Cane-type begonias are some of the best-performing and easiest begonias to grow. They are second only to wax begonias in their ease of culture, and second to none in their beauty.
The most recognizable type of begonias are known as angel wing begonias. Native to Brazil, the plant grows on upright stems with interesting dotted leaves, unique colors, and a magnificent display of flowers. The plants are not particularly difficult to grow and can be planted and grown year-round indoors, providing you meet a few basic requirements. They'll grow at a moderately quick rate, with noticeable growth visible in just six weeks' time.
|Botanical Name||Begonia x corallina|
|Common Name||Angel wing begonia|
|Plant Type||Perennial shrub|
|Mature Size||12-30 in. tall, 12-24 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom Time||Summer, early fall|
|Flower Color||Pink, red, white, orange|
|Hardiness Zone||10-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs and cats|
Angel Wing Begonia Care
Whereas other begonias might require a more careful touch, angel wing begonias are perfectly suited for indoor culture, providing you can give them the warmth and humidity they require. In the wintertime, they can even tolerate some direct sunlight and look great on a windowsill with a collection of winter-blooming plants (including their close cousin, the rieger begonia). Keep the plants at eye level so you can enjoy their unique appearance as much as you'd like. These plants can grow large and may develop slightly brittle stems along the way. Stake up larger plants to prevent damage to their canes as the foliage is highly attractive.
Angel wing begonia plants like bright, indirect light year-round. They are not as sensitive to direct light as rex begonias, but cannot handle the direct sunlight of a wax begonia. If you don't want your plant to flower, a partial shade location will allow it to grow without producing blooms.
Plant your angel wing begonia in a soil mixture that is moist (but not soggy) and includes lots of organic matter. A soil that is slightly "heavy" in nature will allow the plant's vast root system to establish well, and support its tall stems properly. In order to ensure your plant's soil doesn't get soggy, you can house your angel wing begonia in a pot made from terracotta or clay to help wick away excess moisture.
Angel wing begonias like to be kept consistently moist, and you can tell when they're lacking in water if the edge of their leaves begin to brown. Once the soil has dried about an inch from the surface, saturate the plant throughly and allow it to drain.
Temperature and Humidity
If you plan to keep an angel wing begonia in your house, you'll want to keep temperatures up. The plant thrives best in an environment that ranges from 65 Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit—though any lower than 50 degrees and you risk the plant dying all together (at the very least, the leaves will become damaged). It's also a good idea to keep your plant away from any harsh drafts or breezes, like those from an open window in the winter or an air conditioner during the summer.
In addition to cozy temperatures, angel wing begonia plants love humidity. Mist your plant regularly to keep up its moisture levels, and consider keeping it in a typically humid room in your home, like the kitchen or bathroom. If your home is especially dry, you can invest in a small space humidifier to place near your plant.
Feed your plant with a liquid fertilizer weekly (at quarter strength) or biweekly (at half strength) for the best growth and color. During blooming season (in later winter or spring) you can switch to high-phosphorous fertilizer to increase the chance of flowering.
Angel Wing Begonia Varieties
The angel wing begonia has served as the basis of an extensive, long-term hybridizing program. As a result, there are dozens of named hybrids, as well as various species that loosely fall into the cane-type category. Look for hybrids, including favorites like "Lucerna" and "Carriere" with attractive leaves and lots of unopened blooms. All the angel wing begonias have similar growing requirements, so it's safe to treat them all the same.
Propagating Angel Wing Begonia
Angel wing begonias (and other cane-type begonias) are very easy to propagate from cuttings. When new growth begins to emerge in the spring, carefully remove a 2- to 3-inch leaf-tip cutting that doesn't have blooms on it and insert it cutting-side down into potting soil. Keep the cutting moist and warm until new growth begins.
A rooting hormone will increase the chances of success, but it's not strictly necessary, as begonias readily root from cuttings under the right circumstances. Similar to other hybrids, angel wing begonias do not reproduce accurately from seed (meaning you will not get an exact replica of the parent plant), so only grow begonia from seed if you're sure of the seed source (a seed company, for example). To keep your collection fresh, take cuttings every spring and discard any less-than-ideal adult plants—they have a tendency toward legginess if conditions aren't optimal, especially if they are cold and drafty.
Potting and Repotting Angel Wing Begonia
Angel wing begonias seem to really thrive when they are slightly pot-bound, so only repot them when it's absolutely necessary (such as when the plant has exhausted its potting media or the pot is tipping over). If you are repotting your begonia, do so in early spring, just as the first flush of new growth appears. Do not attempt to repot a plant in bloom, however, as the shock will cut short the flowering.
Common Pests and Diseases
Like many houseplants, angel wing begonia can come down with a few common afflictions that quickly become a nuisance. One of the most typical issues is powdery mildew, though they may also contend with rot, mealybugs, and whiteflies.
If you notice signs of pests on your plant, place it somewhere isolated (so as to not infect your other houseplants), then treat it with a mild insecticide or horticultural oil (like neem oil) until all signs of infestation are gone.