Begonias Provide A Shade Alternative

Begonia 'Whopper Rose Bronze Leaf' (Ball)If you’ve felt the impact of impatiens downy mildew, it’s time to capture maximum share of the increased demand for plants that fulfill shade applications. It’s time to consider begonias.

Because they offer both flower and foliage appeal, expanding your begonia crop can help you meet your customers’ multiple garden needs. From colorful landscape fill to premium shade hanging baskets and interior houseplants, there’s a begonia variety for everyone.

Basket begonia sales are intensifying in the garden center, and for good reason — there’s exciting new breeding coming to market, and the baskets look amazing in the store. Million Kisses is bred to be the most vigorous Begonia boliviensis on the market, with large-size, season-long blooms and the added bonus of low-maintenance and care. The entire series — ‘Elegance,’ ‘Amour,’ ‘Devotion’ and new ‘Honeymoon’ — makes a brilliant display in lush hanging baskets and brings appealing garden color for shade applications.

In the greenhouse, Million Kisses is a breeze to grow. This begonia flowers 10 to 14 days faster than other boliviensis on the market, which allows you to start the crop later and reduce bench time. The following culture tips will help you create stunning containers for retail and fulfill the shade-alternative needs of home gardeners.

The Right Begonia For …

Patios: Classics like Begonia xhiemalis (Rieger begonia) have an updated look thanks to advancements in breeding. New ‘Fireballs’ has an upright, mounded habit that fills gallon containers growing up to 16 inches tall. Its 3-inch flowers are cherry-red with yellow centers for eye-catching color.

Landscapes: Fibrous landscape begonias work well in sun and shade. They grow to massive size in one season, filling space and sending a positive economic message for today’s savvy shopper. Varieties like ‘Whopper’ and ‘Big’ grow as tall as three feet. ‘Dragon Wing’s’ angel-wing leaves and huge blooms give it a dramatically different appearance at retail. Grow gallons or larger to really sell the drama.

Indoor/Outdoor Use: ‘Gryphon’ begonia is dual-use. It makes an awesome patio pot or indoor focal point for homes and businesses. It has a tropical appearance and tolerates stressful conditions better than traditional Rex begonias. Sell it all year long.

Vigorous Shade Baskets: Million Kisses is a Begonia boliviensis ideal for premium hanging baskets. It trails vigorously — spreading more than two feet. Its double-flowered sister, ‘Bon Bon,’ has the same culture but a more mounding habit. New flower colors are expanding begonia’s traditional range, from the more common oranges and reds to pink tones and even yellow — an almost unheard of color for shady landscapes.

Media

Million Kisses begonia prefers a well-drained soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.2 as the optimum range. Keep night temperatures at 55°F to 60°F and day temperatures at 65°F to 75°F. The crop can be finished cooler in its final weeks of production, maintaining temperatures above 55°F.

Grow Million Kisses under moderate light levels — 3,000 to 4,000 foot candles is the ideal range. Plants may scorch under high light and high temperatures. Longer days promote flowering, so schedule crops to finish under long days (more than 13 hours). Crops produced under short days (less than 12 hours) will result in small plants and poor flowering.

Watering

The media should be allowed to dry between waterings. Water stress can be used for growth control; however, periods of sustained wilting should be avoided. Excess water will result in unwanted stretch and disease.

Fertilizer

Use a constant liquid feed program of 200 to 300 ppm. Regular leaching with clear water will help to reduce buildup of excess salts in media.

Pinching

Million Kisses begonia should be pinched seven to 14 days after transplant to encourage basal branching. Additional pinching can be done as needed. A 4-inch crop can be produced without a pinch in finished production, provided it received a pinch in propagation or at transplant.

Growth Control

Maintain the recommended temperatures and light levels to avoid stretch. Excessive moisture in media will encourage unwanted stretch. Water management is an excellent tool in producing high-quality Million Kisses begonia. Chemical plant growth regulators are generally not needed. Million Kisses begonia is responsive to B-Nine and B-Nine/Cycocel tank mix for finished production in smaller containers. Begin applications seven days after transplant.

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