I have to share my hubby's secret trick that his mom once taught him to always having a pretty front yard: it's the boring old ugly begonia planting day.
Years ago when we were first married we lived on a tee-tiny budget, but always loved pretty front yards. Like, we adore them more than almost anything else in our home.
On a Sunday afternoon, you'll likely find us hunting down a local nursery, because checking out new plants is our absolute favorite thing to do. Our kids have grown up meandering the aisles of every nearby garden center, because it's free to look, and we both just love hunting down the perfect plant for the perfect place.
But beautiful yards aren't always all that penny-pinched. So early on we focused on plants that didn't cost much, but packed a powerful punch.
Enter the beloved begonia.
Now, if you look closely at just one on its own, it's kind of an ugly little plant.
In fact, the dark-leaved begonias are extra not-so-pretty by themselves.
But plant these little begonias in a row right together, water them occasionally when it gets warm outside, and goodness, what a happy landscape border you'll create.
(Isn't it funny how even our plants grow prettier when they grow up together in community? I'm thinking there's a lesson there . . . but I'll leave it just at that.)
The best part?
If you find a flat full of begonias right now, you can transform your yard on the cheap.
A 36-pack cell pack of begonias early in Spring will cost you $12.99-$16.99.
Wait a few more weeks though, and the nurseries will let theirs grow up, and charge you 2-3 times as much.
So word to the wise? Pick up your begonias (and any other annuals you just love!) early in the Spring.
How to Plant Begonias?
I'm so glad you asked!
Planting begonias is easy, just dig a 2″ deep hole, and plop that sucker right on in. If your plant has been at the nursery long (or it's later in the season), loosen up the soil a bit to break up the roots from wrapping around themselves. (You can tell if you need to break up the roots as they'll be running on top of each other making a spider web formation.) But, if it's early in Spring (like when we planted this weekend), you can just drop your begonia right in.
Depending on where you live, you may want to wait on planting your begonia until later in the Spring. When we lived in Alabama we planted mid-March, in Kentucky we planted in mid April, and in Ohio we tried to wait until Derby Day (the first weekend in May). If you're not sure when to plant, ask your local nursery to be sure, but the general rule of thumb is to wait until after your last frost.
Begonias grow best in warm sunny areas with well-drained soil. The soil we have here in Ohio is pretty good gardening soil, but we've planted these in our Alabama clay soil, and they thrived there as well! Water them twice a week if you don't get much rain, less if you do. Wait for the soil to dry out before re-watering. We use Miracle Gro plant food 1-2 times per month to help them really take off – we just order ours here!
We space ours with about 6-7″ between each plant, and over the summer one row completely fills in and creates the perfect edging. We don't measure, instead we just dig holes about a hands-width apart. One thing that helps is mulching – it keeps the soil from drying out as quickly and keeps weed growth down.
In just a few weeks your plants will begin to fill in, and by the end of the summer you might just be the envy of the block.
Do Begonias Like Sun?
Well, it depends. Our begonias do best where they get plenty of sun ~ but there are some varieties that do well in shade too. If you choose a dark-leaved begonia (like the Bada Boom Rose that we chose this year), it'll do great in full sun. (You can tell ~ the leaves are just on the darker side.) But, if you have a more shady area and want to try begonias out try out a lighter leafed begonia and you should be fine.
Do Deer Eat Begonias?
NO!!! THANK HEAVENS!
Deer do not eat begonias, which is the happiest little gift ever in our front yard. Where we live we have so many deer. We've struggled to keep almost any plant safe from the deer, but these hardly little begonias make it every single year.
Are Begonias perennials (and will they come back?)
Wax Begonias aren't perennials, and won't come back again next year outdoors. They can't handle a frost, so be sure to wait and plant them after the last winter frost.
(Um, we're a little worried that we planted these too soon because we may get a frost this weekend, but will tuck them in at night with a blanket if we need to!)
Tuberous begonias are hardier and the tubers can survive a mild winter if covered. Or you can winter indoors if you want to bring them back – you'll need to dig them out and replant inside.
Garden Supplies We Love:
Although I've never tried this, I've been told that you can take cuttings from a begonia and stick them in the ground and new roots will begin to grow!
You will want to try and cut right under a node that hasn't flowered. Choose stems that haven't grown woody and fibrous yet. You can also take a clipping and place on a glass of water and it will eventually grow roots. Reader Kate shares that you can even kick it up a notch by placing a little bit of indoor plant stick fertilizer from miracle grow in that water.
Find out more about how to propagate different species of begonias from leaves, roots and stems here!
Other Summer Annuals
We have tried oodles of other bedding plants in our front yard.
Impatiens. (They need way too much watering and sooooo little sun. They get leggy. And are just in general kind of temperamental little plants to deal with in many yards.)
Petunias. (We love a solid purple wave petunia and they work well in larger spaces. But good gravy, they're just about the most expensive annual you can find because they're rarely sold in single cell packs.)
Marigolds (I want to love them really, but just can't). And vinca (they get leggy too). So year after year we come back to these.
You can try whatever else you like, but I promise you'll come every time back for these.
(And I know, I know . . . perennials are the tried-and-true-penny-pinched way to go, but I adore these as border along our front beds. They just brighten up my mood every single day from May until almost October, so they're worth it for me!)
Next up in our garden series? Ferns (and how my smart hubby created this genius watering system). I've promised for years to have James write up this tutorial for you, so I promise it's next on the list ~ keep watching!
Here's a peek at a few other things I'm loving in our yard right now . . .
Our 3 Kwanzan Cherry Trees are all in bloom right by my office window and I simply adore them.
Our hostas are beginning to fill back in.
The viburnum bushes (the small flowering bush in the back), smell simply delicious right now.
And this cute girl of mine is growing right up too.
I hope you take time to get outside and enjoy your garden this week ~ praying a beautiful (sunny!) day for you!
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