Begonia sizemoreae

Everyone wants to look like a hero. We all try to leap tall buildings with a single bound. That’s one reason why I love Begonia sizemoreae. Grow this species from Vietnam, and everyone will assume you’re superhuman. They’ll take one look at this begonia and think your thumb glows green.

It looks finicky. It appears to be a problem child. Truth of the matter is = this is one of the easiest begonias to please. No sweat whatsoever. Not even a bead of perspiration broke on my forehead throughout my two year love affair with this little number.

One reason why I even gave this persnickety-looking species a try is because it’s in the rhizomatous group. I veer away from rex begonias. Avoid ‘em like the plague. I don’t need that sort of angst and neither do you. I don’t care how gorgeous they happen to be — nothing’s pretty about a plant plagued by powdery mildew.

Rhizomatous begonias are much easier to entertain in the average home (not that anything about me is normal, but still…). And the diversity of this group is outlandish. Talk about textures — rhizomatous begonias go the gamut.

So, side by side against a bunch of darn good-looking plants, B. sizemoreae happens to be one of the most handsome. Who wouldn’t fall for this lovely thing with wall-to-wall whiskers and bands in different shades of green? I found it at Lauray of Salisbury (www.lauray.com), we eloped (just kidding — our union had Judy Becker’s blessing), and it’s been slowly (very slowly, very very very slowly) adding leaves. This year, mine sent up sparkling pink flowers in midwinter. Although it looks like the sort of plant that needs warm temperatures and high humidity, not so. In fact, mine is pregnant. If I can do it, so can you.

My advice would be not to overwater. And don’t make it swim in a large container — mine wears tight shoes. Indirect sun works best, but there have been times when unbridled sunbeams fell on its windowsill with no harm done. And rather than soilless mix (don’t get me started on why soilless mix is misguided), give it a potting medium with some oomph — I grow organically in a mix with compost included. But really, what looks like Mission Impossible is really a cakewalk. However, don’t tell all your admirers that victory was a snap. Let them worship…

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10 Responses to Begonia sizemoreae

  1. Lisa from PA says:

    Wow! That’s a begonia? With whiskers no less. Pretty amazing texture and detail. Oh, and cool baby bump!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Love it, Lisa! Never thought of it that way = but she’s definitely got a baby bump beyond your usual little swelling. And when was the last time you saw a bright red baby bump on a begonia? I say that she’s glowing with motherhood (I hope).

  2. So pretty!
    Also, I’m a fan of your writing and really enjoyed your article in Country Gardens magazine, Growing a Legacy.
    Stacey

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Talk about pretty = your blog (http://www.downtoearthdigs.wordpress.com) is gorgeous. And that vegetable garden is incredible. Welcome aboard Stacey. And thank you — I’m shy about putting my garden “out there” compared to some of the masterpieces and garden icons I write about (like Tasha Tudor — talk about a hard act to follow). But the feedback from that article was so heartwarming. I thank everyone.

  3. Lauri Aibel says:

    Your presentation at Berkshire Botanical Gardens was full of handy information so thank you again for that. Love B. Sizmoreae and may have to take a ride to Lauray. So what should I expect when a begonia is expecting? Will it be more flowers from the same plant?

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Wasn’t the Begonia Workshop fun? I could’ve gone on and on about begonias until the cows came home. So glad that you learned from it. Better call Lauray and make sure they have B. sizemoreae in stock before making the trek — it’s a rarity and she only had one when I was there (and it’s mine now). But that was 2 years ago, she might have more now. I didn’t hand pollinate B. sizemoreae, but I’m hoping to get more little baby sizemoreaes. If so, they’d look just like mama. But if you hybridized, you’d come up with all sorts of combos. Breeders usually pick a trait that they want as a goal = like fragrance, or spots, or red flowers, or disease resistance and breed with that goal in mind.

  4. Mo'a says:

    Beautiful…I come from a long line of Begonia loving women. The Angel and Rex have been the centerpieces of our indoor gardens. My particular favorite is the showy Escargot Rex Begonia…Powdery mildew?….I am whispering so that my Escargot and the other Rexes do not hear…they do not know anything about that…perhaps it is just an amateur’s luck that not one of my Rexes have had that problem.
    Now you have done it :) When I come back from lunch with friends, I will scour the net for Rhizomatous Begonias particularly this little beauty, your B. sizemoreae.
    This is such a beautiful post, your photos are amazing.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Don’t get me started on rhizomatous begonias I love, Mo’a because the list would easily fill up a hard drive. Sounds like you’ve struck the gene pool for mildew-resistant rexes. Lucky you. What ‘Escargot’ doesn’t know, won’t hurt it.
      LOVE your felt figures, Mo’a. Everyone = check out http://www.moaromigboyles.com for the most creative artistry you’ve ever discovered. Her work is like finding another kingdom…

  5. Lisa says:

    I would like to get you started on soilless mixes. Tell me why you don’t like them?

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Okay, you asked me to spout off on soilless mixes, Lisa, and here goes = When you garden outdoors, you build up the soil, right? Well, the same theory extends to houseplants. Plants grown with no nutrition in the soil are like people who eat junk food but get their nutrition from vitamins. If you ate nutritious food, you’d be healthier. I think plants grown in mixes with compost and loam included look better. And I feel that soilless mixes were really just developed to aid shipability and transport of potted plants. I don’t mind lugging around a slightly heavier plant with nutrition included. But that’s just my opinion…

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