Richard C. Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.
For Release On Or After 04/06/12
By Dan Gill
The genus Begonia is large and amazingly diverse with a mind-blowing number of species. There are even plant societies devoted to this fascinating group of plants. The wax begonia, Begonia x semperflorens-culturom, is one of the few that is commonly used as a bedding plant in landscapes.
The common wax begonia is a complex hybrid created by interbreeding several species over an extended period of time. Among wax begonia varieties, there are many different variations and characteristics, including leaf and flower size, leaf color (green, bronze and variegated) and flower color (mostly reds, pinks and white). Wax begonias are amazing “flower factories,” producing a nonstop display of blooms over the summer. The species name, semperflorens, means always in bloom.
Wax begonias, impatiens and caladiums form the trinity of shade-loving summer bedding plants for Louisiana gardeners. All three of these plants are generally reliable and have the ability to provide color from the time they are planted in April or May all the way to October.
Other than wax begonias, the only other type of begonia that has been commonly used in Louisiana landscapes is the outstanding Dragon Wing begonia. This begonia is larger and more robust than wax begonias, with big, showy flowers in red or pink and larger wing-shaped, green foliage.
Dramatic and colorful, Dragon Wing begonias are outstanding in containers, either alone or in combination with other plants. And although they can be used in beds, at up to 2 feet tall, they are taller than most bedding plants. Dragon Wing flowers are larger, but they are not produced in the amazing quantity achieved by the wax begonias.
A new begonia has combined the compact growth habit and extraordinary blooming power of wax begonias with the vigor and robust growth of the Dragon Wing begonia. Named new BabyWing, this begonia is a wonderful new choice for flower beds in partly shaded locations. Its outstanding performance in LSU AgCenter trials and unique new characteristics earned BabyWing begonia a spot as a spring 2012 Louisiana Super Plants selection.
The foliage of BabyWing begonia is larger than typical wax begonias but not as large as Dragon Wing. It is attractive, slightly shiny and medium-green – and it’s wing-shaped. The flowers are somewhat larger than typical wax begonias and may be white (BabyWing White) or a very nice soft pink (BabyWing Pink). The flowers are produced through summer in extraordinary profusion.
The growth habit is robust and vigorous. The plants are compact and bushy like wax begonias, and eventually grow to be about 12 to 16 inches tall and about 10 to 12 inches across.
Although they are fairly sun-tolerant and will accept sun for much of the day, BabyWing really looks its best when it gets some shade. An area that receives about 4 hours of direct sun with shade in the afternoon would be ideal. Feel free to try them in somewhat sunnier or shadier locations, but avoid full sun and heavy shade.
Before planting BabyWing, prepare beds with generous amounts of organic matter. Work 2 to 4 inches of compost, composted soil conditioner, composted manure or peat moss and a general-purpose fertilizer (following package directions) into the upper 8 inches of the soil, and rake the bed smooth. It is best to plant BabyWing begonias (and most bedding plants) into beds built up 6 to 8 inches high to ensure good drainage.
Plant transplants into the garden after danger of frosts is past – anytime from April through summer. Do not plant them any deeper than they were growing in the pots because this can make them more prone to crown rot. Space plants about 8 to 10 inches apart when planting.
BabyWing begonias are very heat and stress tolerant. Water them deeply, occasionally as needed during the first few weeks while they are getting established. Once established, however, they are relatively drought-tolerant – they do not need nearly as much irrigation as impatiens. Overwatering can lead to problems with rot, so make sure the plants really need to be watered before you do. These begonias don’t wilt, but the foliage will take on a paler jade color when they are thirsty.
The Louisiana Super Plants program is an educational and marketing campaign of the LSU AgCenter that highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well in Louisiana landscapes. New selections are announced and promoted each year in spring and fall.
Louisiana Super Plants have a proven track record having gone through years of university evaluations and/or years of observations by plant industry professionals. Home gardeners and professional horticulturists alike can benefit from using Louisiana Super Plants. Louisiana Super Plants are “university tested and industry approved.” To see a list of nurseries participating in the Louisiana Super Plants program, go here.
So, if you are looking for a beautiful, reliable bedding plant for partially shaded locations, consider BabyWing Pink or BabyWing White begonias. They combine beautifully with perennials like ferns, Caitlin’s Giant ajuga, oxalis and ligularia, and bedding plants such as caladiums, impatiens, torenia, browallia, coleus and others.Rick Bogren