Monday, July 25, 2011

Plant Profile: Gryphon Begonia

Plant performance of sun to part-shade (left) vs. part-shade to shade (right).

I have been wanting to grow the Gryphon Begonia hybrida and see how it performs in my yard, and later in my home. I bought 4 plants from an independent garden center. They were all the same size when I bought them. In general, I don't add fertilizer to my plants other than what is already in the potting soil.
"Beautiful, strong & durable foliage"
--PanAmerican Seed

The Gryphon Begonia is described as having "beautiful, strong & durable foliage" and I am all about durable in the garden. The information sheets for Gryphon Begonia on the PanAmerican Seed web site clearly state that this begonia thrives in the shade and with less water.

When the description on this plant is part-shade to full shade, my experience now says respect it if you want the plant to perform to the best of its ability. It's a hard balance to find the right amount of sunlight, in duration and quantity, for plants. Is the dappled shade  under a dogwood enough? Perhaps too much? What I discovered with this begonia is that direct mid-day sunlight, even for an hour is too much. The two plants in the same containers flanked a patio table. One was protected from direct light by a dogwood tree, and the other did receive direct light for only about an hour. The plant in the shade had large leaves. It was very full and tall. The plant in too much light was smaller with an airier appearance. Never reaching its potential.

One of my favorite color combinations,
Petunia 'Raspberry Blast' with a Gryphon Begonia
I kept one of the plants in a 6 inch pot with no drainage. This is usually a dangerous proposition when it comes to over watering and rot. I'm aware of these possible issues, but found that I spent most of my time watering. It is pretty voracious in its ability to take up water. Then the problem really becomes that this condition significantly dwarfs the plant. It hasn't grown over 15" tall and is pretty wimpy looking overall, but about the same as the plant that was in sun.
Color combination of this plant must be planned out well before choosing the containers. I had two peach colored ceramic containers and a red ceramic container. All three of the containers clashed horribly with the silver/blue leaves with maroon coloration underneath. I didn't want to drop the cash for new containers, so on this endeavor I made due. The fourth plant was placed in a large terracotta pot with other plants. The begonia in terracotta combination was very nice, though I think I'd stick to charcoal gray or earth tones.

The temperatures over the last few weeks have been in the high nineties. The hoses have been left out because watering has become a must in yard as well as the containers. The Gryphon Begonia leaves have shown damage where water has sat on the leaves. The damage is either caused by the sun heating the water, or the severe temperature differences between leaf and water. This damage followed a significant hail storm a few weeks ago, that left many of the leaves looking like swiss cheese.

After all of the weather events hail, heat, sun and water, that have hit these begonias, they have bounced back quickly and powerfully every time. They perform best when you give them room to grow and the proper lighting needs. I am thoroughly impressed with the durability of this plant and plan on using it again and again. It will be interesting to see if I can bring it inside over the winter to become a house plant.


  1. Great post. I've gotten decent performance out of mine, but not nearly the size and color of yours. Probably too much late afternoon sun in the patio garden.

  2. Have you had any problems with leaf yellowing? I have two of these and just last week they started yellowing dramatically. I've don't think it's a water issue, and they're in a bright room indoors without direct light. Fertilizer perhaps?

  3. Wishful Thinking, thanks for the question. I've had a problem with yellowing with two events. One was over watering. It just does not like to stay wet. The other was when I let it get too dry, and then watered, let it get too dry, and watered again. It just couldn't cope with that stress. That plant is the smallest of the 4 that I bought, but has since recouped.

  4. Does anyone know if these begonias go dormant in winter?

    1. Linda, thanks for your question. This question depends on what zone you are in. I'm in 5b and if left outside, the plants go way beyond dormant. I brought mine inside this year, neglected them, and they were not actively growing. With the longer daylight now, they are sending out lots of new leaves.

  5. I purchased one of these last summer and never put it is doing very well as a house plant. After reading the post, I'm going to give it less sun and see what happens! A very easy plant, the huge leaves are spectacular, I'm hoping it will bloom this summer, any tips on that?

    ~Lauri M

    1. Lauri good timing on the flowering question. My Gryphon Begonia is blooming right now! It has very typical begonia flowers. The flowers are not showy at all on this plant. They sit below the big beautiful leaves and are very subtle because they are hidden. I think that all of the growers would tell you, don't bother growing this plant if flowers are what you are after. I'll try to update my post above or make a new post with the flowers.

  6. Hello Laura, me again! My plant is still indoors and growing like a weed, it has never flowered, but I don't really care, it's beautiful just the way it is!

    I am currently trying to root a couple of cuttings, have you tried this? My mom fell in love with the plant, so I'm hoping to share.

    I'm also curious about re-potting, I wonder if it does better a bit root bound, or with more room!

    I live in MN and have only seen this begonia one time, that was when I bought it, I've never seen one since.

    ~Lauri M

  7. I have been trying to track down this begonia for a couple of years now and found your blog while doing it. You see I have one I grew from a leaf cutting and if it is Begonia xhybrida ‘Gryphon’, it's on STEROIDS! I also have a new "seedling from a leaf cutting I started because "Goliath" is getting way to big! The mature plant consists of three stems or "Trunks", 38 to 42 inches tall and each has to be staked to keep it upright in the pot. The leaves are not dainty either, not at 12 to 14 inches across.

    Can I cut "Goliath" back and root the tops? Would the remaining "stems" produce side growths? Then, how do I keep this newest start from taking over?

    I am wanting to take "Goliath" outside for summer and I do have a spot with dappled shade, but a big wind would blow it over, thus I am asking about tip cuttings and rooting them and any new growth on what is left of the stems.

    Thank you for any advice you can give me on my monster!


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