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The begonia is one of the most popular plants, finding its place both in the summer garden and as a houseplant. With a few exceptions, the varieties are not hardy and even kept in a warm room, they require special treatment/care because they have different requirements than in summer. The right preparation for the winter already ensures that the plant thrives healthy and vigorously in the following year and that many flowers form.
Begonias hibernate - this is how you can take care of them in winter
When it comes to hibernation and winter care, a distinction is made between outdoor begonias and pure indoor plants. While some potted specimens flower well into winter, garden plants begin their dormant phase as early as autumn. The need for care and the preparation for the cold season are correspondingly different.
In the winter months, the otherwise robust slate-leaf plant can react particularly sensitively to light influences. If it receives too much or too little, it usually reacts by shedding its leaves. This requires an optimal interplay of room temperature and light supply. Pruning encourages the growth of shoots and flowers next year. Begonias in particular, which bloom for a long time, usually show up in the following year with a less pronounced abundance of flowers. The humidity must also be right, as begonias are very susceptible to mold in winter and there is a risk of dehydration.Begonia geogoensis, Slate Leaf
If the begonia has withered, the remains of the flower and dried plant parts are always cut off. If it blooms long into autumn or even into winter, the entire plant should be cut back by a third, otherwise it will tend to become lighter in the coming year. The pruning ensures that in the next growth phase the foliage grows denser and the number of strong flowers increases. In addition, the pruning makes the Begonia more robust overall.
When cutting, it is essential to ensure that the cutting tool is clean. Any bacteria could otherwise enter the moist interfaces and, in the worst case, cause the plant to become life-threatening.
TIP: Especially when cutting back larger specimens of plants and thicker stems, it is advisable to put coal dust or resin on the cuts so that they dry faster and do not offer a target for infections in high humidity in winter.Begonia geogoensis, Slate Leaf
The indoor begonia likes it darker and cooler in winter. The general rule here is: the colder it is, the darker the location should be.
- Ambient temperature between 16 degrees Celsius and 20 degrees Celsius
- optimal: "cool" north-facing windows or "warmer" west/east-facing windows
- use artificial light on west/east windows if necessary on gray winter days
- no direct sunlight
- ensure high humidity
watering and fertilizing
- From September, fertilizing with flowering fertilizer should be stopped
- December to the beginning of flowering in April, apply green plant fertilizer every eight weeks
- water only lightly when the surface of the soil has dried significantly
- alternatively: spray the plant lightly once a day
From February/March the usual care of indoor begonias will start again.
TIP: In the winter months, the Begonia should be checked regularly for pests, which are particularly attracted to high humidity. Control must then be initiated immediately in order to avoid greater damage.Begonia x semperflorens cultorum, polar begonia
Some begonia varieties, such as the ice begonia, can stay outside until the first frost. As a precaution, all other varieties should be prepared in October for the coming cold temperatures and for wintering in frost-free places.
In contrast to indoor begonias, which are used to warmth, the non-hardy outdoor begonia, both as a pot plant and as a tuber, needs a cold room that protects it from frost. Cellars, garages or a garden shed are ideal for this purpose. Although it can withstand an ambient temperature of up to 0 degrees Celsius, it should still be in the plus range so that the cold doesn't tug too much on the power reserves.
- optimal ambient temperature: 10 degrees Celsius
- Light: Shady/dark - avoid direct sunlight
- ensure air balance through regular ventilation
- put them back outside after the ice saints in May
If the begonia is to be planted out of the bed in a pot for the winter or if it has spent the summer in a bucket outside, the following measures are necessary so that it can survive the winter without any problems.
- Dig up and pot in October at the latest
- use dry, loose substrate
- Repot potted plants if necessary
- in case of ground contact, place pot/bucket on styrofoam, wood or cardboard
- Examine the plant for pests and diseases and fight/treat if necessary
- If the onions/tubers are very wet, dry them well with paper towels before repotting
- Shorten the leaves by about two centimetres
- Cover the soil with brushwood, leaves or straw
- do not use bark mulch - risk of mold!
- Only water lightly when the top layer of soil has dried
- don't fertilize anymore
If only the bulb of the slate leaf, as begonias are also called, overwinters, proceed as follows.
- Dig up the tubers before the first frost at the latest
- Remove soil from tubers
- Shorten the plant to a hand’s breadth above the tuber
- twist loosely in newspaper
- If possible, do not change location during the rest phase
- occasionally spray the tubers damp
- Open the newspaper about once a week to air it out
Overwintering the tubers is particularly suitable for hobby gardeners who do not want to spend time occasionally watering.
Hardy and frost-resistant varieties include Begonia grandis ssp evansiana and Begonia sinensis ssp evansiana. Both are perennial begonia that tolerate temperatures down to minus 10 degrees Celsius. However, it is advisable to cover the soil above the root area with insulating material such as brushwood, pine needles, straw or leaves.Begonia geogoensis, Slate Leaf
Hardy begonia varieties are not cut back in autumn, as they usually continue to flower until shortly before the onset of winter. Here a pruning should only be done in early spring before the new growing season. In autumn only withered flowers and dried parts of the plant are removed.
end of winter/beginning of spring
From around February, indoor and outdoor begonias herald the end of winter and slowly return from hibernation to active life. Therefore they should be moved to a place that is warmer and brighter than their winter location. Houseplants enjoy the morning or evening sun on west or east windows. Outdoor begonias in pots or tubs should be exposed to a few hours of afternoon sun from mid-April. After the ice saints, outdoor begonias and tubers can go back into the garden or onto the balcony.
At the end of March/beginning of April, plants that have flowered for a long time in the previous year can be cut. If parts of the plant have dried up over the winter months or have a very high level of moisture, they must be cut off. Otherwise, there is a risk of mold forming, especially with outdoor begonias and too much moisture if a lot of rain hits them after they have been put outside.Begonia tuberhybrida, tuberous begonias
watering and fertilizing
Once the begonia has arrived at its spring location, the need for water slowly begins to increase. While outside this is usually still covered by rain, the indoor plants now need watering again, because the warmer location means that the soil dries out faster.
All begonia species are fertilized as soon as they have been sprouted and the first green leaves appear on the new shoots. Initially, a pure green plant fertilizer should be used that is rich in nutrients and minerals to promote growth. As soon as the first flower buds can be seen, this can be replaced with bloom fertilizer.
Late February or early April is the best time to unwrap overwintered begonia tubers or bulbs from the newspaper and plant them in a nutrient-rich substrate. Then they temporarily need a light location, where they are still protected from frost. They, too, are then allowed to go outside after the ice saints.Begonia geogoensis, Slate Leaf
Since the slate thrives in locations where other plants have little chance of surviving, it is worth bringing them through the winter optimally so that they can refresh unspectacular areas in the garden, on the balcony or in the living room with their colorful flowers the following year.
If you stick to the care points mentioned here before, during and after the winter period, you will be able to hibernate the begonias without any problems. In addition to this, it is also important to regularly check for pests, which the winter increasingly brings with it. No matter how perfect the care can be, if parasites can do their mischief undetected, even the best care is of no use, only a quick reaction to pest control.