Few plants can compare to the Begonia for long-lasting color, reasonable drought tolerance, easy care, and memorable impact when used in mass plantings. These are the features that make Begonias very popular with commercial landscapers. Examples of creative use of these plants can be seen everywhere – around office buildings, malls, apartment complexes, etc. If you are looking for the perfect easy-care annual to fill those empty pots on either side of the entryway, then Begonias should be on the top of your list.
Like Impatiens, Begonias are actually tender perennials (come back year after year) that are usually treated as annuals (gone forever at first frost). Begonias perform admirably in many garden situations, including full sun in all but the hottest areas. As a veteran of the hottest areas, a Begonia will survive, but it will look ghost-like with bleached out leaves and a tired appearance when it gets too hot outside. Medium shade is good where it’s hot, but over a certain temperature limit, Begonias will not look fabulous, but will survive to enchant when the temperature cools. .
Anyhow, in every other scenario, give as much sun as you can and you will generally be rewarded with rich color and healthy foliage.
In deep shade situations, Begonias will stretch and become leggy, so do give them a spot with at least a few hours of sunlight for the best results. If your Begonia looks weak, pale, and looks like it is stretching toward the available light, situate it better and trim all the stretched branches just above the joints – you’ll be amazed at how fast the plant recovers. Begonias transplant very easily so never hesitate to relocate a plant that is not doing well.
All Begonias appreciate a well drained soil and a monthly feeding with any flowering plant food, but can and will withstand some neglect and will mostly do well under less than perfect circumstances. Even though some may consider Begonias “common”, there’s a reason you see them so often – they are easy, inexpensive, tough and will work beautifully in a variety of situations. Begonias can be propagated by seed or cuttings, with cuttings being the preferred method. Even under perfect conditions, Begonias can be difficult to raise from seed (the seeds are small, slow to germinate, and hard to find), but if you are determined, seeding is best done indoors in flats. Cuttings placed in a moist soil root easily and quickly, and are a great way to increase your supply of these valuable landscape plants.
Wax Begonias come in a variety of flower and leaf colors. The flowers come in whites, pinks, and reds, and the leaves are bright green to bronze. The bronze leafed varieties are generally more tolerant of hot, sunny conditions, so keep this in mind when choosing your plants. Once established, Begonias are surprisingly drought tolerant, but be sure to keep new transplants well watered for the first month or so.
Begonia flowers are edible, but you will get more mileage from the tuberous types because of their much larger flowers. Begonias have a citrus-spicy taste if you’re too chicken to pop one in!
- Overwintering Begonias
- The good old tuberous begonia is back again
- Wintering Begonias: Overwintering A Begonia In Cold Climates
- Wintering Over Begonias in Cold Climates
- Overwintering Tuberous Begonias
- Overwintering Annual Wax Begonia
- How To Overwinter Fibrous and Rhizomatous Begonias
- Further Information
- Related posts:
As fall approaches many gardeners want to bring their flowers indoors to keep enjoying them into the fall and winter months. Begonias are often a problem for many people because Begonias differ so much in the way they grow. Some Begonias go dormant for the winter and others have no dormant period and continue to grow and flower for the entire winter. Knowing which Begonia you have can help a lot in having success with bringing the plants indoors for the winter.
When bringing plants indoors from an outdoor garden area, there are some basic do’s and don’ts to consider. The first priority is to make sure your plants are free of insects or disease before bringing them in for the winter. Indoor conditions are very stressful to most plants and when plants are stressed they are more susceptible to insects and diseases. So before you bring plants in for the winter you will want to give them a good looking over. It will save you problems later in the winter when you may not want to use chemicals indoors.
Indoor conditions are generally lower light than outdoors, so plants will have to adjust to lower light levels, sometimes they can do this easily and sometimes they must drop their outdoor leaves and grow new leaves that are better adapted to interior conditions. Plan for some leaf drop until plants become established again. All Begonias need bright filtered light when brought indoors and can sometimes be grown in full sun, but be careful not to burn plants by exposing them to bright sun if they were grown in the shade previously.
The inside of your house is also very dry due to your heating system which removes water from the air as it heats the air in your house. You can make life a lot easier for your plants if you provide a source of humidity. Many people mist their indoor plants and while this helps it only lasts for a short period. A better long term solution is the use of a pebble tray under your plants where water can be added as it evaporates to keep the humidity higher around your indoor flowers. A pebble tray is simply a container that holds water filled with pebbles so that your plants sit on the pebbles and not in the water itself. As water evaporates around the plant it creates a small “greenhouse” effect.
Begonias are incredibly diverse, so knowing what type of Begonia you have makes it a lot easier to succeed in over wintering them. Also many people confuse the Strawberry Begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera) with a true Begonia, it is not related at all but does make a nice houseplant in bright windows through the winter.
This group is the easiest to maintain indoors and make wonderful house plants in a bright filtered light setting. The way to tell if you have a rhizomatous begonia is to look for the rhizome or thick stem creeping along the surface of the soil. Begonias in this group like to be kept lightly moist and lightly fertilized all winter and do not go dormant, so never dry them out entirely. Most are winter flowering and can provide not only beautiful foliage but also sprays of white to pink flowers in late winter. Examples of these Begonias include: Black Coffee, Last Laugh, Palomar Prince, and River Nile.
Cane type & bedding begonias
These two groups look very different but are both easy to keep over the winter. The Cane types include Angel Wing Begonias and also the Dragon wing types. These need very bright light to look their best, but not scorching sun. Keep lightly moist and lightly fertilized through the winter months. They never go dormant, so do not allow them to become very dry. Examples of Cane and Fibrous begonias include: Sinbad, Dragon Wing, Gum Drops, Buttered Popcorn, Maribel, Benigo, Burning Bush, Angel Wing, and all the bedding types usually sold for the landscape.
Rex Begonias are a bit more of a challenge for indoor growing, but with a high humidity level can be gorgeous with bright filtered light. These plants like constant moderate moisture, high humidity, and regular fertilization. They do not go dormant, so never allow them to dry out. They are very sensitive to dry roots and quickly decline if not cared for. However their electrifying foliage makes them one of the most desirable plants for both containers outdoors and inside. If you can grow African violets, you can grow Rex Begonias, so give them a try. Examples of the Rex Begonias include: The Great American City Series, Fire Flush, Capricorn, Taurus, and Fairy.
Tuberous & Tuberous types of Begonias including B. boliviensis
OK, if you have succeeded with other Begonias here is your final exam. The tuberous Begonia group REQUIRES winter dormancy. This means you need to begin in fall by reducing the water to the plants until the tops have died back and the soil is completely dry. Once the plant has gone completely dormant most gardeners remove the tuber from the soil. The tuber is usually found where the stems meet the ground. Carefully clean off the tuber of soil and old roots and store in a warm dry location over the winter. Some gardeners swear by a fungicide powder to control diseases on the dormant tuber. This can be applied before storing the tubers.
In early spring the tubers may be replanted in fresh soil and given a head start on the season in a bright windowsill where they do not become chilled. The tuber should be planted so that the upper surface is at the surface of the soil; no deeper. When planting the tubers, water them well with a light fertilizer and do not water again until either the soil dries or you begin to see new stems emerging from the soil. Most gardeners start their tubers in small pots 4”-5”. This way they can be transplanted into larger pot later but they do not become too wet during the crucial period where they are waking up and beginning to grow.
New growth means your tubers are beginning to grow new roots and need to given fertilizer and water on a regular basis. Never allow tuberous begonias to become soggy, they are very sensitive to root rot if they stay too moist. Examples of Tuberous type Begonias include the following: Illumination, Non-Stop, On Top, Ornament, Panorama, Pin Ups, and Charisma series.
As with all garden plants brought indoors for the winter, you may have good luck and you may not. Remember that if all of this seems like too much work you can simply buy new plants in spring and start clean. Also Begonias can be prone to a variety of bacterial and fungal problems, especially under indoor conditions, so if you see problems of this type showing up during the winter, contact your local garden center for advice on how to control any problems.
Ask a Question or Give Feedback about this article. 626 Readers Rated This: 12345 (2.8)
Q. I’ve been surprised at how long the tuberous begonias I have in hanging baskets have been in bloom. They are still full of flowers, but there must be some point at which I’ll have to bring them into some sort of shelter for the winter. How and when is this done? I’m presuming that the tubers can be stored and saved for planting in the spring.
A. I’ve noticed over the years that some tuberous begonias are more cold hardy than others, staying in fairly good condition and holding on to blooms well into autumn. Of course, the end of season for begonias depends also on the weather.
Temperatures have stayed fairly mild so far, and my plants are still full of foliage and flowers. As the foliage begins to die down and temperatures get closer to freezing, I set the baskets against a well-sheltered house wall. Once the succulent stems detach at a gentle touch, it’s time to clean off the soil surface.
Begonia tubers can be stored in their pots or hanging baskets, but to save room I unpot and clean the tubers off minimally, and store them surrounded in vermiculite in a shallow box lined with newspaper. I spray-mist the storage medium surface just lightly with water, and place the flat in a storage room off the carport.
The tubers require only a cold, but frost-free wintering place. That could also be an attic, or an unheated basement room. Check them once or twice during the winter. If they feel as though they are starting to soften, spray-mist the vermiculite and check the temperature. It may not be cool enough.
Most begonia tubers are easy to keep in viable condition over the winter. The tubers I grow in baskets across the front of my home have stored successfully over at least eight winters. I start the tubers back into growth in March.
The good old tuberous begonia is back again
These have enjoyed renewed interest recently due to the many merits they enjoy as a versatile garden plant.
All things considered, pound for pound the tuberous begonia is a most enjoyable plant to grow.
When potted in March-April, you can expect to have flowers in July, which will last abundantly and continuously until the first frosts of the autumn. This results in at least four months of blooms a year and if looked after properly, they will come back year after year so one purchase will give years of enjoyment in your garden.
Begonias are extremely versatile and can be used in different ways. These strong plants can add colour everywhere, not only in flower beds but in pots and hanging baskets.
There are many shapes and colours of Begonia available from Garden Centres but the double begonia remains the most popular. The large opulent flowers come in many colours and there are even some bi-coloured varieties available such as Bouton de Rose (pink and white).
Many begonia varieties have been developed specifically for use in pots, containers and hanging baskets and these will add summer colour to any patio.
Why not try planting a hanging basket of begonias? Our Giant flowering pendula begonias are perfect for these and will give a huge display of hanging blooms in the summer. Try planting a 30cm diameter hanging basket with 5 Giant pendula begonia tubers – this will be ample to give a spectacular summer display from July onwards. Our “Splendide” varieties are also excellent for hanging baskets (featured image is Splendide Mixed).
Begonias are particularly well suited to growing in pots. Aztec Gold (yellow orange) and Babylon (pink/red) not only give a spectacular show of flowers but also have a cascading habit.
Fimbriata Begonias are particularly suitable for pots and containers. These varieties are available in Orange, Pink, Red, White and Yellow. They produce very strong stems which make the flowers stand tall and proud!
A particularly interesting and popular variety is Firebush (also known as Skaugum-begonia); this is an ancient species improved in recent times. Firebush will develop into a weeping shrub with masses of small red flowers (not unlike lobelia). Again, this variety will make a stunning feature when grown in a pot on the terrace.
A major recent breakthrough has been the development of fragrant begonias. Currently on offer are Aromantics, Odorata Pink Flamingo, Odorata Red Glory and Mothers Day, a white flower with pink blush. Grown on or near the patio, they offer a really sweet fragrance; perfect for sitting out on the patio and enjoying those summer evenings!
Begonias are very easy and reliable to grow. They can be planted outdoors with the hollow part of the tuber uppermost when all danger of frost has passed. Begonias like a rich, moist garden soil and preferably a semi-shaded aspect although they will bloom in full sun. For early flowering, place the tubers close together and level with soil in trays containing damp compost and sand. Try to maintain a temperature of 7 – 16°C. The first leaves will appear after 5 – six weeks. Plant outdoors when all danger of frost has passed. Keep the soil moist and remove faded flowers. At the end of the season, lift the tubers, cut the stems off just above the tubers and store in dry soil at 4 – 10°C. Then start the process again in March the following year and look forward to another summer of vibrant colour!
Wintering Begonias: Overwintering A Begonia In Cold Climates
Begonia plants, regardless of type, cannot withstand freezing cold temperatures and require appropriate winter care. Overwintering a begonia is not always necessary in warmer environments, as winters are generally less severe. However, to ensure proper begonia care, you should be wintering over begonias indoors if you live in areas prone to freezing temperatures, such as northern climates.
Wintering Over Begonias in Cold Climates
In order to keep and enjoy begonias in the garden each year, begin by wintering begonias indoors.
Overwintering Tuberous Begonias
Tuberous begonias should be dug up and stored indoors during winter until the return of warmer weather in spring. Begonias can be dug up in fall once foliage has faded or just after the first light frost.
Spread begonia clumps on newspaper and leave this in a sunny area until thoroughly dry — about a week. Once they have sufficiently dried, cut away any remaining foliage and gently shake off excess soil.
To prevent problems with fungus or powdery mildew while wintering begonias, dust them with sulfur powder prior to storage. Store begonia tubers individually in paper bags or line them in a single layer atop newspaper. Place these in a cardboard box in a cool, dark, dry location.
You should also be overwintering a begonia grown outdoors in containers. Pot-grown begonia plants can be stored in their containers as long as they remain dry. They should also be relocated to a protected area that’s cool, dark and dry. Pots can be left in an upright position or slightly tipped.
Overwintering Annual Wax Begonia
Some begonias can simply be brought indoors prior to the onset of cold weather for continual growth, such as with wax begonias.
These begonias should be brought indoors for overwintering rather than digging them up. Of course, if they’re in the ground, they can be carefully transplanted into containers and brought indoors for growing throughout winter.
Since bringing wax begonias indoors can cause stress on plants, which leads to leaf drop, it often helps to acclimate them beforehand.
Before bringing wax begonias indoors, however, be sure to treat them for insect pests or powdery mildew first. This can be done by spraying plants or gently washing them with warm water and bleach free dish soap.
Keep wax begonias in a bright window and gradually reduce the amount of light to help them adjust to an indoor environment. Increase humidity levels but cut down on watering over winter.
Once warm temperatures return, increase their watering and begin to move them back outdoors. Once again, it helps to acclimate plants to reduce stress.
Fibrous-rooted begonias are easy to bring indoors and grow during the winter.
I have some beautiful wax and angel type begonias in pots. Can I bring them inside for the winter? How do I care for them? -Robert
Both wax begonias and angel wing begonias are fibrous-rooted, which means they have a basic, familiar looking stringy root ball. These are the begonias commonly sold in hanging baskets and as bedding plants. Fibrous-rooted begonias make great house plants over the winter, as do the rhizomatous types (such as Rex begonias), which are grown primarily for their foliage.
All you really need is a little space and a bright window, and these types of begonias will continue to grow (and possibly even bloom!) year-round.
Bewildered by Begonias?
To know how to care for your begonia over the winter, you really need to know what kind of begonia you’re growing. Fibrous and rhizomatous begonias are easy to grow as house plants, but tuberous begonias need to be stored as bulbs over the winter, and hardy begonias should just be left outside. If you aren’t sure what kind of begonia you have, check out our article on How To Grow Different Varieties of Begonias.
How To Overwinter Fibrous and Rhizomatous Begonias
Follow these tips for overwintering fibrous and rhizomatous begonias indoors.
- Timing Is Important: Bring your begonias inside before the first frost, or they may be lost for good. Also, to reduce temperature and humidity shock, take advantage of that wonderful early fall season (when neither the heat nor air conditioning is running nonstop) to get your plants acclimated to the indoors.
- Leave in Pots: To save the work (and plant stress) of potting your bedding begonias, try nestling them in the ground in pots that are easy to lift out in the fall.
- Repot if Necessary: Spring is the traditional season for repotting begonias, but if yours are so rootbound that they’re struggling, go ahead and move them to a bigger pot before bringing them indoors for the winter.
- Trim Back: Lightly pinch or trim back leggy begonias to shape them up. If you’re digging up bedding plants or repotting a rootbound plant, cut back the tops to about the same size as the root ball.
- Inspect Carefully: Don’t bring pests or diseases indoors! Throw away any begonias that look diseased or infested, and treat minor problems before bringing them inside.
- Light: Bright filtered light is ideal, with perhaps some winter sun from an east-facing window. Blooming types of begonias like more sun than foliage types. Even though the light is dimmer indoors, be careful of too much sun exposure, especially if your begonias are used to growing in the shade.
- Water: Keep begonias evenly moist, neither soggy nor dried out. Begonias don’t like “wet feet,” so empty the drainage tray or decorative planter after watering, so that they don’t sit in a puddle.
- Fertilizer: Feed your begonias lightly throughout the winter. These types don’t go dormant, but they will slow down some over the winter. A good rule is to feed them more when they’re growing, and less when they slow down.
- Temperature: Keep your begonias between 65° to 73° F during the day, and no colder than 55° F at night. Be aware of drafts and freezing window glass that might damage foliage.
- Add Humidity: A pebble tray will help give your begonias extra humidity to cope with the change in environment. If you’re overwintering Rex begonias, they might need misting or a little help from a humidifier.
- Adjustment Period: Some begonias respond to the shock of moving indoors by dropping and regrowing some or all of their leaves. Don’t worry, just pinch back leggy stems and keep on taking care of your begonia until it grows new leaves.
- How To Grow Different Varieties of Begonias (article)
- How To Store Tender Bulbs Over The Winter (article)
- Overwintering Begonias (Proven Winners)
- Growing Begonias Indoors (Clemson Cooperative Extension)