In winter, lush blooming potted begonias are often presented instead of a bouquet, and discarded when flowering ends. Varieties of the popular Elatior (or Riger) group and the rather rare Lorrain group can be classified as winter flowering varieties. However, these begonias are not disposable flowers, although they are not very durable, they are still perennial plants. They can be renewed every few years by rooting cuttings.
The common parent for these groups was Socotran begonia (Begonia socotrana), discovered on the island of Socotra (which is located in the Indian Ocean, near Somalia), in 1880 by the Scottish botanist Isaac Bailey Balfour. A very interesting and unique begonia that grows in the Socotra mountains at an altitude of 900 m above sea level, and is the only begonia in a fairly vast region of Africa. The closest place of growth of another representative of the genus begonia is only in Ethiopia.
This herbaceous plant is about 30 cm tall, has round thyroid leaves and showy six-petal pink flowers. In hot and dry summers, begonia dies off, leaving tiny "onions" - presumably formed by several stipules that cover the vegetative bud. They fall into cracks in rocks, germinate under favorable conditions, and bloom magnificently in winter. This is how the species adapted to survival in an environment atypical for begonias.
Flowering begonia, or Elatior, or Rieger (Begonia x elatior) - according to the international classification of varieties, it belongs to the tuberous begonias of the Hiemalis group - winter begonia (Begonia x hiemalis).
The first hybrids of this group were created in England back in 1883 from the crossing of a hybrid tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida) and the Socotran begonia brought by Balfour (V. socotrana). However, they were difficult to grow, they were highly susceptible to various diseases and therefore did not become widespread.
In 1955, the German gardener Rieger managed to create a new, significantly improved series of Hiemalis hybrids called Elatior. Subsequent commercial cultivation allowed for a huge number of varieties, differing in color, size and shape of flowers, as well as more resistant to fungal diseases, now known as Rieger begonias or Elatior. These cultivars were bred by crossing the tetraploid tuberous begonia and the diploid begonia of Socotran, and are triploid, and therefore sterile hybrids. They can only be propagated vegetatively, for which the method of in vitro clonal micropropagation is used for industrial cultivation, and at home they are propagated by cuttings.
Elatior begonias are compact evergreen perennials with thick reddish stems, small glossy asymmetrical leaves, large flowers and abundant long flowering. They do not form tubers and do not die off for the winter. They are classified as tuberous begonias solely because of their pedigree.
If there is enough light, then Elatior begonias can bloom at any time of the year. They are most often grown indoors, some varieties can withstand direct sun and grow well in the summer outdoors.
They come to us from Holland, the most frequently sold varieties: Berseba, Baladin, Barkos, Borias, etc. The modern Bodinia series is distinguished by double, corrugated flowers along the edge, represented by pink, yellow, white, orange color. It is these varieties that are usually grown in indoor and greenhouse conditions.
Begonia Lorrain (Begonia x lorraine) - another group of winter-flowering begonias, according to the international classification, belongs to the tuberous begonias of the Сheimantha group (Begonia x сheimantha)... The first such begonia was obtained in 1891 in France from the crossing of Drega's begonias (Vegoniadregei ) and the same Socotran begonia (Vegoniasocotrana), the hybrid was named Gloire de Lorraine. The time of its flowering fell on the winter. However, the variety was not widely spread due to the difficulties of cultivation. Subsequently, backcrossing with the original species was carried out and new varieties with improved characteristics were selected from the offspring, which became known under the general name Christmas begonia, and since 1940 are classified as Begonia x сheimantha... However, the name Lorrain begonia for this series of hybrids is still widely used.
These begonias are characterized by small, almost rounded, light green leaves with a reddish spot at the base of the petiole. The plant forms a wide, low, spreading bush. Flowers are non-double, often in pink tones, collected in drooping inflorescences. Flowering usually occurs in winter. These begonias do not form tubers and characteristic caudex thickenings and do not have a pronounced dormant period. Propagated by cuttings. They are identified in the group of tuberous begonias only due to their origin from the so-called semi-tuberous begonias of Drega. Recently, these varieties have become not so popular, but they are found in the collections of begonias lovers.
Winter flowering begonias care
Unlike Tubergybrids, Elatior and Lorrain begonias require less fresh air and grow well indoors. The conditions for their cultivation are similar.
What to look for when buying Elatior begonias. Be sure to remove the decorative wrapping and carefully examine the leaves and base of the stem. The leaves should not have large, weeping spots with a gray fluff. This is a gray rot, which begonias are highly susceptible to. The base of the stem should be smooth, shiny, evenly colored, yellowish or slightly reddish, without brown spots or dents. Inspect for pests, be sure to look into the flowers for thrips.
After the purchase, begonias can shed some of the flowers, this is due to stress due to transportation and frequent changes in conditions. Usually they quickly regain buds and bloom as long as they have enough light.
Light bright is necessary, but the summer direct midday sun should be avoided. Some varieties of Elatior begonias, after gradual adaptation, are able to withstand direct sun, in summer they can be planted in flower beds. In winter, we must provide them with the brightest place. Begonias are short-day plants. Daylight hours less than 13 hours will stimulate the formation of flower buds, and more than 14 hours will lead to vegetative growth. In summer, a slight reduction in daylight hours may be required, and in winter it is advisable to organize artificial illumination to ensure the required intensity and duration of daylight hours about 10-12 hours. Begonia Elatior can bloom almost all year round if provided with sufficient intense light, and a short period of short days will stimulate the formation of flower buds at any time of the year.
The flowering time of the Lorrain begonia falls in the winter, which is why it is often called the Christmas begonia. If you shorten the daylight hours in summer, then you can wait for flowering at this time of the year.
Temperature... Begonias do not tolerate heat well. The optimum temperature of the content is within + 20 + 22 ° C during the day and about + 12 + 15 ° C - at night. On hot days, keep the plant in an air-conditioned room, but not under a stream of refrigerated air.
Air humidity. Begonia prefers a humidity of at least 50%. Direct spraying on the leaves is not recommended, humidify the air with a fine spray next to the plant twice a day. When using a humidifier, do not place it in the immediate vicinity of the plant.
Watering regular but moderate.Begonias are afraid of waterlogging, stagnation of water in the ground. Water on top with warm, settled water and only after the top layer has dried, trying not to get on the base of the stem and leaves. Be sure to drain excess water from the sump 15 minutes after watering.
Top dressing applied from spring to autumn, when begonia is actively growing, with complex fertilizers for indoor plants (NPK = 15-30-15) in a half dose.
Soil and transplant. Begonias need a loose, well-drained substrate. For their cultivation, ready-made universal slightly acidic peat soil with the addition of perlite up to 1/3 of the volume of the mixture is suitable. The pots should not be large - transplant in the spring by neat transfer into a pot of the next size (2 cm wider), if the roots have mastered the lump well. Too heavy, dense soil and a large volume of soil can lead to waterlogging, root disease and stem rot.
Read more in the article Transplanting indoor plants.
Bloom. Elatior begonias and Lorrain begonias are called winter-flowering, as opposed to summer-flowering Tuberhybrids. It takes a short daylight hours (less than 12-13 hours) to stimulate the setting of flower buds. Cool temperatures at night also stimulate flowering. Such conditions develop naturally in autumn, and therefore flowering occurs in winter. For a full-fledged lush flowering, bright light is needed, with insufficient lighting, flowering will not occur or will be scarce and short-lived. If the plants are provided with intense light and a short daylight hours, then flowering can be caused at any time of the year, on which the year-round industrial cultivation of Elatior begonias is based. Under favorable conditions, flowering can last for several months, Elatior begonias are able to bloom almost all year round. With the end of flowering, you should remove the old peduncle, shorten too long shoots, if necessary, take cuttings for rooting.
Pruning and shaping... Old leaves and faded peduncles must be removed in time. Small pruning should be done when flowering is complete. Winter flowering begonias, Elatior and Lorrain are perennial herbaceous plants. But they are short-lived, after a few years the bushes lose their decorative effect and require renovation.
Reproduction produced in a vegetative way, by rooting stem cuttings. But like any begonias, these varieties can be grown from leaf cuttings using the technology of propagation of rhizome begonias. However, this will take much longer.
Cuttings can be taken immediately after the end of the flowering shoot. Or pre-soak the plant under long daylight hours to stimulate vegetative growth. For rooting, apical shoots 5-7 cm long are suitable. The bottom leaf is removed, the cut is allowed to dry a little, powdered with dry Kornevin and planted in slightly moistened peat soil with perlite. The planted stalk is placed in a greenhouse. The optimum rooting temperature is about + 20 ° C. Daylight hours should be about 16 hours. Can be rooted in water, carefully monitoring its purity. Cuttings taken from recently purchased Dutch plants do not root well, the plants are still under the influence of various stimulants that interfere with rooting. They will begin to take root well only after 6-12 months.
Read more about grafting - in the article Cutting indoor plants at home.
Sometimes on sale you can find seeds of hybrids of the first generation F1 begonias, from which you can grow begonias Elatior and Lorrain. But the varietal plants themselves do not give seeds.
Diseases and pests
Mealybugs, aphids, thrips, spider mites can parasitize begonias.
Begonias are susceptible to gray rot (large weeping spots with a gray fluff on the leaves) and powdery mildew (large whitish spots on the upper side of the leaf, sometimes with a small fluff). Remove affected leaves and treat with an appropriate fungicide.
More about plant protection - in the article Houseplant pests and control measures.
Possible growing difficulties
- From direct sun on the leaves, burns may appear in the form of brown or copper-colored spots.
- Dry leaf edges arise from too dry air.
- Water contact with leaves can cause fungal diseases.
- Overdrying the soil, especially in hot weather, can contribute to powdery mildew.
- Excess fertilizer causes the leaves to curl and change color.
- Overmoistening, especially in combination with hypothermia, causes wilting and death of the plant. Rotting of the base of the stem is often observed.
- Lack of light causes stretching of shoots, lack of flowering, yellowing of leaves.
- Avoid direct cold drafts, and do not place the plant near a heater, air conditioner, or humidifier.