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The summer bulb of the year 2016: Begonia

Only one bulb every year can be designated ‘Summer Bulb of the Year’: in 2016, this is the Begonia. And an appropriate choice it was, since this colorful, long-flowering charmer also has a wonderful meaning in the language of flowers: balance. Isn’t that what many of us are seeking amidst the pressures and stress of everyday life? The Begonia’s lovely flowers put a smile on your face and let you enjoy the moment. Plant these beauties in the spring, and you’ll be getting even more enjoyment from your garden this summer.

From rain forest to garden

The Begonia is endemic to the rain forests of Asia, Africa and the Americas, particularly in tropical regions providing plenty of light and moisture. It was on Haiti that Charles Plumier discovered the Begonia. Charles was a botanist and highly adept at drawing this then unknown plant. In 1690, Charles named the Begonia after his patron, Michel Bégon, intendant of the French colony of Saint-Domingue and later governor of Canada, as well as being the patron of botanical science. Plumier’s discovery made the Begonia not just a plant that inhabits the rain forest, but also a plant that beautifies the garden.

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The Begonia family

You might think one begonia is like another. Not so! The Begoniaceae is a large family: a bit complicated but also interesting. Its members come in many different colors, shapes and sizes. The family consists of two groups: the upright and the trailing varieties. The upright begonias grow and flower in an upward direction. Within this group there are three categories: double-flowered, small-flowered and single-flowered. Trailing begonias produce pendulous flowers that make them perfect in hanging pots or tall standing pots. They are also known as belonging to the Begonia pendula group. Trailing begonias consist of large-flowered and small-flowered varieties.

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bulb afbeelding  bulb afbeelding

bulb afbeelding  bulb afbeelding

bulb afbeelding  bulb afbeelding

bulb afbeelding  bulb afbeelding

When to plant

Begonia tubers can be planted at two times of the year depending on when you want them to flower. If you plant them in January/February, you can be enjoying their flowers as early as June. However, this requires planting them in pots or containers and keeping them indoors until there is no longer any chance of frost. If you plant your begonias in May, you can plant them directly into the garden soil and flowering will begin in August. Plant the tubers with their concave side on top and cover them with a thin layer of potting compost.  

Good to know

Although the Begonia has been named ‘summer bulb of the year’, it’s actually a tuber. Tubers are included in the group known as bulbous plants (technically: geophytes), but true bulbs store their food reserves in underground leaves known as scales, while tubers use their fleshy roots for this purpose. 

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