How to Store Tuberous Begonias for the Winter and Restart in the Spring
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. A funny thing happened 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! My goal is to keep this "annual" flower safely stored for the Winter and restart it in the Spring.
The Tuberous Begonia
The Tuberous Begonia is an annual plant and its scientific name is begonia tuberhybrida. This will tell you it is grown from a tuber and its many varieties are hybrids which means they are a result of cross breeding.
- The Tuberous Begonia flowers come in many shapes, sizes and colors.
- They can stand upright or be used in hanging baskets.
- They can have frilled 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.
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.
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 following information will let you help them to do that.
When To Start
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.
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 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.
What To Do
In Northern Climates
- Dig up the entire plant and its tuber.
- Gently remove all soil and loose roots
- Lay the entire plant in a warm, dry area for several days to thoroughly dry it out
- Once it is dry it is easy to remove the stems
In Southern Climates the biggest difficulty is to keep them out of the rain. You will need to keep them dry so it is best to dig them up as mentioned above.
Storing The Tubers
Place each tuber in a separate paper bag and place them in a cardboard box for storage. This will allow the tubers to breathe and will prevent rotting and pests. As long as they are separated 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!!
Get started in February or March. It's Important That The Sprouts Appear Before Planting!
- 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.
- Loosen the soil and space the sprouted tubers evenly 4-6 inches apart 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. Just cover lightly with the planting medium.
- Water lightly but thoroughly. The tubers should never be in standing water.
- Place flat in a warm place with filtered sunlight, partial shade.
- 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.
- Water only when soil begins to show dryness. You can water more as the plants develop.
- Keep in 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.
How To Plant The Tubers
Tuberous Begonias are easy to grow. They can survive in many types of soil. The most important thing is perfect drainage. Do not use a "potting mix". You can use a good potting soil from a nursery and it should contain humus.
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
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.