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How to Overwinter Begonias
Wondering what to do with begonias in winter? If you’ve enjoyed your tuberous or wax begonias this year, consider overwintering them! Begonias are an easy flower to bring back year after year and require very little maintenance. Here’s how to overwinter begonias and care for them yourself!
Wintering Begonias of Different Varieties
While those living in warmer climates have the option to leave their begonias outside all winter, all of us in the northeast need to bring ours in when cool weather hits as part of garden winterization. Begonias are heat loving plants, and you should plan to start the overwintering process well before the first frost of the season.
It’s also important to distinguish between begonia types. There are tuberous begonias, which tend to be larger and have a bulb (or “tuber”), such as the popular nonstop begonia variety. Then there are wax begonias, which tend to be smaller and have no tuber. Tuberous begonias need a dormancy period in winter, while wax begonias don’t require dormancy and can bloom year-round under the right conditions. You can overwinter both types in pots.
Overwintering Tuberous Begonias
There are two main ways to overwinter tuberous begonias: leaving them in pots and digging up the tubers.
Storing a Potted Begonia
If your tuberous begonia is already potted and you have space for it, just bring the plant inside before the first threat of frost. Check it and treat it for any insects or diseases before you do, so problems won’t continue to bother the begonia or your other indoor plants later.
Keep it in a window where it will get some sun each day, and begin watering it slightly less than you would outside. Remember, begonias are prone to rotting in overly wet conditions. The flowers and foliage will die back naturally, usually after a month or two, when the plant has stored up enough resources and is ready for dormancy.
Once the foliage has completely died off, stop watering. You can either overwinter the pot by the window if it doesn’t get too hot or put it in a basement or other cool area for the rest of the winter.
Storing a Begonia Tuber
If you planted your tuberous begonia directly in the ground, dig it up and store the tuber. Start by carefully digging it out a few days before a frost or when temperatures fall below 50 consistently at night. Cut the stem off to about an inch above the tuber, then leave on a newspaper in a dry area for around a week. The tuber is ready to store when it’s completely dry and the excess dirt can be easily brushed off.
If you’re concerned about mildew developing, dust the tuber with sulfur powder. Store the tuber in a paper bag or cardboard box with newspaper, sawdust, or peat moss. The tuber may sweat, so it’s important to leave something that will soak up moisture and separate it from any other tubers.
Leave the bag or box in a cool, dry area that doesn’t freeze, like a root cellar or basement. Check it from time to time to make sure it isn’t rotting.
Six to eight weeks before your last frost date in spring, either give your potted begonia a deep watering or, if you kept only the tuber, replant it in a container with fresh potting soil and water thoroughly. Don’t water your begonia again until the soil is dry to the touch or your see new growth from it.
Gradually adjust it to outside levels of sun and water when the plant has grown at least a few inches and all threat of frost has past. You can then either leave the begonia in its pot or transplant it into the ground.
Overwintering Wax Begonias
Unlike tuberous begonias, wax begonias can bloom year-round. You can bring potted ones in, container and all, to overwinter them. If they’re in the ground, dig them up and repot them for winter before any frosts. Here’s a helpful tutorial for digging up previously planted wax begonias:
When bringing them indoors, check the plants for any signs of pests or diseases beforehand and treat them.
Once you’ve brought the potted begonias inside, overwinter them in an area where they can receive similar light and water to when they were outdoors. Gradually lessen the light and amount of water they receive to whatever you can provide in your home. A temperature range of around 65-75 degrees is good. You may want to keep the pot on a tray of pebbles to help with humidity.
You should expect that the plant will die back somewhat, likely dropping leaves and flowers. That doesn’t mean it’s dying; it may just be getting a fresh set of leaves designed for indoor light conditions.
In spring, acclimate the begonias again, slowly, to the outdoors. Keep them in a shady area that’s protected from the wind, then gradually increase their time in regular conditions.
FAQs: Tips for Overwintering Begonias
Q: When should I start overwintering my begonias?
A: Start overwintering begonias as soon as nighttime temperatures fall below 50 degrees consistently or when the first threat of frost appears in the forecast. The begonia may begin dying back before that happens, a sign that it’s also ready to be overwintered.
Q: Can you leave begonias in pots overwinter?
A: Yes, it’s easy to just bring a potted tuberous or wax begonia in for the winter.
Q: How much fertilizer do begonias need during overwintering?
A: Tuberous begonias don’t need any fertilizer during overwintering, although a potted wax begonia may enjoy some for continual blooms.
Q: What is the best way to store begonia tubers for the winter?
A: Individually package tubers in paper bags or in a single layer in a cardboard box with newspaper, sawdust, or peat moss around them. Keep the box or bag in a cool, dark place, like a basement or root cellar.
Q: How much light do begonias need during the winter?
A: Tuberous begonias require little to no light once they’ve gone dormant. Wax begonias still require quite a bit of light, preferably at least 4 hours of wintertime sun.
Q: How much water do begonias need during the winter?
A: Tuberous begonias should only be lightly watered until they go dormant. After dormancy, stop watering completely. Wax begonias need consistent light watering all winter, especially if your house is dry. I generally give my overwintered tuberous and wax begonias a cup of water or less once a week during winter.
Q: What temperature should begonias be kept at during the winter?
A: Tuberous begonias can withstand cool temperatures once they’ve gone dormant – anything from 40-60 degrees should be fine. Keep wax begonias at regular household temperatures, typically 65-75 degrees.
Q: Can I overwinter begonias in a basement?
A: Tuberous begonias can be overwintered as tubers or in their pots in the basement. Wax begonias cannot live in a typical basement, since they require warm temperatures and sunshine to survive the winter.
Q: How do I prevent my begonias from dying in the winter?
A: For tuberous begonias, the biggest threat is rot, so check tubers regularly for signs of it and make sure you aren’t watering a potted tuber at all when it has gone dormant. Wax begonias are also threatened by rot and should be watered sparingly, but they require plenty of sun and warmth as well. Adjust their placement in your house if it seems like they aren’t flourishing in one area.
Enjoy Your Begonias!
With these tips, you should now have a thorough understanding of how to overwinter begonias indoors and the best way to overwinter your begonias based on their type. Happy gardening!
If you’re looking for more overwintering tips, check out how to overwinter geraniums.