‘bonfire,’ a begonia to believe in

begonia-buddha1I BELIEVE IN BEGONIAS for their cooperative spirit. Many possess an indoor-outdoor versatility, living happily with me (well, at least nobody’s said anything otherwise) in house and garden season to season. Even if I hadn’t been a Begonia Believer before, I would have converted instantly when I met ‘Bonfire’ (seen with a very old, very happy Javanese Buddha carved from volcanic rock, who seems even happier since ‘Bonfire’ moved in). Do you know ‘Bonfire?’

Apparently it will grow to be quite a large and spectacular creature, though I don’t have my own photo of that stage yet. Like most of the begonias I grow, ‘Bonfire’ has beautiful foliage, and even its stems are showy, with flushes of bronzy-pink to them. Also in true begonia fashion, it doesn’t want to be soggy but prefers well-drained conditions, and should be allowed to dry between waterings and will stand up to dry periods.

The Australian company that developed it, Anthony Tesselaar (who also brought us showy ‘Tropicanna’ canna and ‘Flower Carpet’ roses), says it can take sun or part shade, but doesn’t offer any “bringing it indoors in winter” instructions. I guess I will be coming up with my own protocol on that score. Anybody grown it and have any advice?

  1. Frank Gaither says:

    I purchased a Bonfire this year, I have it hanging under trees, I have raccoons in the neighborhood. They knocked it down, I am wondering if you can root the broken pieces. I did not know what it was when I bought it, This is a beautiful plant. Please let me know how to over winter it.


    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Frank. Sorry about the raccoons. Everybody here is trying to make havoc, too. Sick of it! The story on how I overwintered the plant is here. As for what you can root, I don’t know about the stems/leaves/etc., but it grows from a tuber beneath the soil surface, so I’d watch to see if it sends up more shoots from there. Don’t overwater it meantime. See you soon again.

    2. Susan says:

      I had it outside all summer in Kansas & Oklahoma. I have always had it in a very large flower pot with other plants. I brought it in for the winter as it was planted in a pot with a big tree -like plant. I actually forgot about it being there because it died back in the winter but low and behold in the spring it came right up reminding it was there! It has done that for 3 winters now. I have never propagated it by cuttings but am excited to try it as it is a beautiful addition to my flowers.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Anne. I don’t know what temperatures you get to but it blooms in a cool, sunny greenhouse here (50ish) or did last year (at a friend’s). It is supposed to be a hardy perennial in Zones 9-11, but whether it will give you nonstop bloom I don’t know; so many things (in addition to hardiness) affect that. See you soon, I hope.

  2. Bob says:

    I recently acquired one of these fabulous plants. I am really familiar with fibrous begonias but am ignorant about tuberous type begonias. Amy commented that she has it growing in her Berkeley garden. It sounded as though she leaves it in the garden all winter which is usually our rainy season. Since I live across the bay In San Francisco, I wonder whether Amy really does leave it outside with or without any particular precautions. Thanks.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Bob. It’s a great plant. Not sure if Amy will check back in coincidentally and offer up more details…but am crossing my fingers!

  3. Réjean says:

    Bonjour from New Brunswick, Canada

    As for “bringing begonias bonfire indoor for winter”, up here I have no choice to do so. I remove the bulbs from the hanging baskets they spend summer in and I keep them in a cool and dark spot in my basement from October to April. I remove as much soil from the bulbs as possible. In April I start them inside before transplanting them back in their baskets. They are currently starting to grow back for the fourth year. Beautiful and abundant flowers, less abundant when the plant is tall (over 40-45 inches). The flower attract hummingbirds… But I don’t find anymore for sale : – ( I want more of them…

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Rejean, and hooray! You certainly have the magic touch, four years in. Congratulations. I do about the same here in Zone 5B (US zones). I see that some of our US catalogs are selling them mail order (for big prices!) like White Flower Farm. I would think your local nursery could get them for you! Definitely ask them…be a pest like I am!

  4. I just discovered this beauty today and have been doing some research on it online when I discovered this page. Great resource. I wish the plants didn’t hibernate. It sounds like they go dormant even in warmer winter climates, or as houseplants. Is that right? I may buy it anyway because the flowers were just so beautiful, but I wish it kept blooming year-round!

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Raffi. I can’t imagine that they want a 12-month-a-year active growth phase…most things with tubers or similar structures developed that way to withstand a drought (or cold) period each year in their native habitat (or the native habitat of their ancestors), as I understand plant morphology. So I’d expect the tubers to want to be dried off to simulate that, yes.

  5. Valerie says:

    Yes you can take cutting from this plant and start new plants. I did this in the spring because when mine started to come back it got very leggy, after I cut it it did very well and I got many plants from the cuttings. Starting this from seed is difficult. This plant is also patented so you can not take cuttings and sell them.


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