10 Varieties of Begonias for Gardens and Containers

Tuberous begonias in a hanging basket.

Dole08/Getty Images

If you have picked up a six-pack of wax begonias at the supermarket to add to a container garden on the front porch, you have barely begun to scratch the surface of the Begonia genus—a group of more than 1,800 plant species, all native to tropical or subtropical regions. Most are perennial plants in zones 10 and 11, but they are widely grown in almost every region as annuals. The principal appeal of begonias is that many types produce spectacular flowers in shady conditions where few flowering plants thrive.

Tip

Begonias need some sunlight, but they don't do well if that sunlight is harsh and direct. Instead, place them in filtered light, such as beneath high, thin tree canopies. However, as noted below some begonia varieties might tolerate more sun than others.

Begonias can be categorized a number of ways, but a useful method for gardeners is by root structure:

  • Fibrous-rooted: This group includes plants described as wax begonias, cane begonias, dragon-wing (angel-wing) begonias, and other types, all of which have standard root balls with thin roots. The leaves tend to be round and waxy, and relatively small. The flowers are also fairly small, about 1 1/2 inches. Potted plants may continue blooming if you bring them indoors and place them in a bright window through the winter.
  • Tuberous: This group has the most spectacular flowers, large blooms in neon-like shades of pink, yellow, orange, red, or white. They have a fleshy, round tuberous root like a potato and generally bloom in mid-summer through fall. The tubers are often planted as annuals each year, or they can be dug up and stored indoors for the winter. This type is popular both for garden planting and for containers.
  • Hardy begonias: These types belong to the species Begonia grandis. They are hardy to zone 6 and are commonly grown as a perennial in southern gardens. They have foliage similar to tuberous begonias but produce rather small pink or white flowers.
  • Rhizomatous: These begonias have fleshy roots and stems creeping along the surface of the soil. They are grown mostly for their interesting foliage and are more often used as houseplants than as garden plants. Their blooms can cover the entire plant.
  • Rex: This is a subcategory of rhizomatous begonias with the showiest foliage of all begonias. The flowers are fairly insignificant. They are also most commonly used as house plants, but are a little more finicky than most rhizomatous types.

Begonias Are Poisonous to Pets

These plants contain soluble calcium oxalates, mostly in the roots, which can cause vomiting and salivation in dogs and cats. Seek the advice of a veterinarian for affected animals. Treatment normally involves limiting the pet to a liquid diet for a short time until the toxins have cleared.

Here are just a few types of begonias to whet your appetite.

  • 01 of 10

    'Charm' Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)

    Red variegated wax begonia in bloom.

    Shannon Ross/Radius Images/Getty Images

    Most variegated plants have white markings on green leaves, but the 'Charm' variety of begonia has vivid yellow splotches on bright green leaves, giving it a psychedelic effect. This plant falls into the category of wax begonias that have fibrous roots. This begonia is suited to use as the focal point for flowering containers because it is relatively short but spreads out nicely (as much as 18 to 24 inches). Variegated begonias need partial exposure to the sun to maintain the color development on their foliage.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: 6 to 12 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 02 of 10

    Solenia 'Dusty Rose' Begonia (Begonia × tuberhybrida)

    Pink 'Solenia Rose' begonia with about a dozen blooms.
    Jamie McIntosh

    This is a beautiful tuberous begonia hybrid developed as a trademarked variety. It has frilly rose-colored flowers that bloom at the end of stems from mid-spring to mid-fall. The leaves are succulent and heart-shaped, remaining green throughout the year. You can save the tubers at the end of the growing season for blossoms next year. Dig them in the fall, dry them for 10 days, and store them in a cool and dark place for replanting the following spring. This variety requires more sun than other varieties..

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: 6 to 12 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
  • 03 of 10

    'Richmond' Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)

    Sun begonia plants in a group.
    Jamie McIntosh

    The bronzy-green foliage of the 'Richmond' begonia, also called the sun begonia (Begonia 'Richmondensis') seems to color-shift in different light conditions. The underside of the leaves has a reddish tone which gives them special appeal in hanging baskets. This variety, a fibrous-rooted type, needs some light sun to grow properly. It is a rather large plant that assumes a shrubby shape and blooms constantly.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: 18 to 24 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Light shade to part sun
  • 04 of 10

    Nonstop 'Mocca Yellow' Begonia (Begonia × tuberhybrida)

    Yellow tuberous begonia

     

    Robitaille / Getty Images

    The trademarked Nonstop series from Proven Winners is the preferred tuberous begonia for regions with hot summers. Most tuberous begonias like moderation in all things, including light, water, and fertilizer, but this series is heat tolerant.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: 12 to 16 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to shade
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Nonstop $#39Rose' Begonia (Begonia × tuberhybrida)

    Pink begonia

     

    aarud / Getty Images

    This is another offering from the trademarked Nonstop series of tuberous begonias. 'Nonstop Rose' comes in several shades, including 'Rose Petticoat', 'Rose Pink', and 'Deep Rose'. If you remove the spent blossoms on 'Nonstop' begonias and allow the plant to put its energy into more blossoms instead of seed production, you can achieve the mass of flowers shown in this photo. Locate the plants in an area sheltered from the wind to prevent bud drop.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: 10 to 12 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to shade
  • 06 of 10

    Ambassador Series Begonias (Begonia semperflorens)

    Pink begonias used for bedding.
    Jamie McIntosh

    The thick, fleshy leaves of fibrous-rooted wax begonias make them a good choice for beginning gardeners, as the plants have good resistance to both drought and pests. The compact plants of the 'Ambassador' series grow large flowers in shades of red, white, and pink.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to1 1; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: 8 to 12 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • 07 of 10

    Cocktail Series Begonias (Begonia semperflorens)

    Dozens of white and pink bronze leaf wax begonias next to each other.
    Jamie McIntosh

    Dark-leafed begonias can take the sun’s heat better than green-leafed varieties. They can be planted in partial or full sun locations. This tidy bedding plant, categorized as a fibrous-rooted wax begonia, will not overstep its boundaries, so tucking it between green-leafed garden plants will highlight its bronze foliage and fill in landscape gaps. The Cocktail series offers white, light pink, and red flowers.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: 6 to 8 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • 08 of 10

    'Doublet White' Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)

    Dozens of double wax begonia plants combined together.
    Jamie McIntosh

    The fully double white blossoms of the 'Doublet' begonia series are barely the size of your thumbnail but will outshine the rest of the plant's foliage throughout the growing season. This fibrous-rooted wax begonia variety does not produce seeds and therefore needs no pinching or deadheading. This plant should be grown in a location that is shaded from the hot afternoon sun. Other offerings in the 'Doublet' series include various shades of white, soft pink, hot pink, and red.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: up to 12 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    'Torch Pink' Begonia (Begonia aconitifolia × Begonia coccinea)

    Pink scarlet begonia (Begonia coccinea) flower bush with green glossy background. Begonia coccinea is a plant in the begonia family, Begoniaceae. It is native to the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.
    Kwhisky / Getty Images

    This variety falls into a subcategory of fibrous-root begonias, the angel-wing begonias, which have distinctively shaped leaves. Angel wing begonias are also classified as cane-like begonias because of their long stems that look like bamboo canes. You can pinch back these plants during the growing season to promote bushier growth. This type of begonia can tolerate somewhat more sun than the wax begonias; so grow 'Torch Pink' in bright filtered sunlight to prevent it from becoming lanky. It needs bright filtered light to grow properly indoors.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an annual
    • Height: Up to 12 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade outdoors; indoors, give it bright filtered light
  • 10 of 10

    Rex Begonias (Begonia rex var.)

    Purple and blue leaves found on the Rex begonia plant.

    iStock/Getty Images

    The rex begonias are a vast subcategory of rhizomatous begonias, and they are most commonly grown as houseplants rather than garden plants. Their main appeal is the interesting foliage rather than the flowers. The foliage delivers a trifecta of beauty, with outstanding colors, foliage, and textures that thrive in ordinary windowsill conditions. Varieties such as 'Tornado' and 'Silver Queen' sport metallic leaves accented with green, purple, or splashes of red. 'Pink Charming' and 'Duarten' suggest a stained glass effect that comes from rich veining and stippling. The moody 'Red Kiss' could stand in for roses as a romantic gift, and its lusty colors are much more enduring than any cut flower arrangement.

    The small stature of Rex begonias make them ideal as terrarium plants and maintaining them this way reduces watering chores.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; generally grown as an indoor houseplant
    • Height: 6 to 24 inches, depending on the variety
    • Sun Exposure: Bright filtered light (when grown indoors); part shade outdoors