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Vermont Garden Journal: Begonias

Begonias are a popular flower because they are easy to grow and breed. Gardners love the wide variety of flower and leaf shapes, colors and sizes.

Begonias originally came from Central and South America and they gained popularity once they came to Europe in the 1700s. Today, Begonias are still popular among gardeners.

While grown mostly for show, begonias have been used medicinally to disinfect wounds, stop swelling and relieve tooth aches. Begonias are edible. The leaves are high in Vitamin C and the stems of tuberous begonias taste like rhubarb.

Begonias grow best in a shady, moist environment though new heat and sun tolerant varieties many grow fine in full sun. Begonias need well drained soil or they will rot. There are three basic types of begonias:

Fibrous rooted begonias

In this group, the wax begonia and angel wing begonias are most popular and often found at garden stores.

Rhizomatous begonias

An example of this type are Rex begonias which have insignificant flowers, but showy leaves. This type of begonia make a great house plant. Rhizomatous begonias are also easy to propagate; simply divide the pups that develop off the mother plant or just plant a leaf cutting.

Tuberous begonias

These begonias grow from bulbs and produce brightly colored, dramatic flowers. They grow well in hanging baskets in protected locations because rain and wind can damage the leaves and flowers.

For this week's tip: With our bare soil and fluctuating temperatures this winter, now is a good time to walk around your yard and look for perennial plants that have heaved out of the soil. Frost can push the crown of a plant above the soil line exposing it to drying winds. Gently tuck it back into the soil and mulch to protect it the rest of the winter.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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