Do begonias like sun or shade?

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Unlike most flowering plants, begonias actually prefer growing in light shade or part-sun conditions. Today, begonia growers and breeders have been able to increase sun tolerance in several groups of begonias, which has resulted in begonias that can withstand and thrive in direct sun for 8 or more hours.

This process of selective breeding involves the careful selection of parent plants with desirable traits, and the controlled mating of these plants to produce offspring with those desired traits. These new varieties have therefore expanded the possibilities for growing begonias in hot, sunny spots.

Traits such as thicker leaves, increased leaf waxiness, and the ability to withstand higher temperatures and intense sunlight allow them to reduce water loss through evaporation and also protect their tissues from damage caused by too much sunlight.

How much sun do begonias need?

While begonias can tolerate different light conditions, they generally perform best in light shade or part sun, receiving about 4-6 hours of morning sun. They can also thrive in deeper shade, especially the tuberous Non-Stops and the flashy foliage types such as Rex begonias.

Many cane hybrids will benefit from early morning sunshine: some will even tolerate afternoon sunshine. Some thick-stem begonias will take mid-day sun, but these are the exception. Thats why it’s always a good idea to observe your specific begonia variety and adjust its light exposure accordingly.

Can begonias tolerate full sun?

Begonias can tolerate full sun to some extent, depending on the specific variety and the climate in which they are grown. In colder climates, they can tolerate more light, including full sun or partial shade. On the other hand, those in warmer regions need protection because the intense heat can be too much for the delicate foliage to handle, causing stress to the plants.

This may cause Leaf scald or scorching, which usually occurs when your begonia is exposed to high temperatures and intense sunlight, causing the leaves to become discolored, wilted, or even burned. The hot afternoon sun can also increase the rate of transpiration (water loss through evaporation) from the leaves of begonias. This can lead to dehydration and stress for the plants, making them more vulnerable to leaf scald.

The general rule is to never allow direct sun to shine on a begonia. However, some varieties can tolerate full sun, depending on the specific variety and the climate in which they are grown. Here are some begonia varieties that can tolerate full sun:

  • Wax begonias (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum): These begonias are known for their tolerance to sun, heat, and drought. Varieties with bronze-colored foliage are particularly well-suited for full-sun conditions. Examples of bronze-colored wax begonias include “Victory” and “Cocktail”. Modern cultivars with green leaves can also grow in full sun as long as they receive some afternoon shade.
  • Dragon Wing Begonias (Begonia ‘Dragon Wing’): Dragon Wing Begonias are another variety that can handle full sun. They have a trailing growth habit and produce clusters of red or pink flowers. They are known for their heat tolerance and can thrive in hot weather.
  • Bonfire Begonias (Begonia ‘Bonfire’): Bonfire Begonias are a type of tuberous begonia that can tolerate full sun. They have vibrant orange-red flowers and are known for their heat tolerance.

Can begonias grow in full shade?

Begonias are native to tropical and subtropical regions, where they thrive in the shade or under filtered sunlight. So, yes, they can grow in full shade. However, the shade tolerance of different types may vary.

Here are some specific varieties of begonias that are suitable for full shade:

Wax Begonias (Fibrous-rooted begonias):

These begonias are known for their waxy leaves and small flowers. They are excellent choices for full-shade areas. Some popular varieties include:

  • ‘Cocktail Series’: This series offers a range of colors, including red, pink, and white. They have a compact growth habit and are great for borders or containers.
  • ‘Whopper Series’: These begonias have large, vibrant flowers and glossy leaves. They are known for their vigorous growth and can tolerate more sun than other wax begonias, but still prefer shade.

Rex Begonias (Rhizomatous begonias)

Rex begonias are grown for their stunning foliage rather than their flowers. They have large, colorful leaves and thrive in shady conditions. Some popular varieties include:

  • ‘Escargot’: This variety has unique spiral-shaped leaves with silver markings and a dark green center. It adds a touch of elegance to any shady garden.
  • ‘Iron Cross’: Known for its distinctive iron cross-shaped markings on the leaves, this begonia adds a touch of intrigue to shady areas.

Tuberous Begonias

Tuberous begonias produce large, showy flowers and are suitable for full shade. They have a fleshy tuberous root and bloom from mid-summer through fall. Some popular varieties include:

  • ‘Nonstop Series’: This series offers a wide range of colors and produces fully double flowers. They are perfect for adding a splash of color to shady areas.
  • ‘Pendula Series’: These begonias have cascading growth habits, making them ideal for hanging baskets or containers. They come in various colors and are well-suited for full shade.

In summary, begonias can grow in full shade, and they actually thrive better in shady conditions. Remember to provide them with rich, well-draining soil and regular watering. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot. Monthly fertilization is also recommended to keep the plants healthy and vibrant.

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