We get asked about this plant more than any other at PowellsWood. For those of you who know what it is, you are a plant aficionado! For those who may have seen it at PowellsWood and wondered what it is, the answer is Begonia luxurians, also known as a Palm Leaf Begonia. The most common response we get when we tell people it’s a begonia is, “Really?!?” It may not look like the begonias you’re used to seeing, but a begonia it is, and a very cool plant.
The Begonia luxurians likes part-sun to shade, so it fits right in here in the shady gardens of our area. Though this plant is not hardy in the Pacific Northwest—it’s native to the rain forests of Brazil and is hardy only in USDA Zones 10 and above—still, it’s possible to keep this wonderful plant in this area for years. At PowellsWood, we’ve had our three plants for several years now.
Our begonias are permanently planted in large ceramic containers and we treat them much like houseplants. From late fall to early spring, we keep the plants indoors, in our greenhouse, where we water them about once a month so they don’t completely dry out. When temperatures begin to warm up in early spring, we bring the plants out in the afternoons to soak in some warmth, and put them back inside at night. It takes some effort to move the containers back and forth (a dolly works, or two strong people), but the plants appreciate it! At the same time in early spring, we fertilize the plants with a dose of bat guano and liquefied organic kelp. The kelp encourages a healthy root system. Once nighttime temperatures reach 55 degrees, the plants remain outside and “luxuriate” in the garden through the summer and into the fall.
Just before the first frost in late fall, we bring the plants back into the greenhouse. The tallest branches need to be pruned off so the plants will fit into our tiny greenhouse—these plants grow up to 8 feet tall—but pruning isn’t necessary if you have the space for them. If you do prune them, you can use your cuttings to propagate new plants—it’s a bit tricky but it can be done!
We are always looking for new and interesting plant combinations for the begonias—though this plant makes a statement all by itself! PowellsWood is open now through October so there’s still time to see this striking and unusual plant!This entry was posted on 08/24/2010 in Northwest Gardening Blog by PowellsWood