‘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. peter says:

    Hi Margaret,
    I need to check the tags and make sure mine is a “Bonfire” (I think it is). I got it late last summer and I treated like a tuberous Begonia. I let it go dorment and stored it (in its pot) in the basement with my B. sutherlandii. Both are going strong and in full flower right now.

    Belated Happy Birthday!
    -Peter in Michigan

  2. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

    I haven’t grown it yet, but it looks good. I like how it has that lanky foliage, and I think red is great in the garden. The Buddha does look happier.

    Happy Birthday. Looking forward to your surprises.~~Dee

  3. Ted says:

    I grew it last year and put in a sunny window sill for the winter. It became rather leggy and not very happy. It’s starting to turn around a bit though not as nice as the ones I see for sale around.

    There seems to be a great resurgance in begonias on the market, to my great pleasure. I’m particulary excited about ‘Sinbad’, and angel leaf type.

  4. margaret says:

    Thanks to all on this…kind of makes sense that something so succulent looking would want to rest (as Peter suggests he did with it) rather than keep growing (as Ted seems to confirm wasn’t ideal). We will keep gathering advice, hopefully, and have all summer to get the details down.

  5. Layanee says:

    I did bring mine in last fall for the winter and it promptly went dormant. It is blooming quite nicely, if a bit leggy (time to trim), right now. I did have it in a greenhouse condition with overhead glass so I guess you would need supplemental lighting to keep it in flower through the winter.

  6. Nancy says:

    Purchased a beautiful Bonfire in May. First time I’ve ever seen one. No one can pass by w/o remarking on it’s beauty. Should I cut it all the way down in the fall before storing in basement?

  7. margaret says:

    Welcome, Nancy, to A Way to Garden. I am hoping Peter from Michigan will tell us more about his technique…or that another visitor who has succeeded will give us newcomers to ‘Bonfire’ some expert advice. At least it’s not the night before frost yet. Stay tuned!

  8. margaret says:

    Welcome, Ed. In case you check back in and can advise us further, do you cut it back in fall after letting frost take the foliage/stems or or leave it as is and put it in the conditions you suggest?

  9. ed says:

    It’s simply a compact Begonia boliviensis w/ a catchy, marketable name. It’s hardy to somewhere in USDA Z7, and I keep mine just above freezing as a dormant tuber for the winter

  10. Phillip says:

    I discovered this wonderful plant last year at Home Depot of all places and had it in mind this year for a prominent pot in my garden. Well, of course, HD didn’t have it this year! I should have known better and went ahead and ordered it by mail. I will know better next year. It was wonderful in my garden last year.

  11. margaret says:

    Welcome, Phillip, and good to hear your anecdote (even if a bit sad…sorry for your loss). I enjoyed my trip to your blog as well as a result. See you soon again!

  12. benjia morgenstern says:

    I just bought 2 at my local nursery in Salisbury, CT..They are potted up and sitting along side my trellis looking youthful but beautifully promising..I Winter in Florida and if all goes well..that’s where they will winter over! Thanxs for the tips..benjia

  13. robert says:

    Hi Margaret, just sold the last of these at work (Loomis Creek) it’s been one of our hits this season. We kept it over in the greenhouse and it never stopped blooming all winter…now it’s traffic-stopping with two foot sprays of flowers in its second year. It does seem to form a tuberous root or bulb but is much more vigorous than the plain B. boliviensis we’ve had in the past. Great plant!

  14. margaret says:

    Welcome, Amy, with news of the Bolivian pancakes! Now I am getting all excited about my life ahead with this plant in the family.

  15. Amy says:

    I grow Begonia boliviensis in my garden in Berkeley CA. It dies back to a fantasic pancake tuber. It gets bigger and more fabulous each year!

  16. cindee11461 says:

    I have not tried this plant but I want to after seeing the pictures. Yours looks very happy. I have had the fibrous begonias come back after wintering in the garden.I guess it depends on how cold the winter gets. I will watch for this one at my local nursery!!

  17. margaret says:

    Welcome, Cindee. No fibrous begonias overwintering in these parts, let me tell you. And I suspect ‘Bonfire’ will be snuggling in the house with me when the time comes, or sleeping in the basement with the cannas and dahlias and such. Hope to see you soon again.

  18. margaret says:

    Welcome, Sue, to the Bonfire Appreciation Society and A Way to Garden. Haven’t tried any of the above personally so will await any insights from others along w/you.

  19. Sue says:

    I also saw this plant for the first time this year. Couldn’t resist — doing wonderfully on my balcony despite the extreme heat of top-floor, east-facing. In Minnesota, so I will be bringing it in for the winter. Love it; don’t want to lose it; so, I’m checking for seed pods and also thinking of trying to root from cuttings. Anyone know if this will be successful?

  20. Kathy says:

    Hi Margaret, I am a little late with this reply but I want to put my vote in for the Bonfire begonia. I bought two last year but could not find any this summer. Back to pulling up Houttuynia!

  21. Manny says:

    hello, i live in Ottawa, Ontario and i just put my begonia Bonfire to sleep. What i have done is the same as for my tuberous begonias.
    I hope that i will still have them next spring.

  22. margaret says:

    Welcome, Manny. Thanks for your suggestion–treat them just like the tuberous ones, huh? I am watching to see what happens next with mine. Hope to see you soon again here.

  23. patti says:

    hi, have recently “found” your website. will be great to help the winter pass. the begonia , wildfire looks beautiful. what nursery sells them. we don’t get too many unusual things here where i live in eastern washington. looks like something the hummingbirds might be attracted too. i had my first visits from them this summer and hope they come back next year.
    thanks so much for a great site. i know i will enjoy and learn alot.

  24. margaret says:

    Welcome, Patti. ‘Bonfire’ is usually sold in garden centers in spring as a hanging basket or a large pot, already potted up and grown to a good size and in flower–the way you would get a big hanging basket of petunias or something that’s ready to show off right away. I suspect if you ask your local garden center whether they plan to have it, they will say yes…or if not, they can order it for you, as many good suppliers are wholesaling it now to garden centers. Glad to see you here, and do stop by again soon.

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