6 Types of Begonias

Types of Begonias: illustration showing tuberous begonias in pink, orange, and red in a rectangular planter in front of a metal rail fence.
My Garden Life
June 26, 2023
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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 Types

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. 

Pink, white, and red wax begonias in a rectangular planter next to an industrial brick wall. Begonia semperflorens.

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. 

A terra cotta plastic pot hanging next to a granite block wall containing a tuberous begonia plant with a cascade of big orange flowers. Begonia tuberosa.

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. 

Close up of the spotted foliage of an angel wing begonia with a cluster of pink flowers. Begonia

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. 

Close up of a large dragon wing begonia plant with clusters of red flowers. Begonia interspecific. Begonia coccinea.

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.

An assortment of potted Rex begonias with variegated foliage in blends of green, silver, rose pink, and burgundy growing in an indoor windowsill.

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.   

Colorful pots of pink, orange, and yellow Rieger begonias on display at a garden center.

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.
A brown ceramic planter with a combination of red and gold coleus and white wax begonias.

Ready to pick a variety and get to work? Learn the Secrets to Growing Beautiful Begonias

4 Comments

  1. Glen Caturia

    I once had wax begonias with white dots( not from disease) on the leaves. Every time I search for them I get pictures of other types of begonias with larger leaves. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Glen,
      It’s easy to assume that you’re talking about one of the begonia species with naturally spotted foliage, such as the Begonia coccinea or Begonia maculata, but as you say it’s a wax begonia, Begonia semperflorens, so these are not naturally occurring spots.

      Some possibilities to consider are residues from hard water or fertilizer that are left behind if you get water on the foliage. The water evaporates leaving the residues behind. Some insect pests feed on the tissue without cutting all the way through the leaf, leaving a thin, slightly transparent layer that could resemble a spot. If your plants are in full sun, water droplets on the leaves can magnify the sunlight and actually cause burned spots. And finally there is the chance that your plant is suffering from a disease such as bacterial leaf spot. The American Begonia Society has some informative articles on Pests & Diseases in Begonias (follow link). Otherwise, it’s best to water your plants at the base and avoid getting water on the leaves, although we know that’s not always possible if you have irrigation systems that spray water.

      Reply
  2. Susan

    How do you winter over tuberous begonias so they need water when dormant?

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Susan,
      If your tuberous begonias are in a pot you can just bring them indoors for the winter and continue growing them near a bright window. Be sure to have a look at our article Tips for Bringing Potted Plants Inside for information on transitioning your plant to the indoors. If your plants are growing outdoors, in the ground or a planter, or if you simply prefer not to fuss with the plants and want to store the tubers for the winter, we found a video by Prairie Plantgirl that demonstrates all the steps for lifting your plants and how to properly store the tubers. Click HERE to view it.

      Reply

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