Begonias are tender perennials, grown for their colorful flowers and foliage. Most begonias can be grown outdoors in pots, in the ground, or in hanging baskets in filtered light and moist, but well drained soil. Where not hardy, grow as annuals or indoors as houseplants. Most begonias can be propagated from leaf, stem or rhizome cuttings in addition to being sown from seed. The cultivar, ‘Elvira Swisher’ is a tall, upright begonia that has pink to mauve pendulous flowers and lobed, wavy, ovate green leaves that are silver flecked. The stem is cane-like with evenly spaced nodes. This plant enjoys filtered light but can take some sun in winter. Soil should ideally be moist. Begonias grow very well in peat-based compost also. Likes humidity. Does not like cold weather.
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Size: Height: 0 ft. to 4 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 1 ft.
Plant Category: houseplants, perennials,
Plant Characteristics: low maintenance, seed start,
Foliage Characteristics: medium leaves, evergreen,
Flower Characteristics: long lasting, pendent,
Flower Color: pinks,
Tolerances: heat & humidity,
Bloomtime Range: Early Spring to Late Summer
USDA Hardiness Zone: 10 to 11
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Light Range: Shade to Dappled
pH Range: 6 to 7
Soil Range: Some Sand to Clay Loam
Water Range: Normal to Moist
FertilizingHow-to : Fertilization for Young Plants
Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it(the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.
How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants
Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.
How-to : Fertilizing Houseplants
Houseplants may be fertilized with: 1. water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; 3. or organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are used every two weeks or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are carefully worked into the soil usually only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion, follow label directions. Allow houseplants to 'rest' during the winter months; stop fertilizing in late October and resume feeding in late February.
LightConditions : Dappled Light
Dappled Light refers to a dappled pattern of light created on the ground, as cast by light passing through high tree branches. This is the middle ground, not considered shady, but not sunny either. Dappled remains constant throughout the day.
Conditions : Light Conditions
Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.
You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.
Conditions : Filtered Light
For many plants that prefer partially shady conditions, filtered light is ideal. Good planting sites are under a mid to large sized tree that lets some light through their branches or beneath taller plants that will provide some protection.
Conditions : Moisture-loving Houseplants
Houseplants that require ample water, or those labeled as moisture-loving houseplants require that they be watered thoroughly until the soil is saturated and then drains freely from holes in the bottom of pot. Re-water when potting soil becomes dry to the touch an inch or so below the soil surface.
Conditions : Partial Sun, Partial Shade
Part sun or part shade plants prefer light that is filtered. Sunlight, though not direct, is important to them. Often morning sun, because it is not as strong as afternoon sun, can be considered part sun or part shade. If you live in an area that does not get much intense sun, such as the Pacific Northwest, a full sun exposure may be fine. In other areas such as Florida, plant in a location where afternoon shade will be received.
Conditions : Bright Light for Houseplants
Houseplants requiring bright light should be placed within 2 feet of an eastern or western exposure window or within 2 to 5 feet of a southern exposure window.
Conditions : Light and Plant Selection
For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.
WateringConditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants
Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
Conditions : Moist and Well Drained
Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.
Conditions : Outdoor Watering
Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.
* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).
* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.
* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.
Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants
Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
Conditions : Indoor Watering
Plant are composed of almost 90% water so it important to supply them with adequate water. Proper watering is essential for good plant health. When there is not enough water, roots will wither and the plant will wilt. When too much water is applied too frequently, roots are deprived of oxygen and diseases occur such as root and stem rots.
The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is frequency. Water well then wait long enough until the plant needs to be re-watered according to its moisture requirements.
* When watering, water well. That is, provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With containerized plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Avoid using cold water especially with houseplants. This can shock tender roots. Fill watering can with tepid water or allow cold water to sit for a while to come to room temperature before watering. This is a good way to allow any harmful chlorine in the water to evaporate before being used.
* Some plants are best irrigated by sub-irrigation, i.e. watering from the bottom up. This avoids splashing water on the leaves of sensitive plants. Simply place the pot in a shallow pan filled with tepid water and let the plant sit for 15 minutes to allow the root ball to be thoroughly wet. Take out and allow sufficient drainage.
* Use an unpainted dowel to help you determine when to re-water larger pots. Stick it into the soil ball & wait 5 minutes. The dowel will absorb moisture from the soil and turn a darker color. Pull it out and examine. This will give you an idea of how wet the soil root ball is.
* Roots need oxygen to breath, do not allow plants to sit in a saucer filled with water. This will only promote disease.
PlantingHow-to : Preparing Garden Beds
Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.
A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.
How-to : Pinching and Thinning Perennials
Once you plant a perennial, it does not mean that you will enjoy years of maintenance-free gardening. Perennials need to be cared for just like any other plant. One thing that distinguishes perennials is that they tend to be active growers that have to be thinned out occasionally or they will loose vigor.
As perennials establish, it is important to prune them back and thin them out occasionally. This will prevent them from completely taking over an area to the exclusion of other plants, and also will increase air circulation thereby reducing the incidence of diseases like botrytis and powdery mildew.
Many species also flower abundantly and produce ample seed. As blooms fade it is advisable to deadhead your plant; that is, to remove spent flowers before they form seed. This will prevent your plants from seeding all over the garden and will conserve the considerable energy it takes the plant to produce seed.
As perennials mature, they may form a dense root mass that eventually leads to a less vigorous plant. It is advisable to occasionally thin out a stand of such perennials. By dividing the root system, you can make new plants to plant in another area of the garden or give away. Also root pruning will stimulate new growth and rejuvenate the plant. Most perennials may be successfully divided in either spring or fall. Do a little homework; some perennials do have a preference.
How-to : Preparing Containers
Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.
Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.
How-to : Planting Perennials
Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.
The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.
To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.
To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.
To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.
How-to : Potting Indoor Plants
Make sure that the plant you have chosen is suitable for the conditions you are able to provide it: that it will have enough light, space, and a temperature it will like. Remember that the area right next to a window will be colder than the rest of the room.
Indoor plants need to be transplanted into a larger container periodically, or they become pot/root-bound and their growth is retarded. Water the plant well before starting, so the soil will hold the root ball together when you remove it from the pot. If you have trouble getting the plant out of the pot, try running a blade around the edge of the pot, and gently whacking the sides to loosen the soil.
Always use fresh soil when transplanting your indoor plant. Fill around the plant gently with soil, being careful not to pack too tightly -- you want air to be able to get to the roots. After the plant is in the new pot, don't fertilize right away... this will encourage the roots to fill in their new home.
The size pot you choose is important too. Select one that is not more than about 1 inch greater in diameter. Remember, many plants prefer being somewhat pot bound. Always start with a clean pot!
ProblemsDiseases : Rhizactonia Root and Stem Rot
Rhizoctonia is a fungus that is found in most soils and enters the plant through the roots or the stem at soil level. Prevention and Control: First of all, do not overwater and if you suspect Rhizoctonia may be your problem, decrease watering. If a plant is too far gone (all the leaves from the bottom up are wilted), remove it. If your plant is in a container, discard the soil too. Wash the pot with a 1 part bleach to 9 parts water solution. Fungicides can be used, according to label directions. Consult a professional for a legal recommendation of what fungicide to use.
Pest : Thrips
Thrips are small, winged insects that attack many types of plants and thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). They can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 300 eggs in a life span of 45 days without mating. Most of the damage to plants is caused by the young larvae which feed on tender leaf and flower tissue. This leads to distorted growth, injured flower petals and premature flower drop. Thrips also can transmit many harmful plant viruses.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down and use screening on windows to keep them out. Remove or discard infested plants, keep them away from non-infested plants. Trap with yellow sticky cards or take advantage of natural enemies such as predatory mites. Sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant. Consult your local garden center professional or county Cooperative extension office for legal chemical recommendations.
Pest : Spider Mites
Spider mites are small, 8 legged, spider-like creatures which thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). Spider mites feed with piercing mouth parts, which cause plants to appear yellow and stippled. Leaf drop and plant death can occur with heavy infestations. Spider mites can multiply quickly, as a female can lay up to 200 eggs in a life span of 30 days. They also produce a web which can cover infested leaves and flowers.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and remove infested plants. Dry air seems to worsen the problem, so make sure plants are regularly watered, especially those preferring high humidity such as tropicals, citrus, or tomatoes. Always check new plants prior to bringing them home from the garden center or nursery. Take advantage of natural enemies such as ladybug larvae. If a miticide is recommended by your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office, read and follow all label directions. Concentrate your efforts on the undersides of the leaves as that is where spider mites generally live.
Pest : Mealybugs
Small, wingless, dull-white, soft-bodied insects that produce a waxy powdery covering. They have piercing/sucking mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Mealybugs often look like small pieces of cotton and they tend to congregate where leaves and stems branch. They attack a wide range of plants. The young tend to move around until they find a suitable feeding spot, then they hang out in colonies and feed. Mealybugs can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Prevention and Control: Isolate infested plants from those that are not. Consult your local garden center professional or the Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal insecticide/chemical recommendation. Encourage natural enemies such as lady beetles in the garden to help reduce population levels of mealy bugs.
Pest : Whiteflies
Whiteflies are small, winged insects that look like tiny moths, which attack many types of plants. The flying adult stage prefers the underside of leaves to feed and breed. Whiteflies can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 500 eggs in a life span of 2 months. If a plant is infested with whiteflies, you will see a cloud of fleeing insects when the plant is disturbed. Whiteflies can weaken a plant, eventually leading to plant death if they are not checked. They can transmit many harmful plant viruses. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Possible controls: keep weeds down; use screening in windows to keep them out; remove infested plants away from non-infested plants; use a reflective mulch (aluminum foil) under plants (this repels whiteflies); trap with yellow sticky cards, apply labeled pesticides; encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden; and sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant.
Pest : Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails favor moist climates and are mollusks, not insects. They can be voracious feeders, eating just about anything that is not woody or highly scented. They may eat holes in leaves, strip entire stems, or completely devour seedlings and tender transplants, leaving behind tell-tale silvery, slimy trails.
Prevention and control: Keep your garden as clean as possible, eliminating hiding places such as leaf debris, over-turned pots, and tarps. Groundcover in shady places and heavy mulches provide protection from the elements and can be favorite hiding places. In the spring, patrol for and destroy eggs (clusters of small translucent spheres) and adults during dusk and dawn. Set out beer traps from late spring through fall.
Many chemical controls are available on the market, but can be poisonous and deadly for children and pets; take care when using them - always read the label first!
Fungi : Powdery Mildew
Powdery Mildew is usually found on plants that do not have enough air circulation or adequate light. Problems are worse where nights are cool and days are warm and humid. The powdery white or gray fungus is usually found on the upper surface of leaves or fruit. Leaves will often turn yellow or brown, curl up, and drop off. New foliage emerges crinkled and distorted. Fruit will be dwarfed and often drops early.
Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and space plants properly so they receive adequate light and air circulation. Always water from below, keeping water off the foliage. This is paramount for roses. Go easy on the nitrogen fertilizer. Apply fungicides according to label directions before problem becomes severe and follow directions exactly, not missing any required treatments. Sanitation is a must - clean up and remove all leaves, flowers, or debris in the fall and destroy.
Fungi : Leaf Spots
Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.
Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.
Pest : Scale Insects
Scales are insects, related to mealy bugs, that can be a problem on a wide variety of plants - indoor and outdoor. Young scales crawl until they find a good feeding site. The adult females then lose their legs and remain on a spot protected by its hard shell layer. They appear as bumps, often on the lower sides of leaves. They have piercing mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Scales can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Prevention and Control: Once established they are hard to control. Isolate infested plants away from those that are not infested. Consult your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal recommendation regarding their control. Encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden.
Fungi : Sooty Mold
Sooty mold is a fungus that is found on the surface of leaves. It feeds on honeydew excreted from aphids, mealy bugs, scale, or ants. Though not serious, it is unattractive when it covers/blackens the leaves and stems of the plant. The best way to control sooty mold is to control the insects that make the honeydew. Sooty mold can usually be wiped from leaves with a damp cloth or washed away with a hose-end sprayer.
MiscellaneousGlossary : Container Plant
A plant that is considered to be a good container plant is one that does not have a tap root, but rather a more confined, fibrous root system. Plants that usually thrive in containers are slow- growing or relatively small in size. Plants are more adaptable than people give them credit for. Even large growing plants can be used in containers when they are very young, transplanted to the ground when older. Many woody ornamentals make wonderful container plants as well as annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and bulbs.
Glossary : Evergreen
Evergreen refers to plants that hold onto their leaves or needles for more than one growing season, shedding them over time. Some plants such as live oaks are evergreen, but commonly shed the majority of their older leaves around the end of January.
Glossary : Perennial
Perennial: traditionally a non-woody plant that lives for two or more growing seasons.
Glossary : pH
pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.
Glossary : Growth Buds
Plant stems contain numerous buds that will grow and renew a plant when stimulated by pruning. There are three basic types of buds: terminal, lateral and dormant. Terminal buds are at the tips of twigs or branches. They grow to make the branch or twig longer. In some cases they may give rise to a flower. If you cut the tip of a branch and remove the terminal bud, this will encourage the lateral buds to grow into side branches resulting in a thicker, bushier plant. Lateral buds are lower down on the twig and are often at the point of leaf attachment. Pruning them encourages the terminal bud, resulting in a long, thin branch. Dormant buds may remain inactive in the bark or stem and will only grow after the plant is cut back.