How to Store Tuberous Begonias for Winter and Restart Them in Spring

Updated on November 2, 2018
pedrn44 profile image

My sister gave me a tuberous begonia on Mother's Day. I have since learned so much about how to care for and store this amazing plant.

This article will show you how to properly dig up and store the roots of tuberous begonias so that you can easily restart them the following spring.
This article will show you how to properly dig up and store the roots of tuberous begonias so that you can easily restart them the following spring. | Source

Let me begin by saying I am a perennial kind of gardener. I love when my day lilies, tiger lilies, and hostas just pop up every year. But on Mother's Day, my sister gave me a gorgeous, potted tuberous begonia that grew and bloomed all summer. I've never been so fascinated by a plant. Nor have I been able to keep one alive, let alone watch it thrive! It has the most gorgeous orange blooms!

In this article, I will show you how to overwinter this annual flower safely by digging it up before the killing frosts and storing its tubers during the coldest months of the year. That way, you can easily restart your lovely begonias the following spring.

Even if you live in a warmer southern climate, it's still probably best to dig up your begonias to store the tubers over winter.
Even if you live in a warmer southern climate, it's still probably best to dig up your begonias to store the tubers over winter. | Source

When Should You Think About Storing Your Tuberous Begonias for the Winter?

In northern climates where it freezes, the tuberous begonia must be dug up and the tubers stored indoors for the winter. This should be done after the first light frost.

In southern climates where it rarely or never freezes, tuberous begonias will go dormant on their own. They do this according to the length of the day. This usually occurs in October or November. Stop watering them when they start to yellow and their leaves drop. Even in relatively warmer climates, however, it is often still advisable to dig up your begonias and store them for the winter.

Note: If your begonias were potted and not in beds, you can put the pots in an indoor place where the tubers won't get wet. The problem is that they are more likely to rot if they remain buried in soil. You may be more successful if you dig them up, dry them out, and store them.

I took this photo in March, and you can see that my tuber now has sprouts!
I took this photo in March, and you can see that my tuber now has sprouts! | Source

How to Overwinter Your Tuberous Begonias

When the time comes to dig up your begonias, simply follow these easy steps:

  1. Gradually decrease the amount of water you give your begonias and stop fertilizing them by the end of August.
  2. Once the leaves begin to turn yellow—or after the first killing frost—dig up the entire plant and its tuber.
  3. Gently remove all soil and loose roots.
  4. Lay the entire plant in a warm, dry area for several days to thoroughly dry it out.
  5. Once it is dry, remove the stems and any remaining foliage, also being sure to shake off any excess soil.

How to Store Begonia Tubers

Place each tuber in a separate paper bag, and place them in a cool, dark place like a cardboard box for storage. Basements and garages are often great places for extended storage. The temperature range should ideally be between 40–50°F. This will allow the tubers to breathe and will prevent rotting and pests.

You should also periodically check in on the tubers and discard any that show significant symptoms of withering or rot. As long as they are separated, however, a problem that occurs for one tuber will not affect them all.

I only had one tuber, and I placed it on a newspaper on a shelf in a dark, dry storage room in the basement. The dirt and leaves fell away as it dried out. My tuber is now sprouting buds!

This is what my tubers looked like when they began to sprout.
This is what my tubers looked like when they began to sprout.

How to Restart Begonia Tubers in the Spring

When you plan to restart your begonias, it's best to get started in late winter or early spring. Tubers planted in February should bloom around June, while tubers started in March or April should bloom around July. It's also important that the sprouts appear before planting. Here is a helpful guide:

  1. Fill a nursery flat or another shallow container with planting medium. Well-rotted leaf mulch is recommended. Just make sure the medium is loose, well drained, and does not contain fertilizer or manure.
  2. Loosen the soil and space the sprouted tubers evenly 4–6 inches apart, laying them in flat. The indented side of the tuber should be facing up. The roots develop from the top and the sides. Don't completely bury the tuber, however. Just cover it lightly with the planting medium.
  3. Water thoroughly, but lightly. (Tubers are quite susceptible to rot during this time, so it's important to keep the medium fairly moist, but not wet. The tubers should never be in standing water, and you don't want to let water accumulate in the hollow part of the tuber.)
  4. Place flat in a warm place with filtered sunlight and partial shade.
  5. Keep them indoors until the weather warms during the day. You can then place them outside in partial shade. The hotter the climate, the more shade they will prefer.

Keep the tubers in flats until the roots are well developed. You can transplant them in pots or flower beds when there is 4–5 inches of growth.

Water them only when the soil begins to show dryness. You can water more as the plants develop.

Note: For more information on how to grow and care for this wonderful plant, check out this helpful guide on How to Care for Tuberous Begonias.

This is a close-up of a tuberous begonia female bloom with a three-winged seed capsule.
This is a close-up of a tuberous begonia female bloom with a three-winged seed capsule. | Source

What Are Tuberous Begonias?

Tuberous begonias (begonia tuberhybrida) are a hybrid species of begonias grown from tubers. They were created through years of cross-breeding and development. Here are just some of their distinctive features:

  • Their flowers come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be single- or double-petaled, ruffled, scented, or multicolored.
  • They can stand upright or be used in hanging baskets.
  • They can have frilled, ruffled, or plain petals or rose-shaped blooms.
  • Three blooms develop on each stem.
  • The male flowers are usually double petaled and can be quite large and beautiful.
  • The two outer blooms are usually female. They are smaller—but still quite beautiful—and are single petaled with a light green seed capsule behind the petals.

Though they are generally only hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11, tuberous begonias are quite easy to take care of. They endure the elements of wind and rain and greatly enhance your garden from June through October. Some types of tuberous begonias include: Panorama, Illumination, Pin Ups, Ornament, On Top, Non-Stop, and Charisma series.

Their winter dormant period is determined by day length and weather in cold climates and day length in warmer climates. They need to follow their natural cycle, and the above information will help you let them to do that.

Although the male flowers are often double petaled, the female flowers are only single petaled.
Although the male flowers are often double petaled, the female flowers are only single petaled. | Source

What Kind of Soil Do Tuberous Begonias Need?

Tuberous begonias can survive in many types of soil. The most important thing is perfect drainage, as they need to be able to shed excess water in order to avoid root rot. But while they need well-drained soil, they are not drought tolerant. So it is important to check in on the moisture level of their soil, particularly during long gaps between rainfalls.

If you are planting the tubers outdoors, prepare the garden soil. Large amounts of peat moss are not recommended, except in sandy soils. Clay soil drains poorly. So add humus, sand, or both.

If you would like to make your own soil, the best mix would be:

  • 4 parts well-decayed mulch
  • 1 part garden loam
  • 1 part course sand

Do not use a "potting mix". You can use a good potting soil from a nursery though. Just make sure it contains humus.

Check Your Soil Often

Though begonias need well-drained soil, they are not drought tolerant. So be sure to periodically check on the moisture level of your soil, especially during long gaps between rainfalls.

What Are Some Other Ways to Propagate Begonias?

Though restarting your begonias from tubers may be one of the easiest options, you can also propagate them using other methods. While trying to start begonias from seeds can be notoriously difficult, these two methods of asexual propagation are quite easy:

Propagating Begonias From Stem Cuttings

  1. Snip a few stems just below the nodes. Cut them to about 4 inches in length.
  2. Carefully strip the leaves from the bottom half of the stem.
  3. If you have rooting hormone, go ahead and dip your cuttings in them now.
  4. Make a hole in your growing medium (soil/peat moss/vermiculite/perlite) and insert your cutting.
  5. Keep your medium moist and the air humid, and you should have a tiny plant in a few weeks.

Propagating Begonias From Leaves

  1. Snip a mature leaf from your plant, leaving about an inch of petiole.
  2. Insert the petiole into a growing medium (soil/peat moss/vermiculite/perlite).
  3. Once again, keep your medium moist and the air humid, and you'll have a tiny plant in no time.

Note: If you want to help keep the humidity up, you can cover the stem or leaf cutting with a transparent plastic bag and place it in a moderately sunny location.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a handful of answers to frequently asked questions related to begonias and how to care for them:

What type of begonia do I have?

This simple guide should help you identify which of the three main types of begonias you might have:

  • Tuberous: These are complex hybrids that span across many species, developed over many years through careful breeding. Their most notable characteristic is their fleshy tubers, which are roots that store energy for the plant to draw from during its dormancy in winter. In addition to hybrids, this category also includes the Bolivian, Hiemalis, Lorraine or "Christmas," and semi-tuberous varieties.
  • Rhizomatous: This is the largest category of begonias. If the foliage on your plants have spectacular colors in vibrant patterns that tend to overshadow their smaller blooms, they're likely to be of the rhizomatous type. The roots of these types of begonias come in the form of fleshy rhizomes that creep across the surface of the soil. This category also includes rex begonias that are often grown for their amazing foliage that come in vivid colors like green, red, silver, purple, brown, and pink.
  • Fibrous-Rooted: Although all begonias have fibrous roots, if you don't see either tubers or rhizomes, they likely belong to this category. A few major subdivisions exist within this variety. The "wax leaf" type can be identified by its glossy leaves shaped somewhat like spoons and are often grown from seeds (though they can also be grown from cuttings or by division). The "cane stem" or "angel wing" type stands out through its elongated, erect canes that often reach 2–3 feet long (but can extend as high as 12 feet). The leaves of this variety are often purple, red, or speckled with silver, while the flowers tend to be pink, red, or white.

How do you protect tuberous begonias from diseases, rot, and pests?

  • Powdery mildew: Identified by white powdery spots on all sides of the leaves and greasy spots on the undersides of them, this disease can be prevented by adequately spacing out your plants by at least 12 inches. This allows them to benefit from proper air circulation.
  • Bacterial leaf spot: Dark, necrotic, water-soaked spots on your leaves indicate this fatal disease caused by microorganisms thriving in wet, cool conditions. Avoiding overhead watering. Discarding infected leaves early should help you easily manage this ailment.
  • Root and stem rot: If your tubers begin to look discolored or your stems start turning black, your begonias may be suffering from rot caused by fungi. The problem is fairly easy to address, however, by ensuring that your soil drains well and never becomes waterlogged.
  • Insects and other pests: Aphids and thrips are the two most common pests for begonias, sometimes further complicating matters by transmitting additional diseases like spotted wilt virus (which stunts growth, diminishes the quality and health of flowers, and leaves spots or rings on leaves). You can reduce the presence of thrips by keeping susceptible plants like dahlias away from your begonias. Aphids can be reduced by hand-picking or by applying insecticidal soap, which also happens to work well for controlling gnats, whiteflies, mealybugs, and spider mites. And if you notice problems with slugs or snails, consider hand-picking them or setting out some slug or snail bait.

How do freezing temperatures affect tuberous begonias?

If tuberous begonias are exposed to freezing temperatures for extended periods of time, the portions of the plants that are above the ground will die. But in the spring, the plant will regrow from its underground tubers that stay dormant throughout the winter. These begonias will also produce new tubers during the growing season that will then fall to the ground in autumn. These new tubers will then sprout in the spring.

Works Cited

  1. MacKenzie, Jill and Moncada, Kristine. Tuberous Begonias. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved on 26 October 2018.
  2. Hodgson, Larry. Multiplying Begonias. Laidback Gardener. Retrieved on 26 October 2018.
  3. Barth, Brian. How to Identify a Begonia. SF Gate. Retrieved on 29 October 2018.
  4. Evans, Judith. Tuberous Begonia Problems. SF Gate. Retrieved on 29 October 2018.
  5. Rhoades, Jackie. Tips on Propagating Begonias From Cuttings. Gardening Know How. Retrieved on 31 October 2018.

Questions & Answers

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • pedrn44 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandi 

      11 months ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      I did not split mine. You would have to be careful with the root structure and as you can see there are many sprouts in each tuber that could be damaged. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Alan Price 

      11 months ago

      Can the stored corms be split to produce more plants?

    • pedrn44 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandi 

      7 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Thanks, tillsontitan. I tried to winter over a poinsettia and forgot all about it once it was in my closet. This will be a new attempt for me and I hope it works! Thanks for your great comment and votes:)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      Beautiful begonia photos and very informative. Your information leaves nothing to the imagination, you've covered everything you promise in your title! I'm a garden lover but can't find the time to winter over my plants and wind up buying new ones the next spring. Voted up and useful.

    • pedrn44 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandi 

      7 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      you write the best comments sunshine:) I have never had a green thumb either but this plant inspired me. In Florida you would only have to move them inside perhaps and put them out in the Spring. I am going to give it my best...storing them and all that...our winters are fierce. Ugh!! We'll see what happens. Thanks so much for your votes and your encouragement to keep on keeping on.

      Sandi

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Hi pedrn! What an amazingly beautiful hub! I've never had a green thumb but I've tried many, many times. Your photos make me want to give some love to planting again, one day. We have been trying to grow pumpkins for 3 years now. So far it hasn't worked. My hubby doesn't think they are going to work again. Maybe it's the Florida soil and not just me. Yep, that sounds good to me. Haha! Voted across the board :)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)