BEGONIA ‘ENCANTO ORANGE’: A VISUAL ORANGE DELIGHT

Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’ Annual Hanging/Container Plant

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Pros: Fine ratio of foliage to delicate orange blooms.  An effective hummingbird magnet.  Visually striking in both container and hanging applications.  Does well in full-sun to part-shade.  An undeniable ‘Encanto’ (Spanish for “delight”).

Cons: Last year, my local greenhouse sold-out of their ‘Encanto Orange’ inventory within two days – shop early!

Despite our chilly predawn temperatures, I spotted the season’s first Ruby-Throated hummingbird just before sunrise.  With the deck plants potted and arranged, the word will spread – in past seasons, I’ve seen as many as five hummingbirds darting between blossoms at one time.  Often, these plucky aerialists will work the crowd of flowers as they tolerate and ignore small groups of us deck-dwelling humans.

The Ruby-Throated hummingbird is one of two varieties that summer in Maine.
The Ruby-Throated hummingbird is one of two varieties that summer in Maine.

Not Your Average Begonia

Back in the twentieth century, the begonia was a dowdy, waxy-leafed succulent appropriate only to locations featuring full-shade.  In the past few years, more versatile, sun-tolerant varieties have hit the market – to the delight of both the city and country gardener.

The Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’ (Boliviensis) is a showy, moderate-to-fast-growing annual that is well-suited to hanging and container applications.  While its flower drape and cascading habit resemble the Fuschia, the cheery, soft orange blooms are bee, butterfly and hummingbird friendly.

Hummingbirds are attracted to bold colors - including this coral pink geranium.
Hummingbirds are attracted to bold colors – including this coral pink geranium.

Care And Feeding

Once established, the Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’ is relatively low-maintenance. As is the case with most annuals, it prefers a quality growing medium that drains well.  I find they do best when maintaining an even-watering program in dry or full-sun conditions.  Water when soil surface is dry, but – as with any container plant – never over-water or allow the soil to dehydrate.

As with Begonia Encanto Orange, Martha Washington geraniums have similar care requirements.
As with Begonia Encanto Orange, Martha Washington geraniums have similar care requirements.

For convenience, I like to display groups of annuals that are sturdy and require similar care.  The current crop of hybrid geraniums fit this description and many feature the flashy, vibrant neon colors that hummingbirds love.

Plants such as petunias that flower profusely all season tend to be heavy feeders.  Though the Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’ will flower steadily, it appreciates an application of quality plant food every four-to-six weeks.

The bamboo-shaped leaves of the Begonia Encanto Orange evoke a Japanese garden atmosphere.
The bamboo-shaped leaves of the Begonia Encanto Orange evoke the atmosphere of a Japanese garden.

According to D.S. Cole Growers, a nighttime temperature in the 60s is preferable, but it successfully tolerates our less-tropical climate conditions here in northern New England.

Aesthetics

Resembling Fuschia, the Begonia Encanto Orange presents itself in a cascading fashion.
Resembling Fuschia in structure, the Begonia Encanto Orange also presents itself in a cascading fashion.

My immediate first impression of the delicate flowers and spiky leaves was its suitability to a Japanese garden setting.  Like the Bonsai, the Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’ can be be trimmed in a conservative fashion to achieve a desired shape, or allowed to follow a free-form presentation.  In my experience, it appears to be self-disciplined when it comes to maintaining an attractive state of overall composition, with little need of modification.

Availability

Last season, green-thumbed guests who witnessed its distinctive beauty for the first time played question-box – their predictable reaction being:  what, where and how much?

Begonia Waterfall Encanto Orange2I found my first Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’ in a hanging pot at my local mid-sized nursery for $20 (US).  Most retailers buy a particular plant in bulk at wholesale rates – as is also the case with the multiple varieties of Martha Washington geraniums on-display.  Their first year of availability saw a greater interest than anticipated, so there were many more available on Mother’s Day this year to meet increased demand.

As directed, an application of quality plant food such as Miracle Gro is recommended every 4-6 weeks.
As directed, an application of quality plant food such as Miracle Gro is recommended every 4-6 weeks.

As was true with my inquisitive house guests, the Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’ tends to generate its own best self-promotion to those within its orbit.  If your local nursery doesn’t currently stock them, recommend that they do so in the future.  When you do locate, buy early – for this degree of low-maintenance beauty will not be homeless for long.

My thanks to Doug Cole and Martijn Kuiper for providing the review’s primary and featured images of Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’.

D.S. Cole Growers
251 N. Village Road
Loudon, NH  03307
603-783-9561

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