Are Begonias Annual, Biennial, or Perennial Plants?

Thinking of adding some begonias to your garden, but want to know if they are annuals, perennials, or biennials before you start planting? These are common questions for flower gardeners of all experience levels. Find out what you can expect from these beautiful flowers, and how many seasons they will actually stick around for!

Begonia Grown Indoors

Begonias are one of the most endearing flowers you can grow in a garden or home. They have small petals on each blossom with prominent and shiny green leaves underneath. Blossoms are typically a vibrant red, but they can also be pink, white, or orange.

Begonias have a gentle and enchanting aura that brings life into every garden without adding a foreign or exotic feel. They are easy to grow, and come in many different varieties, giving you plenty of different options for your garden.

Begonias are the perfect flower for curating a homey environment with a beautiful pop of color. And the leaves also offer a darling shade of green that is anything but dull. Small petals overlap in several circles creating a bushy blossom in many instances. These flowers are sometimes compared to Carnations but have a softer appearance rather than a ruffled one.

The Short Answer

While most people classify Begonias as an annual flower, they can be grown as tender perennials under the right circumstances.

Growing them as an annual flower is a much easier process, but you have to buy and replant them if you want them every year. But if you are determined and tenacious, you can grow them as a tender perennial with a few overwintering tricks discussed further in this article.

Hardiness Zones

Tender Perennial
These gorgeous blooms are typically an annual, but can be grown as a tender perennial with the right conditions.

Begonias can grow as tender perennials in zone 9 or 10 climates. Zones 9 and 10 have high enough temperatures that they can survive year after year when they go dormant in the fall and winter. They are very common in these hardiness zones due to their hardy nature, and lengthier bloom times.

When grown in colder zones, they must be grown as annuals or houseplants. They can be grown as annuals in zones 2 through 8, meaning many people can enjoy them if they give them the proper environment.

Types of Begonias

Tuberous Variety
This tuberous variety is sure to dazzle in your flower garden.

There are two common types of flowering Begonias. There are tuberous Begonias that grow from bulbs as many perennials do, but then there are fibrous begonias. Fibrous Begonias grow with the typical roots that most people picture when they think of flowering begonias.

There is a third type of begonia, the rhizomatous. While they do flower, they are less commonly associated with the begonia flowers that most gardeners will grow, or keep in pots in their flower garden. So, for our purposes here, we will focus only on tuberous and fibrous begonias.

These two different types look the same when they grow, but they can handle different levels of cold and various growing environments. The section below will discuss overwintering Begonias and how the two types will differ when storing them during the cold months.

Overwintering

Overwintering
If you are hoping to grow your plant as a tender perennial, there are a few ways to do so.

If you’re committed to keeping your precious Begonias for next year, there are ways that you can prepare and store them for winter successfully. It is not always an easy feat, but it is certainly possible. Below are three ways to overwinter Begonias. Pay attention to the variety of Begonia you have because it often dictates your overwintering options.

Leaving Them in the Ground

Keeping Plant in the Ground
As long as you live in a climate that doesn’t drop below 50 degrees, you can simply leave your plant in the ground.

If you live in the right kind of climate, you can try to leave your them in the ground, and they could bloom when springtime rolls around. Make sure you live in an area that won’t drop below 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil watered but well-drained so that it doesn’t become too dry in the colder months.

Tuberous Begonias are more likely to survive in the ground if the temperature stays above 50 to 60 degrees. If you leave them in the ground and a frost catches you off-guard in the early fall or right before spring, the bulbs will likely take frost damage and die. Fibrous Begonias cannot survive a drop in temperatures outside because they are not as sturdy as the tuberous Begonias.

Growing Begonias in Pots

Growing in Pots
Growing your plant in a pot makes it easier to enjoy all year long.

Overwintering in pots or other containers is a wonderful way to keep them as tender perennials. This way, you can avoid digging them up or worrying about the temperature dropping. If you grow them in containers, then you can keep them outside, so they’re a part of your garden.

But when the fall weather comes, you can carry them inside to be safe and sound from the cold. Plus, you get to enjoy these lovely flowers inside and outside, depending on the season.

You can grow both fibrous and tuberous Begonias in pots. Growing them in pots is one of the best ways to ensure they return next year because you have so much control over their environment, including the soil. Make sure the pots you use give the bulbs and roots plenty of space to grow downward and soak up nutrients.

Digging Up Begonias for Storage

Dried Bulbs
Dig up your tuberous plant bulbs, dry them out before storing them, and plant back in the ground right before the next growing season.

This method for overwintering requires the most effort. But most gardeners like to get their hands dirty when caring for their plants. So if you’re a hands-on gardener, consider digging up the Begonias as fall approaches and storing them in a safe and warm place.

You cannot dig up fibrous Begonias. If you try, you will likely end up killing them. Some gardeners have the magic touch and can dig up and save fibrous plants from succumbing to frost, but if you aren’t 100% confident, don’t do it.

On the other hand, the tuberous variety of Begonias is the ideal flower to dig up. They are very similar to other tuberous flowers, like dahlias, which can be dug up, and stored overwinter. As long as you are careful while scooping up the dirt around the bulb, you can gently move the bulbs to storage.

To store your bulbs properly, dig them up, brush off excess dirt, and allow the bulbs to lay out on a shelf or table for a few days until they dry out. Drying them out will prevent them from rotting or growing mold over the cold months.

Once they are dry, you should put them in a cardboard box with dry packing material like sawdust, wood chips, or peat moss. Avoid plastic and rubber materials as they contain moisture and can cause rot. 

Growing as Perennials

Growing as Perennial
If your climate drops below 50 degrees, you can grow them indoors as perennials.

You usually cannot grow Begonias as a perennial outdoors in any climates that experience frost. These flowers simply can’t handle any frost and won’t be able to survive even the relatively cold months, let alone the dead of winter. But as discussed above, if you’re determined enough, you can help them survive over winter.

If you want to grow your begonias as perennials, the best option is to grow them inside. When you grow them inside, you can shield them from the frost and keep them in a warm and sunny environment. This way, you can avoid dealing with the process of overwintering.

If you live in a tropical environment, you may be able to grow them as perennials. But it would need to be a warm climate that never drops below about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Some say they can handle temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but this low of a temperature is risky, as tropical climates rarely drop this low.

Begonias are native to Mexico and supposedly warmer parts of China, but they thrive the closer they are to the equator. So even when grown indoors, you need to make sure they aren’t positioned near a drafty window or close to an external door that opens frequently. These beautiful flowers do not take kindly to the cold.

Pros

  • Enjoy them year after year
  • Hone your gardening skills
  • No need to buy new seeds or bulbs
  • Can last for years if properly cared for

Cons

  • More effort to maintain
  • Higher probability of failure

Growing as Annuals

Growing as Annual
Although they love bright light, try to limit direct sunlight for best grown and health.

Growing Begonias as an annual flower is much more straightforward, as they are typically annual flowers. When growing outdoors as an annual, you want to position them somewhere in your garden or yard where they won’t be in direct sunlight at all times, but will still get plenty of light.

The best area to plant them will be a spot that gets plenty of indirect sunlight. If you have a very sunny garden, try to place them so they receive morning sunlight but are in the shade by the afternoon. The afternoon sun is the strongest and may scorch the leaves.

Begonias do not need much water or fertilizer. Keep their soil moist and aerated, but make sure not to overwater as this could result in droopy, wilted blossoms. The soil should have high organic content and be well-drained. The right soil will ensure the roots don’t rot or become suffocated.

Pros

  • Less effort when frost approaches
  • Different flowers every year
  • Move them around your garden
  • Less hands on care

Cons

  • Have to buy new bulbs each season
  • Replant every year
  • Chance soil annually

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that Begonias are usually treated as annual flowers because they take a lot of effort to keep as a tender perennial. But if you love your Begonias and don’t want to see them go, keep this guide for overwintering handy. The more care and time you take to prepare them for winter, the more likely they will bloom again the following year.

Growing them in pots is the easiest way to keep them as tender perennials, so consider that option if you want them for years to come, but don’t want to struggle with storing them. Either way, Begonias are a beautiful addition to any home or garden.

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