How to Grow and Care for Wax Begonias (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum)

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Also known as the Semperflorens-cultorum group, wax-leaf Begonias are one of the most popular types of Begonia flower! They are hardy to USDA zones 9-11, so are grown as annuals in cooler climates or overwintered indoors.

These plants, which belong to a genus of over 1,300 species, have interesting and dainty flowers which look stunning when planted en masse in beds and borders.

History

First recorded in Mexico in the 1500s, today these plants are cultivated worldwide, with many species since discovered in the subtropics. B. x semperflorens-cultorum is derived from species that came from South America.

Wax Begonia flowers can be pink, red, orange, or white, and have either green or bronze waxy foliage. Their beautiful flowers can be in single or double form.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameBegonia x semperflorens-cultorum
Common namesWax-leaf Begonia, Semperflorens-cultorum Group, Bedding Begonia, Fibrous-rooted Begonia
GenusBegonia
FamilyBegoniaceae
Height0 ft. 6 in. – 1 ft. 6 in.
Width0 ft. 6 in. – 1 ft. 0 in.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
OriginSouth America
Flower colorsRed, Pink, White, Orange
Blooming seasonSpring, Summer, Fall
Plant/Flower special featuresDainty flowers and waxy foliage

How to Plant and Grow Wax Begonias

Wax-leaf types can be planted either in beds, borders, or containers. However, they are preferred for beds and borders as they look very attractive when grouped. 

Make sure to choose a shady site, as these flowers prefer partial sunlight; a shady border would be the perfect spot.

pink wax begonia

Growing Wax-leaf Begonia Flowers in Beds

When growing them in beds, choose a sheltered area with rich to moderately fertile soil. Amend clay and sandy soils if needed or consider raised beds. 

Dig holes with enough space to comfortably house roots and plant them with their roots just below the soil line. Ensure good airflow between plants by spacing dwarf varieties 8 inches apart, and normal varieties 12 inches apart.

Growing Wax-leaf Begonia Flowers in Pots

If growing these types in containers, choose a pot with good drainage, and fill it with a well-draining, fertile potting mix. Plant them with the tops of their roots just below the soil line. Space plants close together to create an attractive container display early on. 

Overwintering Wax-leaf Begonias

In colder areas, overwinter plants if you would like to keep them for the following year. Cut plants back by one-third after flowering, before bringing them indoors and placing them in a bright area with indirect light. Keep an eye on plants previously growing in the shade as they may get burned. 

Keep the soil lightly moist and fertilize regularly. To keep humidity levels high, place containers on pebble trays. 

How to Propagate Wax Begonia Plants

Propagate wax-leaf types by seed or from stem cuttings. Stem cuttings are recommended for double leaf varieties. 

For stem cuttings, take 4-inch cuttings in April, leaving the uppermost leaves only. Space them out evenly in a sterile, sandy rooting medium with a bottom temperature of 64-70°F. Place the container in an area with bright indirect sunlight and keep the rooting medium moist. 

To grow these plants by seed, sow seeds in February or March onto a tray of seed compost and gently press them down. Mist the soil and put a plastic cover on the container. Keep the tray at 73–80°F, 6 inches beneath a fluorescent light for 14 hours daily. 

Germination may take up to one month, when the first true leaves appear, transplant the seedlings to a 3-inch container, then again to a 5-inch container as they grow. 

white wax begonia

Care and Maintenance

Here are some important Begonia care tips:

Soil

Plant wax-leaf types in loose, well-draining, rich to moderately fertile soil.

Water

Water them regularly through the growing season, taking care not to overwater as they are prone to root rot. 

These plants are more drought tolerant than other Begonias due to their waxy leaves retaining moisture. 

Fertilizer

Fertilize them regularly using a liquid fertilizer, but use twice as often at half the strength. Mulch over summer to protect roots. 

Sunlight

Plant B. x semperflorens-cultorum in areas of partial to full shade. Bronze leaf types can withstand being grown in sunnier locations. 

Temperature and Humidity

Winter hardy to USDA zones 9-11, container plants should be brought indoors for overwintering. Bedding plants can be dug up and replanted in containers for overwintering indoors. 

Pest and diseases

Leave space between plants to reduce the chances of powdery mildew and fungal problems, and don’t water too much to limit the risk of root and crown rot. 

Keep an eye out for thrips, mealy bugs, spider mites, slugs, and snails.  

Pruning

Pruning isn’t required, but cut plants back by one-third after blooming if overwintering inside. 

Uses of Wax-leaf Begonias

These beautiful plants are hugely popular in gardens and are often used for borders and edging flowers in public gardens and parks.

Common Varieties and Cultivars

Here are some popular B. x semperflorens-cultorum cultivars:

  • Big Rose Bronze Leaf
  • Cocktail Brandy
  • Cocktail Whiskey
  • Gum Drop Coco Red
  • Varsity Green Leaf White

Conclusion

B. x semperflorens-cultorum, also known as the wax Begonia, is a popular flower for beddings and borders! Part of a genus of 1,300 species, these plants have dainty blooms and waxy leaves which look great when planted en masse.

Derived from South American species, these Begonia hybrids are winter hardy to zones 9-11, so are usually overwintered indoors or planted as annuals. Propagate them via seed or stem cuttings. 

With their relatively low-maintenance care and variety of colors and forms, they would be the perfect addition to any garden!