Hiemalis Begonia

Begonias are a beautiful and popular house and garden plant, and have been for many years. The variety of leaf and blossom colors and textures is beyond impressive, the plant is fairly easy going so long as it is kept warm, and in most cases propagation is very easy. Begonias typically come in two varieties; tuberous and wax. A relatively new hybrid of the two, Hiemalis, or Rieger begonias provide the beauty and charm of a traditional begonia, while combining the technical benefits of both varieties.

Enough with the geeky stuff.

Begonias were one of my Grandma Betty’s favorite plants. When preparing for her funeral last April, my aunts arranged a number of beautiful baskets of plants to decorate the hall, including several lovely varieties of begonia. At the end of the reception, we were asked to take plants from these baskets if we so desired. I selected two plants; Sophia, a pale pink blossom, with darker, outlined edges and rich, grassy green foliage, and Hilda, a rich red double blossom and beautiful dark green foliage with red hints. At the time, I was more concerned with having these plants from my grandmother’s funeral, and with getting them home on the airplane, than with what the little markers said about them. It wasn’t until later that the significance of this interesting hybrid made an impression.

Sadly, shortly after arriving home from the funeral, I discovered that Sophia was badly infected with aphids, and was unable to save the plant. Fortunately, the two plants had been placed in completely different rooms, so Hilda stayed safe from the bugs, and began to flourish in her north-facing window. Now, Hilda resides on the desk in my office. She’s under a bank of fluorescent lights that remain on all night, and hasn’t bloomed since her first few months in my possession. I’m afraid I’ve let her run a little wild, and she’s leggy and in need of some careful pruning, but she is still a thriving plant, and even without blossoms, she’s delightful.


What is most interesting to me about this particular hybrid? Because it is a cross between a tuberous begonia, propagated through rhizome splitting, and a wax begonia, propagated via cuttings, my Hilda can actually be propagated both ways. She’s looking like a few different plants right now, so I’ll be taking cuttings from her most impressive branches, and once they are established, I’ll dig the rest of her up and split the rhizomes. I’m also considering moving her daily to give her a night cycle and force blooming again, but I won’t do that until the new cuttings are established in good, fresh soil. Perhaps then I’ll be able to provide pictures in all her glory.

I never considered myself much of a green thumb. But suddenly both my sister and I are finding an interest in, and a certain amount of skill with, plants of various kinds. Perhaps it’s genetic. In any case, the older I get, the more my plants intrigue me, and delight me, and comfort me. Having such a lovely thing flourish under your care is quite a thing, and taking a few moments a day to trim, water, inspect, etc., as the case requires, is always a breath of calm.

With that in mind, I can assure you this won’t be the last time you read about these green beauties of mine.

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