Begonias are hardy, versatile plants that brighten up shady areas and offer season-long blooms.
From large-petaled tuberous varieties to leafy Rex begonias, there are so many interesting options to choose from. In this guide, we’ll cover a few of the most popular types of begonias to help you investigate which varieties might be perfect for your garden.
Begonia is the common name for species in the begonia genus of the Begoniaceae family of flowering plants. There are more than 1,500 varieties of begonias, featuring an incredibly diverse assortment of petal and foliage styles.
In warm climates, begonias can be perennials. However, they’re typically grown as annuals.
Begonias are easy to grow. However, it’s important to select the right variety for your growing conditions. Some are perfect for colorful hanging baskets in sunny spots. Others are useful for filling in shady areas with dense ground cover foliage.
Below, we’ll cover the appearance, growing conditions, and best uses for several of the most popular begonia types, including wax, tuberous, angel wing, dragon wing, and Rex.
1. Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)
The most common begonia type is the wax begonia. Wax begonias are easy to care for and grow well in a variety of environments.
Wax Begonia Appearance
Wax begonias have dark green leaves that are thick and waxy. The flowers range from white to light pink to deep red and bloom throughout the summer months in tight clusters.
Wax begonias grow up to 18 inches (46 cm) tall and 12 inches (30 cm) wide.
Growing Conditions for Wax Begonias
Wax begonias grow well in varying conditions. They prefer partial shade but are tolerant of both sun and shade. Wax begonias need plenty of water but are susceptible to stem rot. Therefore, it’s important to use well-draining soil and water regularly. Additionally, fertilizing once every two weeks during the growing season will help keep them healthy and happy.
Why You Might Like to Grow Wax Begonias
Low-maintenance and lovely, wax begonias make great additions to many gardens. Planted together in large, dense groups, this type is useful as an edging plant along paths. Wax begonias also make nice indoor plants in small pots, as long as conditions are sufficiently sunny and humid.
2. Tuberous Begonia (Begonia tuberhybrida)
Tuberous begonias originate from tropical regions of South Africa and South America. Tuberous varieties produce stunning flowers in shades of pink, yellow, orange, and white. This type offers a great opportunity for bringing spectacular blooms to shady areas.
Tuberous Begonia Appearance
These elegant tropical flowers display large petals and bright colors. The flowers may be single, double, or ruffled and up to six inches (15 cm) wide. Leaves are generally round or oval-shaped and come in various colors such as green, bronze, or silver.
Tuberous begonias grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall with 24-inch (61 cm) spreads. This type boasts a lengthy flowering period, stretching from late spring to early autumn.
Growing Conditions for Tuberous Begonias
Tuberous begonias need well-draining soil and plenty of water. They thrive in partial or full shade and are easily damaged by harsh sunlight.
After a long blooming season that extends into the fall, tuberous begonias go dormant in winter. Although they’re often treated as annuals, they can be perennials if brought inside for the winter. They won’t stay green during their dormancy, but can be put in storage and brought back outside in the spring after the last frost date has passed.
Why You Might Like to Grow Tuberous Begonias
Tuberous begonias are perfect in containers or hanging baskets, where their beautiful blooms can be put on full display. Some varieties even trail (cascade down the sides of a container). This type is also used as a border plant around garden beds, providing a dense and colorful foreground for taller flowers such as lilies.
3. Angel Wing Begonia (Begonia coccinea)
Angel wing begonias present unique foliage and pink or white flowers. Angel wing is a type of cane begonia, a group of cultivars named for their tough stems that resemble bamboo.
Angel Wing Begonia Appearance
Angel wing begonias are known for striking foliage. Leaves are deep green and glossy and really do resemble the shape of folded wings behind an angel’s back. With some varieties, leaf edges are tinged with red or pink or covered in white speckles, adding even more visual interest to these unique plants.
Blooming several times per year, angel wing begonias produce clusters of small white or pink flowers.
Growing Conditions for Angel Wing Begonias
Angel Wing Begonias prefer humid environments and bright, indirect light. They should be kept out of direct sun, which can cause leaf scorching.
Grow this type in well-draining potting soil that’s kept moist, but not soggy. Water frequently, whenever the top few centimeters of soil have dried out. For best results, fertilize every few weeks during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 formula at half strength.
Why You Might Like to Grow Angel Wing Begonias
Angel wing begonias make interesting houseplants in cooler climates or grow well outdoors year-round in zones 10 or 11. When featured indoors at eye level, these plants are eye-catching conversation pieces.
4. Dragon Wing Begonia (Begonia interspecific)
Dragon wing begonia is a separate species from angel wing begonia, but both are cane begonias with similar appearances and growing needs. Dragon wing is an interspecific hybrid, meaning it was developed as a cross between two separate species within the same genus—in this case, angel wing begonia and wax begonia.
Dragon Wing Begonia Appearance
Dragon wing begonias have large, glossy green leaves that resemble the wings of a dragon more in color and texture than in shape. They produce clusters of small pink or white flowers throughout the growing season. At maturity, dragon wing begonias can reach a height of two feet (0.61 m) and a width of three feet (0.91 m). Growth is dense and bushy, with dozens and dozens of tightly packed leaves and flowers.
Growing Conditions for Dragon Wing Begonias
Like angel wing begonias, dragon wings prefer humid environments, bright indirect light, and moist, well-draining soil.
Why You Might Like to Grow Dragon Wing Begonias
With their unique foliage and colorful blooms, dragon wing begonias make excellent houseplants for those who prefer something more showy than ferns or succulents. Outdoors, this type is avoided by rabbits and deer but is attractive to pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
5. Rex Begonia (Begonia rex)
A great plant for getting color without flowers, Rex begonia is typically grown more for its foliage than its blooms. This type exhibits large, colorful leaves along with petite white or pink flowers.
Rex Begonia Appearance
Rex begonias have thick oval-shaped leaves that come in shades of green, red, purple, silver, or bronze, depending on the variety. The foliage often exhibits two or more distinct colors in striking contrasts and patterns.
Additionally, rex begonia produces small clusters of flowers in shades of pink or white during the summer months.
Growing Conditions for Rex Begonias
Rex begonias are semi-tropical. To thrive, they need bright, indirect light and fertile, well-draining soil that’s kept moist but not soggy.
To meet high humidity needs indoors, mist the leaves every few days and avoid placing the plant near air vents or heaters as this will dry out the soil. For best results, fertilize your Rex begonia once a month using a liquid fertilizer solution diluted at half strength.
Why You Might Like to Grow Rex Begonias
This is a plant for foliage enthusiasts. Growing several different Rex varieties side by side presents an amazing array of colors and patterns.
6. Rieger Begonia, Elatior Begonia (Begonia x hiemalis)
Rieger Begonia Appearance
Rieger begonias, also known as Elatior begonias, are tidy, compact plants that produce attractive leaves. They originated as a cross between a tuberous begonia and a wax begonia and retain some features from both of these parental origins. The small, but lushly petaled flowers are produced in loose clusters that result in big color impact on a single plant. Colors range from yellow and white to varying shades of pink, orange, and red.
Growing Conditions for Rieger Begonias
These begonias appreciate moist, but well-drained soil so if you’re growing as a potted plant be sure the pot has a drainage hole. They grow well in a pot and their flowers offer long-lasting enjoyment when grown near a bright window indoors, or outdoors on a patio table, porch, or balcony. If planted in the ground, a light mulch around the plant will help maintain a good moisture balance for the root system during hot weather.
Rieger begonia flowering is affected by day length so expect that your plant will go through periods when it doesn’t flower, but blooms will return when the days grow longer again.
When your Rieger begonia is actively growing and blooming it would benefit from a mild liquid fertilizer (mixed at half strength) every two weeks. Taper off feeding during the winter months when growth slows.
Why You Might Like to Grow Rieger Begonias
Rieger begonias are popular plants for gifting. They’re not demanding plants so they’re appropriate for someone new to growing houseplants. Outdoors their vibrant flowers stand out in the landscape and they’re a great way to bring color to shaded locations.
How Can I Tell Which Type of Begonia I Have?
If you know you have a begonia but you’re not sure of the type, you can narrow down the identification by examining the leaves or roots. Look for these indicators:
- Wax begonias have strong leaves that look and feel waxy.
- Tuberous begonias grow from tubers—round, fleshy stems that may resemble asparagus stalks.
- Angel wing begonias are recognized by their wing-shaped leaves, which may contain light-colored speckles.
- Dragon wing begonias are easily confused with angel wing begonias and the names are sometimes used interchangeably; however, dragon wing begonias never have speckles.
- Rex begonia foliage is showy and multi-colored (shades of green, red, purple, silver, or bronze)
- Rieger begonia’s small, densely petaled and vibrantly colored blooms are distinctive among the different types of begonias.
Ready to pick a variety and get to work? Learn the Secrets to Growing Beautiful Begonias.