Image by Arthur Chapman
By Jackie Rhoades
Begonia propagation is an easy way to keep a little bit of summer all year long. Begonias are a favorite garden plant for the shaded area of the garden and, because of their low light requirements, gardeners often ask if it’s possible to keep the cheerful little plants overwintering indoors. You certainly can, but annuals often suffer shock when brought in from the garden or the plants grow leggy after their summer outdoors. Why not use your garden plants to start whole new plants for your winter window sills by propagating begonias?
Begonia Propagation Info
The three most popular types of garden begonias are the tuberous types, which are large leafed and sold either growing in pots or as brown tubers for do-it-yourself planting; the rhizomatous, commonly called Rex begonias; and the old fashioned wax, which are known as fibrous rooted. While professional growers use different methods for begonia propagation for each of these types, we home gardeners are fortunate that all three types can be easily duplicated trough begonia cuttings.
It’s easy to propagate begonias with simple cuttings and every experienced gardener tweaks the basic methods to suit their own talents. There are two basic ways to propagate begonias through begonia cuttings: stem and leaf. Why not try them both and see which one works best for you?
Begonia Propagation from Stem Cuttings
My mother, bless her, could root just about anything by cutting four inch stems and placing them in a juice glass with an inch of water. She’d sit the glass on the windowsill over the kitchen sink so she could keep an eye on the water level and add more as needed. In a little over a month, her begonia cuttings would be sprouting tiny roots and in two they’d be ready to pot. You can try this method for rooting begonias, too. There are drawbacks, however. The stems sometimes rot, especially if the sunlight is too direct, leaving a mushy goo in the glass and tap water contains traces of chlorine, which can poison the young shoots.
For me, a more sure fire way of propagating begonias is to plant those four inch begonia cuttings directly into a growing medium. Rooting begonias this way gives me more control over the moisture content of the container. Use mature stems for cutting, but not so old they’ve become fibrous or woody. Cut just below a node. Carefully remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem. If you happen to have rooting hormone on hand, now is the time to dip the cut ends into it. If you don’t have any, that’s okay, too. Begonia propagation is just as easy without it.
Make a hole in your planting medium with a dibble stick (or if you’re like me, use that pencil sitting on the counter) and insert your stem into the hole. Tamp down the medium to hold the cutting upright. Rooting begonias aren’t fussy about the medium they’re grown in as long as it’s light and retains moisture.
Tips on Propagating Begonias from Cuttings
Many gardeners prefer to create a mini hothouse when they propagate begonias to keep the soil evenly moist. You can do this by covering the pot with a plastic bag or with a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off. A favorite of mine is to line your pot with a plastic bread bag with a few holes poked in the bottom for drainage. Fill with soil, plant, lift the sides of the bag up and secure with a plastic tie. You can regulate air flow and moisture by opening and closing the bag.
Propagate Begonias from a Single Leaf
For the larger leaved plants, begonia propagation can begin with a single leaf. With a sharp knife, cut a mature leaf from the plant where the leaf meets the stem. Now clip the cut end into a point. Follow the directions above only bury the petiole (leaf stem), not the leaf. Rooting begonias this way will give you a whole new plant grown from the roots that develop at the end of the petiole.
Whether you use these methods for a windowsill garden or to grow your own flats for next spring’s outdoor planting, or even to save that begonia stem that has been sacrificed to the wind, propagating begonias through stem or leaf is an easy way to save money and show off you green thumb.