> (September/October 1993, pages 159 - 161)
by Beryl Clark
This group of begonias
is small, consisting of about 35 species and
35 cultivars to date. The name is taken from
their growth habit, "trailing"
meaning to grow to some length over the
ground, and scandent meaning climbing. They
grow somewhat like vines.
One would think from the
word meanings that this group are only
trailers, but this is not so. They usually
have many branches and send up basal shoots,
thus lending themselves superbly to hanging
baskets or to being trained up posts, a
trellis, or totem poles. Stems can grow eight
feet or more, while their thickness is quite
varied and the internodes are quite long.
leaf sizes and shapes
can be quite varied also, while the
texture/surface can be glabrous, hairy,
puckered, or pustulate. Most are packed with
small leaves and bloom in clusters, more or
less profusely, the flowering season varying
from plant to plant.
The first species in
this group to be discovered, B. glabra,
was found in the West Indies in 1775. Brazil
is the country of origin of Begonias
fagifolia (1836), radicans (1831),
and the beautiful fragrant solananthera
(1859). B. mannii was discovered in
1862 at an elevation of 1300 feet on the peak
of Fernando Po, an island off the coast of
These begonias are good
subjects to grow hanging from tree limbs.
Plenty of light is a must; they will even take
some sunlight, but not midday sun. Good light
will help produce a full plant with lots of
bloom. If leaf stems elongate, and the space
between the joints gets longer, you know the
plant wants more light. If the foliage pales,
the plant is getting too much light.
Potting is more crucial
than for some other begonias, because the long
pendulous stems are fragile. If you use
plastic pots be careful not to overwater. A
shallow container is best, because these
begonias are shallow rooted. Do not overpot.
Only pot up one size larger than the present
pot. Too much extra space can produce weak
plants and retain too much water, the result
being a "drowned" plant.
Soil pH should fall
within the 5 to 6.5 range. Use a reasonably
open mix, so as to get good drainage. A good
rule is to water only when the potting mix
feels dry to the touch; but if the weather is
hot or the plant seems to dry out faster
because it is in a hanging basket, water more
Staking is not
necessary, but pruning and pinching can make
the difference between a "so-so"
plant and a great one. Prune out the old stems
and long bare sections. Pinch stems often to
encourage branching and to obtain stems of
varying lengths, resulting in a shapely plant.
A good rule is to cut back the stems of those
with long internodes after the 3rd node; those
with shorter internodes after the 4th or 5th.
When flowering time is
nearing, leave the tips to produce and develop
the buds. A complete fertilizer used
throughout the active growing season should be
supplemented just before and during the
flowering season with a high phosphorus food.
begonias can be propagated easily using stem
cuttings, especially tip cuttings you create
when you pinch and prune. Check the Seed Fund
list and try growing some trailing-scandent
begonias from seed. Remember that seed from
species will produce plants true to the parent
I have over twenty
varieties of the trailing scandent begonias.
Some I have growing are:
noted for its powerful spicy fragrance, begins
blooming in mid-winter with red- centered
white flowers against heart-shaped apple-green
B. 'Marjorie Daw' was
one of the earliest hybrids - 1898 - its
parents being B. coccinea x B.
B. fagifolia is a
species from Brazil with white flowers in
spring. It has hairy leaves and a wonderful
zig-zag stem - try training it on a totem
hybridized in 1949 (B. radicans x B.
'Richard the First'), has light rose-red
flowers and is everblooming.
B. radicans, with
profuse deep coral flowers in early spring,
has graceful branching stems. Sometimes
referred to as the "shrimp" begonia,
it has also gone under the names procumbens,
glaucophylla, limminghei, limmingheana,
hybridized in 1978 (B. solananthera x B.
radicans) has pink and cream splotches on
an apple-green leaf. Flowers are pink, edged
ssp. rhopalocarpa, discovered in 1895
in Cameroon, a country on the western coast of
B. 'Yorke's Nocturne' a
Queensland hybrid and growing very profusely,
has glossy pustulated leaves edged in the
finest red/brown, cluster of white flowers.
B. 'Glenata', another
Queensland hybrid by Bernard Yorke, is again a
sprawling, profuse plant. Flowers are white.
B. 'Serinata', again a
Bernard Yorke hybrid, beautifully shaped
leaves. It should come along well on a totem
or up a wall.
B. 'Fragrant Beauty', grown and photographed
by Mary McClelland.
This article, which
appeared in the March issue of the Queensland
Begonia newsletter, was taken from a seminar
given at the Society's November 1991 meeting.