Begonias are one of the most common and popular plants used by gardeners and plant lovers today. We love them too. In fact, many people love them so much, they want to over winter them so they can be saved from year to year.
We understand. It's hard to beat a winter begonia, not only thriving inside your home, but providing beauty, year after year - even throughout the cold, drab winter season.
Most people in the U.S. think of begonias as annuals and rightly so. a majority of people live in planting zones too cold for them to survive winters outdoors.
However, keeping begonias alive during the winter can be done as you will find out by doing an internet search of gardening forums. You will uncover stories of gardeners throughout the U.S. having success overwintering a plant that is thought of as an annual.
What Type Of Begonia Do You Have?
If you want to over winter your begonias, the first thing you must know is what type of begonia(s) you have. You can read more about the types of begonias here, but just know that each type requires a different method.
The 3 types of begonias are classified by their root systems, which are either fiberous (the most common and known root system for many plants you know), rhizomes, and tuberous.
Before diving into this, the first thing you need to know is what should be obvious. To over winter begonias, they must be planted in pots and since some are planted in the ground, you might start to question whether it's worth it for you. Read on to find out more so you can make the right choice for you.
Bringing in begonias could be labor intensive if you're wanting to save your bedding begonias that are planted in your outdoor gardens because they would need to be transplanted.
It gets much easier if your plants are planted in pots right from the start. Then, you'll just need to move your pots indoors for the winter, and outside for the spring, summer and fall. Let's now talk about how to over winter begonias, depending on the type.
Fiberous Rooted Begonias
There are two types of fiberous rooted begonias we want to discuss here - the commin bedding begonia (semperflorens - also known as wax begonias), and the cane begonia, which is a much different type of plant.
How To Over Winter Bedding (Wax) Begonias
Overwintering bedding begonias can be quite a task, depending on the number of plants you want to bring in. If you want to bring in your bedding begonias - the ones that are planted in the ground (and the ones in the featured image above), you must dig them out and plant them in pots.
Of course, some people (and maybe this is you) plant bedding begonias in pots right from the start. In that case of course, no transplanting is needed.
Here's what you need to do however, if they are in the ground.
First you'll need enough pots to hold them. That might mean purchasing pots. You can also keep a stock of the plastic pots you have left over after you plant the other plants you've purchased throughout the year. This is what we do.
You can plant multiple plants in the same pot but just remember in the spring, they will need to be seperated again to replant outdoors. For this reason, it may be easier to plant each one in a seperate pot - depending on the number of plants. You would have to make that choice.
Then, you'll need to add soil to the pots to prepare them for the plants. A good potting mix would work here, but try to leave some of the native soil attached to the roots once they are dug out. This will help them get acclimated to their new home.
Next you must dig up each plant and replant it in a pot.
Finally you'll bring the pots inside, store them, care for them and replant them outdoors in the spring.
Because this is labor intensive, and because bedding begonias are so widely available and inexpensive, for most people it's not worth the effort. They prefer to let them die at the end of the season and replant new ones in the spring. This is what we do.
We probably plant 40 or so plants every year around our property so it's not worth it to dig them all out, find a place to store them indoors, and care for them for several months.
Cane Begonia Care In Winter
Cane begonias are a type of fiberous begonia that includes the popular "Angel Wing Begonia" and "Dragon Wing Begonia.
These types of begonias can grow quite large, resembling small shrubs. We like planting them in pots and placing the pots on a covered porch. They really like the indirect bright light a covered area provides. This makes bringing them indoors for the winter a breeze... but do we? Continue reading to find out.
Cane begonia leaves grow on cane like stems, resembling bamboo. The foliage and flowers grow from these stems and hang down in a drooping fashion.
Overwintering cane begonias can only be done if they are planted in pots. This means if they are planted in the ground you would need to transplant them into a pot, the same as you would do for the bedding begonias above. However, because these plants grow quite large, you'll need to have a large enough pot in which to transplant it.
You would need to sit the pots in front of a bright window, but not direct sun, since the plants prefer shade. Average room temperatures in winter will usually work. However, a cool basement might not.
As with many plants, once you change their environment by bringing them inside, they will probably shed many of their leaves. However, with the right light, temperature and water you should be able to overwinter them alive, then bring them out in the spring for another season.
Full disclosure. For us, transplanting cane begonias into pots for overwintering purposes isn't worth the effort. Although we've never tried it, the odds of such a large plant surviving indoors after a transplanting seems remote to us. Plus, by the end of the growing season they are very large and would take up too much room indoors.
Don't take our word for it. You can go here to read others' comments that tried to overwinter a dragon wing begonias: https://www.houzz.com/discussions/1751544/wintering-over-begonia-dragon-wings
How To Over Winter Turberous Begonias
Tuberous begonias are another animal entirely. While bedding begonias have fiberous roots like many othe plants you know and love, tuberous begonias have, well, tubers from wich the plant emerges.
Tubers are similar to flower bulbs, in that the plant goes dormant during the winter and the energy is stored within the tuber for the plant to use come next spring, when it starts to grow again. In fact, these plants NEED dormancy to bloom next year.
Now, if you live in warmer climates, say planting zones 10-11, tuberous begonias will go dormant in the ground during the off season anyway. You'll just need to trim the dead off the plant and keep the tubers in the ground. They will then come up the next year.
However, if you live in colder climates, they will not survive winters in the ground. Therefore, they must be brought in and replanted each year. This process though, is much easier than the process involved with digging out growing plants as we mentioned for the begging begonias above.
How To Store Begonia Tubers Indoors
If you want to bring begonia tubers indoors, here's how to do it.
1. Keep the plants in the ground until the first light frost. This should force dormancy and kill any foliage that's growing, which will turn brown.
2. Dig out the entire plant including the tuber. Be sure to dig out the tuber that's attached to the plant. Don't wait for a hard frost because that might be too late as the ground may have gotten too cold.
3. Place each plant in a single layer on newspaper and let dry out completely.
4. Once completely dry, detach the dead stems, which should now come off easily. Also clean off any loose soil.
5. Place each tuber in a small paper bag, which keeps them aerated and put the bags in a carboard box.
6. Place the box in a cool dry place. Usually a basement is sufficent.Once spring has arrive and the threat of frost is gone, plant the tubers and in a few weeks the magic will happen. They will sprout with new foliage and eventually new blooms.
How To Overwinter Rhizome Begonias
Rhizome begonias are a variety that grows from rhizomes, which are roots that travel horizontally just under the ground. New plants sprout up from these rhimones at different spots.
One of the most popular rhizome begonias is the "Rex Begonia."
Above are 2 photos of rex begonias. showing the different leaf designs and colors. These are 2 of many.
The above 2 images are of our own rex begonia overwintering. These photos were taken in February. This rex begonia is probably 4-5 years old. As you can see in the left photo, when we brought the plant in it lost most of it's leaves. In the right photo is a close up of new shoots coming out in different places (see the arrows). These shoots come out of the "nodes" on the plant, which are natural occurring swollen areas of the stems of all plants where new growth emerges.
Rex begonias are most often planted in pots and grown for their foliage. You would also be wise to plant these begonias in pots for the following 2 reasons.
1. Because rhizomes spread uncontrolably, the pots will contain the plant to an area. They will not spread out over the ground via the rhizome.
2. In fact, if you're in a colder climate, you will not be able dig out the plant easily to bring it inside due to the very nature of it's roots, so for this type of begonia, that option is off the table.
To over winter rhizome begonias, they should aleady be in pots. Bring in your pots and sit them in a bright window with indirect light.
These plants like partial shade so they shouldn't get direct sunlight.
Regarding watering, plants brought indoors during the winter generally need less water than when they are growing actively outside, so watering every week or so would usually be sufficient.
Your plants may go through shock and drop their leaves soon after moving indoors. If that happens, keep them watered and they should survive and start to produce new foliage while still inside. Once spring arrives, move the pots back outside.
Winter Begonia Realities
Now that we've described the way to over winter begonias, do you think it's a good idea? Maybe you do but maybe you don't.
For us, because they are fairly inexpensive, we prefer to buy new ones each year. Even though it costs a little more to purchase new plants yearly, there are some advantages too, which are as follows:
1. There is no care to be done in the winter
2. Next spring you can start out with great looking plants, instead of waiting for the ones from last year to come back to life.
We know that many of you would enjoy the challenge of trying to over winter begonias and if that's you, by all means, try out the tactics we describe here and LET US KNOW how it turns out in the comments below.
We always enjoy hearing from our readers.
Here are some more summer annuals that are good in sunny spots. But if you don't get full sun around your home, plant these shade annuals instead.
For more information on begonias, you can visit this site: https://www.begonias.org/
T&A - Your Garden Masterz
April 7, 2023
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