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Bounty of begonias is coming in spring
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
2009 looks to be the Year of the Begonia. This is not an official proclamation but my expectation of the incredible new begonias that will debut this spring. From hanging baskets to the landscape, begonia lovers can rejoice.
For color, nothing will beat Nonstop Fire. This is a tuberous begonia from Benary Seed that loads up with 4-inch double blossoms. Nonstop Fire, or Begonia tuberhybrida, is a blaze of orange and yellow. The orange radiates from the outer petals much like embers in a fireplace. The plants develop lateral branches, giving a great mounded look for baskets and planters.
Nonstop begonias don't like to be overwatered; you'll have a happier plant if you keep it slightly dry, watering only when needed or when it is dry to the touch. Even though tuberous begonias aren't the stalwart performers of the Deep South, you'll treasure these flowers for several weeks.
Proven Winners is introducing two new series of Begonia boliviensis, Mandalay and Bellagio. These tuberous begonias can overwinter in large, well-drained containers in zones 7B and 8. Both the Mandalay and the Bellagio are incredible in hanging baskets, large containers and window boxes.
Some might argue that these are not true tuberous begonias, but they do form tubers when day lengths are short. They exhibit much more heat tolerance than typical tuberous begonias.
The Mandalay produces masses of single flowers on long, arching branches, and it will remind you somewhat of Bonfire. Mandalay will be available in a white-flowered selection called Pearl, a showy orange-red called Mandarin and a hot pink called Flamingo.
The Bellagio series produces large double blossoms that hang downward in exotic fashion. It is available in three colors: Apricot, Blush (a soft white with pink) and Pink. These begonias reach about 12 inches in height and spread nearly 30 inches.
For the landscape, you need to think big -- really BIG. Benary Seed also is introducing the BIG begonia series. BIG was the hit of the California Pack Trials last April and has performed well in university trials across the country.
The BIG series, or Begonia x benariensis, represents the best breeding of angel wing and fibrous-type begonias. The flowers are 2 1/2 inches wide under cool temperatures and maintain quarter-sized blooms once summer sets in.
The leaves are huge, and the plants will push 2 feet tall and wide. They will be available in three colors: BIG Red with bronze leaf, BIG Red with green leaf and BIG Rose with bronze leaf. Like other landscape begonias, they will perform best in fertile, well-drained soil in sun to part sun.
Last but certainly not least is the new Volumia series, Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum, coming from Syngenta Flowers. These were star performers in Mississippi State University trials. They are available in five colors, all with green leaves. Volumia Scarlet and Volumia White were the top performers in our trials, with the others not far behind. These are vigorous, well-branched plants reaching 12-15 inches tall in the sun. They have larger flowers than most landscape begonias.
Spring looks to be both fun and beautiful thanks to these new begonias. Be the first to get them in your neighborhood.