When it comes to wax begonia care, one question keeps popping up. Do they like sun or shade?
Well, I’ve done some research on this and as it turns out wax begonia requires more sun than shade. However, this may vary depending on specific begonia types.
For example, bronze-colored leaves begonia are the most sun-tolerant of all. While tuberous begonias prefer more shade and less heat, so you’ll often see them on display in late summer.
This hardy perennial plant brings bright blooms to your home and garden for the majority part of the year.
Wax begonia also previously known with it's scientific name (Begonia semperflorens-cultorum) come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes.
Some of the popular varieties include; Prelude white, Monza, Emperor Red, Senator Red, Party Pink, and Barbara Rogers. They are easy to grow and take care of - both indoor and outdoor.
In this article, I’m going to discuss wax begonia plant including care tips that will help you in maintaining a healthy begonia plant for a colorful garden.
Wax Begonia Plant Fact Sheet
Wax begonia can easily be identified by their very glossy; oval or ovate to broad oval green, bronze or dark red leaves with many flowers. The flowers originate in small axillary clusters and are rose-red to white.
Their growth habit is somewhat succulent, branching from the base with fibrous roots. They have an annual life cycle and as such most gardeners use them in containers, edging, bedding, and foreground of gardens.
Wax begonias are often thought of as a plant for shade, but most of today’s varieties grow well in full sun making this plant very versatile for gardens and landscaping.
When you grow them in the sun plants are shorter and develop somewhat more flowers than in the shade.
Begonias bloom continuously throughout the summer and early fall and can easily be propagated from seeds.
The plant is "self-cleaning", meaning that the spent flowers tend to fall off by themselves and thus no “dead-heading is required.
Wax begonias require less care compared to other common annuals.
9 Wax Begonia Care Tips Plus Sun Requirements
1. Wax Begonia Water Requirements
Put your plants on a regular watering schedule (once or twice a week) depending on the prevailing weather conditions to keep the soil slightly moist, but not wet or soggy.
Feel the soil around the plant by inserting your finger just under the surface of the soil, about one-half to 1 inch deep.
If it feels dry, then you need to water your plants.
Water potted and hanging baskets wax begonias more often, because they usually dry out more quickly than those growing in the garden.
Stop watering after you see the water come out the bottom of the pot and discard the excess water that accumulates in the drainage tray.
For wax begonias in the garden, water around the base of your plant, close to the soil, with 1 inch of water.
Always water your wax begonia by hand using a hose or watering can and if you must water from overhead, for example using a sprinkler, do it in the morning so the leaves can dry out before nightfall.
Continue with regular watering and reduce the frequency as fall approaches. Apply mulch around the roots throughout the growing season to help lock in moisture. If you want more information on watering, read – How to Water Potted Plants and Keep them Happy
2. Provide adequate sunlight
Wax begonia plants grow and bloom best under full sun, though at times you might be required to provide some shade from the hot afternoon sun especially if you live in the more tropical (Southern) areas of the country.
Wax begonia with bronze foliage for example Begonia rex, tend to do better in full sun than those with green leaves (Tuberous begonias).
Is your wax begonia experiencing delay in blooming? Expose it to more sunlight and you will be surprised that it will start blooming after a few days.
3. Choose a suitable soil mix
Any light, well-draining, humus rich soil or commercial potting mixes are both good for growing wax begonia. Loosen the soil/ potting mix a bit to enhance smooth water flow.
This way the soil/mix will not become soggy and you will have improved on aeration.
Avoid heavy clay soil as it retards root growth and starves the plant of oxygen, which can lead to root diseases.
4. Fertilizer application
Begonias are low to moderate feeders so apply a light feeding of an all-purpose (10-10-10) or (8-8-8) fertilizer right after planting as well when the plants are actively growing.
You can also apply a well-rotted manure or aged compost mulching around the plants and achieve the same effect as a light feeding of fertilizer.
Begonias do not withstand freezing cold temperatures hence require appropriate care during winter. Overwintering a begonia is not always necessary especially in warmer environments since winters are generally less severe.
Place your potted wax begonia indoors prior to the onset of cold weather for continuous growth.
You can as well transplant your ground grown begonias into containers and place them indoors for growing throughout winter.
Acclimate your plants beforehand in order to reduce stress that might lead to leaf drop.
Treat your begonia plants for insect pests or powdery mildew before placing them indoors by spraying or washing them gently with warm water and bleach free dish soap.
Keep your plants in a warm bright place e.g. large bright window and gradually reduce the amount of light to help them adjust to an indoor environment.
Pro Tip: Frost can kill wax begonias, so make sure that you keep the plant indoors until well after frost threat is over.
6. Cutting back wax begonia
It is necessary to cut back large, overgrown begonias to restore them to their usual shape. Cut the stems back to a leaf node using clean, sharp sterilized pruning shears or a knife.
Carry out this practice any time during spring or early summer when your begonia is in its active growth cycle.
You can also cut back begonia plant to within 3 inches of the soil for revitalization when necessary. This enables your plant to produce new leaves from the base of the cane.
Although pruning is not needed for the most part of the plant growth, it is advisable to sometimes prune your begonias about once every month with an aim of correcting the legginess (a plant’s attempt to stretch for the sun, resulting in thin stems with sparse leaves), creating a fuller plant as well as forcing the plant to grow from a certain part of the stem.
Prune by pinching the stems to remove the dead ones and encourage new growth.
8. Deadheading Wax Begonia
Deadheading is not required for your plant to thrive because wax leaf begonias are able to self-clean by dropping spent or faded flowers on their own.
However, if you want to clean up your begonia a bit faster than nature does, or if you want to encourage the plant to produce more stems, then get into the deadheading habit.
9. Pest and diseases management
Wax begonias are susceptible to various fungal diseases with botrytis, powdery mildew, gray mould, and pythium being common.
Correct water application method preferably use drip irrigation and at the very least, direct water from the hose onto the soil or mulch, and not on the plants themselves helps manage fungal diseases.
Apply a copper based fungicide; ensure proper spacing and good air circulation for prevention.
Check out for:
- Botrytis - Tanned spots on the begonia foliage.
- Powderly mildew - A white fungal growth that develops on the leaves, flowers or stems.
- Pythium rot - Shiny, blackened areas on the stems and petioles of established plants.
You will mostly find insects like aphids, thrips or caterpillars on Begonia.
- Aphids - Tiny soft bodied insects that cluster on the growing tips of leaves and flower stems, sucking plant juices. The plants become stunted and deformed. Here's a great resource for getting rid of aphids naturally.
- Thrips - Feed on the upper surface of leaves leaving them silvery looking. They also like to feed on the pollen in the flowers which can distort their appearance.
- Caterpillars - Feed on plant leaves and stems, often at night.
You’ve just read about wax begonia care and how to ensure your plant thrive rather than survive.
Now, next time you don’t have to wonder whether wax begonias like sun or shade. We’ve discovered wax begonia requires more sun than shade. However, this may vary depending on specific variety types.
For instance, wax begonia with bronze foliage for example Begonia rex, tend to do better in full sun than those with green leaves (Tuberous begonias).
You’ve also learned how to correctly water your begonia, provide enough sunlight, select appropriate potting mix, protect them from frost, and manage pests as soon as you notice them.
The ball is now in your court.
I’d love to know how it goes and if I’ve left out anything, let me know in the comments.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on July 21, 2019 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.