The genus Begonia includes two thousand species from tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and also thousands of hybrids created by enthusiasts around the world. Begonia leaves can resemble ivies, ferns, aralias, grasses, and peperomias. They can be flat, pebbled, shiny, hairy, fuzzy or spiraled and almost any color or combination of colors. Flowers come in all colors but blue; they can grow as tiny single blossoms directly from a stem or as foot-wide clusters of hundreds of tiny flowers. Some tuberous hybrids have giant double blossoms ten inches or more in diameter. Begonias needing high humidity are grown in greenhouses or terrariums, while other types of begonias can be planted right in the ground. In some growing zones of North America and Europe, begonias are large landscape plants giving years of beauty and enjoyment.
Who makes hybrids?
Anyone who wants to learn how! There are professional plant breeders and hobbyist hybridizers all over the globe. Hybrids also occur in nature and are called natural hybrids, or hybrid species. For more info on this subject, click on this article: Natural Hybrids and Varieties
Why are cultivars created?
Most often they are made to improve a plant over older varieties, or to highlight some novelty. Ornamental hybrids of Begonias are created to improve disease resistance, improve flower size/color/number or create more attractive foliage, and if successful and marketable they will become cultivars. Once a cultivar is selected, hopefully it is chosen because it represents the best qualities of the hybrid.
Why do cultivars have to be propagated clonally?
When a hybrid is the combination of two plants with different DNA, it means that there is a mixture of DNA inside the hybrid plant. When you try to grow it from seed every seedling will be somewhat different, and that is not good when you want your plants to be 100% uniform. Check our article on Vegetative Propagation to learn more about clonal propagation