Wax Begonia vs Tuberous Begonia: Key Differences Explained

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Begonias are a popular choice for gardeners and plant enthusiasts due to their vibrant colors and diverse varieties. Two common types of begonias that often spark interest are wax begonias and tuberous begonias. Both have unique features and care requirements, making it important to understand their differences when deciding which one to add to your collection or incorporate into your garden.

Wax begonias, also known as Begonia semperflorens, are the most common and easy-to-grow variety. They are characterized by their erect stems, glossy round leaves that may be green or bronze, and numerous small flowers in shades of red, pink, and white 1. Suitable for USDA growing zones 10 and 11, wax begonias are typically grown as annuals in most regions but can thrive as perennials in the right conditions.

On the other hand, tuberous begonias are a stunning choice with larger, showier blooms in a wide range of colors, including bi-colored flowers. They are cold-sensitive and typically grown in warmer areas where frost is not a concern 2. Although both wax and tuberous begonias are beloved for their beautiful flowers, the key difference between them lies in their growth habits and care requirements. An understanding of these distinctions will ensure a successful and thriving garden or indoor plant collection.

Wax Begonia Overview


Wax Begonia

Wax begonias, popularly known as semperflorens group, are common bedding plants recognized by their upright stalks and lustrous circular foliage. They often display green or bronze-colored foliage. The flowers of wax begonias appear in abundance, albeit diminutive various shades of red, pink, and white. These plants are typically grown from seeds and are cultivated although treated as annuals their life can be extended with appropriate maintenance.

Growing Conditions

Though wax begonias are primarily known as outdoor plants, they can also be grown indoors. They thrive in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, and can also be grown as perennial plants indoors. Wax begonias typically reach a height of six inches to two feet, offering edible blooms that vary in shade depending on the specific plant variety.

Care and Maintenance

Wax begonias have certain light and soil requirements. To maintain healthy plants, ensure that the lighting conditions match the specific type of begonia you have. In addition to this, it is important to use a well-draining soil or potting mix, as begonias dislike having their roots wet for extended periods.

When it comes to care and maintenance, here are a few important points to consider:

  • Choose the right spot for your wax begonias, providing them with adequate light, and soil conditions
  • Regularly check for signs of pest infestations or diseases
  • Monitor and adjust watering to prevent root rot
  • Prune dead leaves and flowers regularly to encourage new growth

By understanding the unique characteristics and care requirements of wax begonias, you can grow and maintain these beautiful plants in your home or garden.

Tuberous Begonia Overview


Tuberous Begonia

Tuberous Begonias are known for their eye-catching, vibrant flowers that come in a variety of colors, such as red, pink, yellow, and white. They typically have large, asymmetrical leaves that can be either smooth or textured. These plants can grow up to 2 feet in height, making them a stunning addition to any garden or indoor space.

Growing Conditions

These tropical plants thrive in warmer climates, specifically USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. When grown outdoors, tuberous begonias prefer partial shade and well-draining soil. As indoor plants, they need bright, indirect light and a pot with ample drainage. Keeping the soil consistently moist but not soggy is crucial for their wellbeing. They also enjoy high humidity, which can be achieved by placing a water-filled tray with pebbles underneath the pot.

Care and Maintenance

  • Watering: Tuberous begonias require consistent moisture but be careful not to overwater them. They are prone to root rot if the soil is too wet. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch, but do not let it become completely dry.
  • Fertilizing: During the growing season, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks to encourage healthy growth and vibrant blooms.
  • Pruning: Regularly deadhead spent flowers to prolong the blooming period and maintain the plant’s appearance. Prune any yellowing or damaged leaves as needed.
  • Dormancy: Unlike wax begonias, tuberous begonias have a dormant period during the fall and winter months. Allow the foliage to die back naturally, then store the tubers in a cool, dark place until the following spring.

By providing adequate attention, tuberous begonias will reward you with their stunningly colorful blooms and lush foliage, making them an excellent choice for both indoor and outdoor plant lovers.

Comparing Wax and Tuberous Begonia


Both wax begonias and tuberous begonias belong to the same plant family. They are popular among gardeners for their attractive foliage and colorful blooms. The flowers of these begonia varieties come in various shades such as red, pink, and white. Furthermore, they can be used as bedding plants or grown in containers.


Growth Habit

Wax begonias, also known as “semperflorens” group, are fibrous-rooted plants that have vertical stems and shiny spherical foliage, often green or bronze in color (source). They have small, but numerous flowers and are typically grown as annuals. However, through appropriate nurturing, they can be prolonged.

On the other hand, tuberous begonias have tuberous roots and require a dormant period during fall and winter (source). They are typically planted in containers in March so that the plants can be established before transferring outside in May.


Wax begonias can thrive in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11 as perennial plants, but they can also be grown indoors (source). They can handle sun and part-sun conditions, making them a versatile option for garden beds and containers.

Tuberous begonias, however, are sensitive to cold temperatures and are usually grown in warmer climates (source). As a result, they are more suited for areas without the risk of frost.

Care and Maintenance

Wax begonias are generally easy to care for; they do not need a dormancy period like tuberous begonias and can be potted up in the fall to be grown indoors (source).

Tuberous begonias need more attention due to their dormancy requirements. They need to be lifted and stored in a cool, dry place during their dormant period. Once the dormancy is over, they can be replanted, and their colorful display resumes.

Choosing the Right Begonia

Factors to Consider

When selecting the right begonia for your garden or indoor space, there are several factors that you should consider. Some of the key factors include the amount of sunlight needed, the climate or growing zone, and the type of growth habit.

For instance, wax begonias are suitable for USDA growing zones 10 to 11, and they’re generally planted as annuals in most regions. They can tolerate full sun to partial shade, making them an excellent choice for gardens that receive varying amounts of sunlight. Tuberous begonias, on the other hand, thrive better in the late summer, with a preference for more shade and less heat.

It’s also important to consider their growth habits. Wax begonias are known for their rounded mounds of blooms and foliage, which makes them a perfect choice for beds, borders, and containers. Tuberous begonias, however, have a showier display with larger and more brilliant flowers, making them great candidates for hanging baskets and other eye-catching arrangements.

Best Begonia for Your Space

To choose the best begonia for your space, carefully assess your light and temperature conditions. If your area has full sun to partial shade, wax begonias may be the better option. With their erect stems, glossy round leaves, and small but numerous flowers in shades of red, pink, and white, wax begonias are popular bedding plants, often seen in both beds and containers. Furthermore, they are low-maintenance, making them suitable for beginner gardeners.

For those looking to create a stunning visual impact in their garden or indoors, tuberous begonias might be the way to go. Offering larger, more vibrant flowers, they provide a magnificent display in hanging baskets and other settings where their unique beauty can be showcased. To successfully grow tuberous begonias, strive to maintain a climate with lower heat levels and more shade, especially in the late summer.

In summary, taking into consideration factors such as sunlight, growing zones, and growth habits will help you select the most suitable begonia type for your space, whether it be the versatile wax begonia or the showy tuberous begonia.

Common Problems and Solutions

Wax Begonia Issues

Wax begonias, sometimes referred to as semperflorens, are generally easy to grow and maintain. However, they can still encounter a few common problems.

  • Overwatering and rotting: One of the most common issues is overwatering, which can lead to rotting stems and roots. This bacteria thrives in damp conditions, causing the stems to become mushy and eventually breaking off at the stem base. To address this issue, ensure proper watering habits and provide adequate drainage holes in your pots. You can learn more about rotting stems here.
  • Diseases: Wax begonias may suffer from diseases such as leaf spot, which can affect the overall health and growth of the plant. To prevent leaf spot, keep your plants well-spaced for proper air circulation, remove any affected leaves promptly, and avoid splashing water on the foliage when watering.
  • Pests: Pests like greenhouse whiteflies may attack wax begonias. To control whiteflies, consider using yellow sticky traps and natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings. Be watchful for infestations and treat the affected plants with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Tuberous Begonia Issues

Tuberous begonias are susceptible to a few particular problems, including:

  • Exposure to direct sun: These begonias prefer more shade than their wax counterparts. Too much direct sunlight can wilt their delicate petals or cause the colors to fade. To prevent this from happening, grow your tuberous begonias in a location with indirect light or partial shade. Learn more about proper sunlight conditions here.
  • Flowering issues: If your tuberous begonia isn’t flowering, it might be due to insufficient light or incorrect watering practices. Ensure your begonia receives enough filtered light and maintain a consistent watering schedule, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings.
  • Diseases and pests: Similar to wax begonias, tuberous varieties can also suffer from diseases like leaf spot and pests like whiteflies. Follow the same prevention and treatment methods mentioned for wax begonias to keep tuberous begonias healthy. You can find more information on treating common begonia problems here.

Remember that maintaining optimal growing conditions and promptly addressing any issues can ensure the health and beauty of your begonia plants.

Propagation and Hybridization

Wax Begonia Propagation

Wax begonias, also known as semperflorens group begonias, are popular bedding plants characterized by their erect stems, glossy round leaves, and small but numerous flowers in various shades of red, pink, and white1. These plants can be propagated easily through vegetative methods, such as shoot and leaf cuttings.

To propagate wax begonias through shoot cuttings:

  1. Take a 3-4 inch stem cutting with at least one leaf node.
  2. Remove any lower leaves and dip the cut end in rooting hormone (optional).
  3. Insert the cut end into a moist potting mix or perlite.
  4. Cover the cutting with a clear plastic bag or dome to maintain humidity.
  5. Place the cutting in a bright, indirect light area and keep the medium moist.

Cuttings usually root within a few weeks, and once new growth is visible, you can remove the plastic covering and repot the new plant if desired.

Tuberous Begonia Propagation

Tuberous begonias, on the other hand, were developed through propagation and hybridization in the 1850s and are known for their large flowers. They are native to the forests of Bolivia, Peru, and the Andes of South America. These plants can be propagated through various methods, such as tuber and rhizome cuttings.

Tuberous begonia propagation follows these steps:

  1. Choose a healthy tuber with visible dormant buds (also known as eyes).
  2. Divide the tuber into sections with a sharp, sterile knife, ensuring each section has at least one eye.
  3. Allow the cut surfaces to dry and callus over for a day or two.
  4. Place the tuber sections in a tray with moist peat moss or vermiculite, with the eye facing upward.
  5. Store the tray in a warm, dark location, and keep the medium slightly moist.

Once the tuber begins to sprout and grow roots, you can replant it in a pot or garden bed.

In summary, both wax and tuberous begonias can be propagated relatively easily. Wax begonias primarily rely on vegetative methods such as shoot and leaf cuttings, while tuberous begonias can be propagated through tuber and rhizome cuttings. Both propagation methods require minimal equipment and knowledge for successful results.


Wax begonias and tuberous begonias each offer their unique features and characteristics, making them suitable for different gardening needs. Knowing their differences allows garden enthusiasts to make an informed decision when choosing the right begonia species for their needs.

Wax begonias, belonging to the Semperflorens group, are popular for their glossy round leaves, which come in green or bronze colors, and dainty flowers that appear in red, pink, and white shades. Often grown as annuals, they can be prolonged by carefully transferring them indoors in pots during the fall. These shade-loving plants can tolerate more sunlight when they have darker, bronze foliage.

Tuberous begonias, on the other hand, have larger and more dramatic flowers, with varieties in an array of colors, including yellow, orange, and even bicolor options. Unlike the fibrous-rooted wax begonias, tuberous begonias experience a period of dormancy, requiring the removal and storage of tubers in a cool, dry place during winter months. They thrive in shaded areas with well-draining soil and plenty of moisture.

In terms of care, wax begonias are generally easier to maintain, making them ideal for beginner gardeners. Tuberous begonias may require a bit more attention to their specific needs, such as their dormancy period and moisture requirements, but they reward gardeners with stunning, diverse blooms that add a lush visual interest to any outdoor space.

Ultimately, both wax and tuberous begonias shine in their unique ways and can transform any shaded garden or container with their distinct foliage and floral displays. By understanding their differences and care requirements, you can ensure your begonias’ success and enjoy their captivating presence in your garden.

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