By Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
The breeding elves at Terra Nova Nurseries have been busy! This holiday season, and every holiday season, the Begonia HOLIDAY series from Terra Nova stands up to the rigors of plant survival and color compatibility for indoor use during the winter months. Best of all, varieties in the Begonia HOLIDAY series do not have to be tossed like poinsettias. They are vigorous houseplants that can last for years!
All members of Terra Nova’s holiday season-themed begonias may look similar to the begonia rex group, but that is where their similarities end. Many have grown the B. rex hybrids, but they have found them difficult to keep happy because of their higher temperature requirements and specialized care. But, by crossing with new and unique begonia species, the Terra Nova breeding team, led by Chuck Pavlich, director of new product development, has created plants that are showy for a longer period of time; more resistant to disease; tolerant of cooler growing temperatures; and more tolerant of daily wear-and-tear in the home.
Select varieties from Terra Nova’s Begonia HOLIDAY and Begonia T-REX series feature showy foliage colors of red, green and silver, making them perfect complements to holiday decorations. Both series are happy with half-shade to full-sun exposure, temperatures from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and a well-draining soil mix.
Begonia HOLIDAY 'Jolly Holly'
This plant features masses of bright, shiny, holly-like leaves that are embossed with silver. Its red flowers add extra cheer for months, and the male flowers formed in winter never open and resemble holly berries. Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Jolly Holly’ tolerates a wide range of conditions and maintains its handsome foliage without stretching. These plants look lovely in terra cotta, which prevents the plants from being over-watered. Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Jolly Holly’ ultimately reaches 17” tall (22” in flower height), with a width of 19”. Plants thrive in U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zones 9-11.
Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Silver Bells’ has elegant, silver-topped leaves that sparkle like shiny ornaments. The plant’s leaves, which are narrow and deeply cut, are held by pink stems and form a dense habit. When placed in a 1-gallon container, there have been examples of Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Silver Bells’ growing 91 leaves and producing masses of coral buds that give rise to light pink flowers in winter. In contrast, most begonia rexes in the same size pot might have only 12 leaves. Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Silver Bells’ is compact and measures 9” by 16”. It is a prolific yet easy-to-grow plant, and its U.S.D.A.Hardiness Zones are 9-11. This beauty prefers shade, and it is important to turn this plant on occasion to prevent a lopsided appearance. One must also treat this plant as a conventional houseplant, providing even exposure and letting it dry between waterings.
Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Snowflake’ is a medium, mounding plant with lush, snowflake-shaped foliage. Its shiny, sterling silver leaves feature mint green centers. This plant blooms showy pink-to-salmon flowers that look like tiny angels. The bloom period is quite long; up to 2 months! Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Snowflake’ is beautiful when paired with red and white poinsettias, and they look lovely as a holiday-themed houseplant on the mantel or in the kitchen. In the garden, this plant is a knockout in a shaded niche. They are dense and measure 17” by 15”. Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Snowflake’ is one of the hardiest in the Begonia HOLIDAY series, living in U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zones 8-11.
This unusual begonia has broad, ghost-shaped leaves of glowing mint green and silver-white. It is vigorous, well-branched and can form an impressive 10″ basket. The red-pink flowers produced by the easy-to-grow Begonia SPECTRE Silver are long-lasting, pendant and showy. This is a broader-growing begonia than Begonia HOLIDAY ‘Snowflake’, measuring 16″ tall by 22″ wide. Begonia SPECTRE Silver is another U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zone 8-11 begonia, and it can star in a shady container or shady border. In the home, it requires some bright light, but it does not need full-sun exposure. All begonias, not just Begonia SPECTRE Silver, should dry between waterings.
Begonia T-REX ‘St. Nick’ is the showiest of Terra Nova’s holiday season-themed begonias, with its large, exotic leaves appliqued by a jolly-red center and surrounded by emerald green and white polka dots. This plant has a dense, shrubby habit and lovely pink flowers; plant enthusiasts love this begonia in indoor or outdoor containers. Begonia T-REX ‘St. Nick’ is excellent in the deep-shade parts of the landscape, and it provides a surprise when shrubs are underplanted with this little gem. It is important to turn this plant on occasion to prevent a lopsided appearance, and it should be treated as one would treat a conventional houseplant. This compact beauty measures 16” in height, width and flower height.
Dan Heims is a published author of two books and lectures around the world. In 2003 he won the Reginald Cory Memorial Cup from the Royal Horticultural Society. He was awarded the Award of Merit by the Perennial Plant Association in 2019, and the Luther Burbank Award by the American Horticultural Society in 2020.
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