begonia x semperflorens care needs a full blast of bright sun for at least a few hours everyday or the equivalent of that via growlights. Anything short of that and this plant will sulk like a child who’s sweets are stolen.
But the good news is they are tough, easy to grow and very enjoyable to have in your summer garden.
- 1 DETAILED BEGONIA X SEMPERFLORENS CARE
- 2 Step-by-step guide on Begonia X semperflorens propagation
- 3 Common problems with Begonia X semperflorens
- 4 TIPS TO KEEP BEGONIA X SEMPERFLORENS PROBLEM-FREE
- 5 FAQ on Begonia X semperflorens
- 6 Conclusion
DETAILED BEGONIA X SEMPERFLORENS CARE
Begonia x semperflorens care requirements are fairly lax. They grow in a range of soil types as long as the soil is soft and quite porous.
The two main things to remember about Wax Begonia care are moisture retentiveness and acidity.
Grow Begonia x semperflorens in a peat-based compost mixed with soft loamy soil mixed with plenty of mulch and either perlite or sand.
Loamy soil is soft so that the fibrous roots of Begonia x semperflorens don’t struggle to grow. The mulch and peat take care of soil acidity and also moisture balancing. Perlite or sand improve drainage.
Compost gives the plant it’s feed. This way all your Wax Begonia care requirements are sorted.
Things to watch out for: Heavy clay soil that becomes waterlogged is unsuitable as it can cause root and stem rot. Make sure that the medium is sterile to avoid any fungus induced root rot problems.
The ideal soil acidity level to grow Begonia x semperflorens is in the range of pH 5.5 to 6.5. But soil acidity levels change over time. So don’t be too worried about this.
Begonia x semperflorens care requires all the sun that you can give it, and more. I’ve come across plenty of misleading sources of information that will tell you that Wax Begonias grow in partial shade.
If you grow Begonia x semperflorens for that bright bronzy blush on the leaves you’ll need to expose it to bright light. The truth is the leaves fade and the growth gets leggy in low light. Also, the plant becomes susceptible to disease too.
In case you live in an apartment without an outdoor garden, you’ll need to at least arrange a south-east facing window or growlights.
If you go the growlight way, some 10 to 12 hours of exposure is ideal for Begonia x semperflorens care.
My Begonia x semperflorens care hack for the moisture is to simply water the plant when the leaves look just short of jaded.
I’ve noticed that this coincides with the top soil drying out a little. So if you can’t tell from the leaves, you can even check if the top soil is dry to touch and then water the plant.
This not a cue to neglect them but more to exercise restraint to avoid overwatering. Besides, the fleshy stems hold a lot of water as well.
In peak summers the watering cycle works out to be alternate days if you grow Wax Begonia outdoors. Cut back as you approach the cold season.
These are hardy tropicals and depend entirely on rainwater that doesn’t even reach them sometimes. So the mild wilting won’t damage them.
One Wax Begonia care tip is that intermittent dryness induces flowering. However, young Wax Begonia plants with delicate stems need a little more consistent watering.
Pro tip: Grow Begonia x semperflorens away from sprinklers and sprays and only water at the roots to keep the leaves dry. This Wax Begonia care hack will ensure that your plant stays disease-free.
Wax Begonia plants really flourish in hardy tropical climes where night and day temperatures swing between 58ºF (15ºC) to 95ºF (35ºC). In fact, if the day temperatures are slightly cooler i.e. in the 68°F (20°C) area, that would be the ideal temperature to grow Begonia x semperflorens particularly for heavy flowering.
These plants are native to the slightly high altitude areas in Central America where the weather is equatorial but temperatures are cool. In the northern zone, summer time temperatures are perfect to grow Wax Begonia.
Because of their fleshy herbaceous stems and leaves, Begonia x semperflorens will perish at the first sign of frost. But I’ve successfully outwintered propagated cuttings indoors.
As with all tropicals, Begonia x semperflorens care requires humidity management. At least 50% levels need to be maintained at all times for healthy growth. Due to its mound-forming growth habit Wax Begonia manages to create a micro-humid environment around itself. Therefore, mass planting Wax begonias helps to maintain some degree of mugginess.
One Begonia x semperflorens care hack that I would recommend is to cover the soil in a thick layer of mulch. It boosts humidity around the plant. Indoors, you could use a humidifier. I wouldn’t recommend misting for Wax Begonias unless you want to do it in the day time and you’re able to let the leaves get dry before long.
In my experience, one really needn’t bother much with feeding extra fertilizers if you want to grow Wax Begonia. All you need to do is to prepare a nutrient rich soil mix at the start of the growing season.
My go-to fertilizers for Begonia x semperflorens care are sterile cow dung manure and garden compost. Both of these act as fantastic organic nutrient supplements for your Wax Begonias whilst also making the soil loose and airy.
These days you can easily purchase rabbit manure or chicken manure which are also highly nutrient dense soil additives that work great for Begonia x semperflorens care.
However, if you’re comfortable using chemical fertilizers I would recommend that you use a balanced formulation like a 1-1-1 or a 10-10-10 by a reliable brand. Make sure you dilute it three times its prescribed strength and apply it 2 to 4 weeks apart.
Be warned that chemical salt buildup in the soil can kill your Wax Begonia. So water deeply on fertilizer days and stop feeding before the onset of cold weather.
The propagation of Wax Begonias is as easy as it can get. Just about every part of the plant propagates readily. Begonia x semperflorens can be propagated by seed, leaf cuttings or stem cuttings. You may find shoots from the base that can be divided.
The seeds are super fine and hard to collect and store. But you often find little baby plants springing up around the plant. These are from the seeds that fall from the mother plant. Seed germination requires well drained media that’s uniformly moist and warm weather.
If you grow Begonia x semperflorens in ideal conditions you may find little sapling around the plant.
I propagate this plant very frequently. By the end of every summer, I’d have at least 20 new plantlings ready to move to my greenhouse getting ready for next summer.
There’s no one best way to grow Begonia x semperflorens; it’s versatile as it’s hardy. I’ve been talking about outdoors because this is a great choice for mass planting. It’s compact and branches very well in bright sun. Just plant your saplings between 6 to 12 inches apart and within 2 months you’ll get a great cover.
You can even grow Begonia x semperflorens in a window box on a lit window side of the house. Because of the flowers this makes quite a showpiece.
Finally, there’s the good old way of growing it in a pot which is great too as long as there’s sunlight to give your wax begonia. Choose a 6” pot for a single plant. You can throw in a pot here and a pot there of wax begonia whenever you want a splash of colour.
From summer through early fall Begonia x semperflorens displays loose clusters of blooms. As the days grow short, the plant goes dormant.
Although aggressive pruning isn’t required for these soft-stemmed herbaceous plants, deadheading the flowers is a good Begonia x semperflorens care hack to induce flowering. This also goes a long way in disease prevention.
The best potting recommendation for Begonia x semperflorens care that I can give you is to not pot it all. The mass planting in the ground is really the ideal way to grow Begonia x semperflorens to its fullest glory.
That said, Wax Begonia takes well to regular container-growing too. Treat it like an annual and pot it at the start of the growing season. Before winter you can shift your pot to an indoor spot or to your greenhouse.
Step-by-step guide on Begonia X semperflorens propagation
You can grow Begonia x semperflorens as annuals or perennials. Most people grow Wax Begonias as annuals by simply buying the baby plants in early spring until they die in late autumn.
But there are simple ways to propagate this plant abundantly so that by the end of every growing season you have a batch of baby wax begonia ready to be outwintered for next spring.
Of course, if you live in warm climatic zones you can grow Begonia x semperflorens round the year in a continuous loop of propagations. Let’s walk through the different methods.
Begonia x semperflorens propagation through seeds
Some nursery owners collect seeds to germinate in the next season, but the seeds are very tiny and most home growers find seed handling quite tricky.
But when you grow Begonia x semperflorens in a wide pot or on the ground you’ll typically find small baby plants germinating around the mother after the flowering begins.
After they grow to a decent size you can scoop the root ball out of the soil carefully and plant the seedlings separately. Alternatively, you can simply let them continue growing in the original spot.
Propagate Begonia x semperflorens with stem tip cuttings
I find stem tip cutting the most reliable method for Begonia x semperflorens propagation. Wax begonia’s herbaceous stems take root very easily.
- You case use 3 – 4 inch stem cuttings
- Make sure they have a couple of leaves and let them callous for a few hours
- In a small pot place a layer of gravel followed by a coarse mix of perlite and peat about 4 inches thick.
- Poke holes on the surface about 4 inches apart and place the cuttings in them pressing the soil down slightly
- Keep the pot in bright shade or under a growlight
- Keep the soil just about moist at all times but not wet and maintain 70°-75°F (21 – 24°C)
- If humidity is under 50%, cover the pot with a plastic bag with holes
- Don’t disturb the cutting until established. Keep it away from strong breeze
- They should take root in 2 to 3 weeks
- Pro-tip 1: Make several cuttings in separate pots and group them together to improve chances of success
Propagate Begonia x semperflorens with stem tip cuttings in water
This method is the same as the above method except that you need to place your cuttings in a small glass with water. You will see tiny root systems in a week or two weeks. After that you can plant the cuttings in regular potting soil.
Common problems with Begonia X semperflorens
Spots or patches of white to greyish talcum-powder-like growth
This is most likely powdery mildew, a fungal disease that shows on the top and underside of leaves. You’re likely to see this if you grow Begonia x semperflorens in shade and if the leaves get wet often.
It needs moisture and humidity to spread. Proper Begonia x semperflorens care requires that you water the soil around the plant and avoid splashing the leaves.
Water in the morning so that droplets evaporate during the day. Immediately cut away affected leaves and do not compost infected debris.
There are commercially available sprays that are useful in treating this disease such as sulfur-based fungicides or neem oil.
Colorado State University research suggests the application of fungicides at 7- to 14-day intervals to provide continuous protection throughout the growing season.
They also recommend an alternative nontoxic control for mildew viz. baking soda combined with lightweight horticultural oil.
They have tested the fungicidal properties of this combination against powdery mildew on roses.
They advise that applications of 1 tablespoon baking soda plus 2.5 tablespoons of Sunspray oil in 1 gallon of water are still experimental. It may be worth a try if the situation demands it.
Dark brown, crisp looking marks on leaf edges are usually caused by low humidity or exposure to the midday sun without sufficient watering.
For ideal Begonia x semperflorens care you should choose a spot that is protected from midday rays. Also if you get good sun in your location, make sure you grow Wax Begonias well-watered.
Buds dropping off
Buds may dry, turn brown, and drop if the temperature is too high. You should ideally grow Begonia x semperflorens in temperatures between 68° – 95ºF (20° – 35ºC). Beyond this range, it’s too harsh for the plant in which case you must consider moving it to shade.
Neglect and dried-out soil can also result in bud loss too. Shade cloth and watering are usually solutions to this problem.
Few flowers: Fewer flowers is a result of too little light. If the leaves look dazed and loose the rich bonze/red blush along the edges that it is a sure case of low light.
Try moving the plant to a brighter spot. Deadheading and pinching of the shoots can induce flowering as well. Overfeeding with Nitrogen-rich fertilizers can also result in a few flowers and makes the plant vegetative.
Rotting can happen due to water-logging which can easily be avoided if you follow the Begonia x semperflorens care instructions for soil.
The other reason is a fungal infection. Keeping the plant surroundings clean is important. Remove dead leaves, flowers, and any other decaying matter immediately.
Sucking pests like mites, mealybugs and thrips may be a problem if at all. But by and large this is a very sturdy tropical plant that is rarely bothered with pest problems
TIPS TO KEEP BEGONIA X SEMPERFLORENS PROBLEM-FREE
- Grow Begonia x semperflorens in bright sun. Protect only from from midday sun or heat
- Prolonged light exposure is needed for this plant to flower
- Deadhead the flowers to extend bloom period
- Feed established plants every two weeks from May to September with a high potassium plant food
- Avoid late-summer applications of nitrogen fertilizer to limit the production of fleshy stems, which is more susceptible to infection
- Do not allow soil compost to dry out but avoid overwatering
- Avoid overhead watering to help reduce the relative humidity that can lead to mildew and bacterial infections
- Prune a few branches on overcrowded clusters if you feel air circulation is low
- Propagate abundantly before winter
FAQ on Begonia X semperflorens
Is Begonia x semperflorens suitable for indoor growing?
I’ve seen home gardeners grow Begonia x semperflorens in sunny verandahs and window sills. As along as you’re able to meet its requirement for light your plant will do fine. My personal advice is to give it an outdoor spot if you can.
Is deadheading necessary to grow Begonia x semperflorens?
Deadheading is not a necessary part of Begonia x semperflorens care, rather a best practice often adopted by gardeners mainly for a tidy look and to induce flowering. It also helps to control diseases like mildew.
Your Begonia journey is going to be an endless adventure as this genus has over 1,000 species native to tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.
Botanists often crossbreed and hybridize begonias to create a variety of colors, textures, and sizes we enjoy today.
Begonia x semperflorens care is a very good starting point in this genus provided you can give the sun it needs. Begonia cucullata is a very similar cultivar that you could start with as well.
If you want to build your indoor Begonia collection, I would strongly recommend that you try growing indoor succulent varieties like Begonia Amphioxus or the very unusual Begonia Darthvaderiana named after Darth Vader!
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.