06
January
2020

The Betulia Begonias

BEG Betulia Bright Pink 6
Begonia ‘Betulia Bright Pink’

We sell two kinds of Rieger Begonias: old school and new school. Old-school versions are the classic ‘Red Baron’, ‘Netja’, and ‘Nadine’ varieties that you know from way back—they have big flowers on big plants that drape. This review isn’t about those Riegers.

Rather, we are going to talk about the new school version: the Betulia series. Scaled down and straightened up, these Riegers sit halfway in-between the Wax and the Rieger Begonias in their looks. They have a smaller and tighter habit with semi-double flowers, smaller but more generous. They don’t drape and they don’t hang like their old school cousins. These Riegers are better suited for projects where size does matter, like combos, boxes, and landscape plantings. As a result, they fit into more decor work you find in both landscapes and interiorscapes.

BEG Betulia Candy Pink 2
Foamy blooms across the top of ‘Betulia Candy Pink’

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

If the classic Rieger is considered grandiflora, then the Betulia would be considered the multiflora version of the same plant. It’s similar to the difference between bubbles and foam: at the end of the day they are both soap. Bred specifically as a series, Betulia is very consistent in height and spread from one cultivar to another—a feature we look for in a good, reliable series.

Equally important are the features that the Betulia inherited through the Begonia blood: a steady stream of blooms until first frost and particularly strong weather resistance. ‘Betulia Bright Pink’ has a nice fuchsia color and ‘Betulia Red’ is a dark blood red.

BEG Betulia Candy Red 1
Color coverage of ‘Betulia Red’—notice how low the color and foliage go

BETTER BRANCHING TO SIT UPRIGHT

Looking under the hood, we see how the breeder Koppe tinkered with the Betulia to make it a better retail and landscape Begonia. First, the plant branches out lower to the soil and more often. This improved habit allows the Betulia to sit more upright, like a pot plant, rather than spilling and draping like an old school Rieger. Branching early and often also makes the plant look lush on a retail bench or in a landscape bed.

This branching produces a second feature that we like as well: puffiness. We’ve talked about this quality before, and it refers to color that floats above the soil line. To accomplish this feat, the foliage has to go all the way down—neatly—to the ground. Betulia does a nice job in this regard.

BEG Betulia Candy Pink 6Betulia Candy Pink’ in decorative pottery 

SURPRISINGLY ROUGH AND TOUGH

We are also surprised at how well it bounces back from the inevitable accidents of business: a bump here, an oops there, or a fall to the floor. The plant isn’t perfect, and we can’t see accident resistance as a selling feature per se, but it is a reflection of the Begonia durability that’s baked into the series.

That durability turns out to be handy in other more subtle ways. For example, the plant has good weather resistance. If you fret about petals shattering in a rainstorm, you can rest easy with Betulia. If your planting crew confuses place gently and shove, Betulia can handle it.

BEG Betulia Bright Pink 2
Semi-double blooms of ‘Betulia Bright Pink’

THE DEMANDING COMBO

You could also call Betulia the combo or gift Begonia. It was bred specifically to handle the filler role of mid-sized projects. Old-school Riegers are vigorous and generous, so they fill out a large hanging basket easily. This is good when a single dramatic specimen is the vision, but many designers work in combos so they need components that play well with others.

Some combos have pretty demanding jobs to fill. Consider the arrangement on top of the wedding table where stains are strictly forbidden. Betulias store water in their stems, so you can ship a Betulia combo a little dry in the morning; the plant will still look gorgeous at the end of the evening without the need for attention. Weddings are not the only ferocious decor environments—inaugurations, award dinners, and other important gatherings often have equally strict rules to follow.

BEG Betulia Candy Red 7Betulia Red’ in an outdoor container 

AN INDOOR/OUTDOOR PLANT

That neat and tidy capability combined with Begonia’s natural love of lower light means this plant can move between landscapes and interiorscapes. Betulia is a candidate for window gardens in corporate headquarters or open space atriums. Frankly, it is a good old-fashioned summer/winter houseplant for the garden center—outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter. It’s big enough to be desirable, but small enough to be transportable. Sometimes the Betulias are referenced as patio or balcony Begonias, and that is pretty close to the truth.

As far as we can see, the only Achilles’ heel the Betulias have is light. Their best performance comes from the middle of the road with some sun and some shade. If you suffer under full blazing sun, turn to the Wax Begonias. If you are stuck in deep, dark shade, turn to the Rex Begonias, but if you are comfortable with Rieger, Illumination, or tuberous Begonias, you will have no problem working with the Betulias.

We sell the Betulia series as 4.5-inch pots in trays of 10.

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Diefenbacher Greenhouses is a supplier of annuals and creative green goods. We sell directly to Garden Centers and Landscapers in the Cincinnati Area. 

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