Plant of the Month
Begonia semperflorens ‘Heat Elite’ or ‘Stara’
AT A GLANCE
Latin name: Begonia semperflorens ‘Heat Elite’ or ‘Stara’ series
Common name: Wax begonia
Type: Spring and summer annual
Flowers: Multiple colors
Mature size: 16-20” high, 16-20” wide
Soil: Not picky
Exposure: Part sun to full shade
Water usage: Medium
Sources: Local nurseries and mail order
Spring is upon us, and we all have the gardening itch. We tend to have this conversation with ourselves: “This year I will have a green thumb!” “This spring I will have Yard of the Month, and my neighbors will envy me!” Then our two weeks of glorious spring are over, and we tend to lose interest in green thumbs and to focus more on the cool, blowing air of our AC’s.
Good news! Our mission at the Dallas Arboretum Plant Trials is to find material that can take the brutal North Texas summer and still look like we are the utmost caregivers to our gardens. We trial dozens of begonias each spring and watch their longevity throughout our summer. Every year we are surprised by one that is new or improved. In recent years, we have embraced new hybrid breeding programs that have given us the ‘BabyWing’, ‘Big’, and ‘Whopper’ series, which are huge and sometimes over-the-top showy.
Occasionally, though, we gardeners want something a little more subtle, like the “begonias my grandmother used to have.” Well, this is why we trial plants! Here’s a series of Begonia semperflorens that are vigorous, are early to bloom and will enhance your shade beds instantly. The begonia ‘Heat Elite’ series comes in a variety of colors, so you can pick your passion — ‘Deep Rose’, ‘Pink’, ‘Red’, ‘Rose’, ‘Scarlet’, or ‘White’. Plant in filtered sun to full shade, and do not permit drying out. These begonias are great for the landscape, topping out at 20 inches with a 20-inch spread. Place them in containers placed under the cover of a porch for some spring and summer pop.
You may also find this series under the name ‘Stara’. ‘Heat Elite’ and ‘Stara’ are the same cultivar of begonia from two different sources. If you are looking for the best-performing Begonia semperflorens, go out this weekend and grab a flat of ‘Heat Elite’ or ‘Stara’ at your favorite retailer. This is a super-vigorous variety, so we recommend they be purchased in larger than 4-inch pots. Don’t be surprised if you find them only in quarts or larger.
Check the Facebook page for Dallas Arboretum Plant Trials to see some fun plants.
About the author: Jenny Wegley is the senior manager of trials and greenhouse at the Dallas Arboretum. Visit www.dallasplanttrials.org for more information on the Arboretum’s trials.