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As the name suggests, the beautiful, reddish flowers of the chocolate flower exude a pleasantly intoxicating scent of milk chocolate. The graceful plant is originally native to California and therefore does not tolerate the often frosty and severe winters here. Therefore, it must be protected in winter if the hobby gardener wants to enjoy the sweet scent for several years. However, overwintering the bulbous plant is quite simple, it does not require much care in the winter.


Chocolate flower hardy

Originally, the chocolate flower is native to the regions of California, which are always warm in summer. Due to the warm temperatures, they remain in a bed here even in winter and can thus be cultivated for several years. In the local latitudes, this is unfortunately different. The graceful plant must be protected from cold temperatures and frost and must not remain outside in winter. Because the temperatures that often prevail here in winter cannot be tolerated at all and cannot survive a winter at the summer location.


It is important that the chocolate flower is brought to a frost-free and protected location before the first frost. Night frosts can occur as early as early November, so the plant should be winterized by then. It looks similar in spring, here the frosts can still occur up to the ice saints in May, so the chocolate flower should not be taken outside too early even when the sun is shining in spring and it should be waited until after the ice saints.

To cut

Prune before overwintering

Since only the tubers of the chocolate flower overwinter and the plant sprout from them in spring when the temperatures are warmer, it makes sense to cut the plant, whether cultivated in the garden bed or in a bucket, to prepare for winter. The right time is when the flowers have faded and the leaves are beginning to turn yellow. The flowering period usually lasts until October, after which it is cut.

This should be done as follows:

  • use a sharp knife or scissors
  • disinfect them before work
  • otherwise bacteria or fungi can penetrate
  • the tuber gets sick and does not survive the winter
  • Cut the entire plant just above the tuber
  • Leftovers can be put in the compost
  • Dry flowers for new seeds


Overwinter in the tub

If the chocolate flower has been cultivated in a bucket on the terrace or balcony, it can simply be overwintered in its container. In such a case, the tubers do not have to be removed from the ground. If the plant was cut back at the end of October, the pot with the tubers can move to the winter location.

This can look like this:

  • dry, cool, dark basement room
  • frost-free garage
  • frost-free garden house
  • 8° to 10° Celsius is ideal

Often the floors in a basement or garage are cooler than the rest of the room. To prevent the cold from rising up into the pot from below and possibly damaging the tubers here, the container should be placed on a warming wooden or polystyrene board. The room in which the tub with the tubers of the chocolate flower overwinters should have a window or a door to the outside. On frost-free days, it is advisable to air the room so that any moisture that may have formed can escape.


Care in the bucket

Caring for the tubers in the tub over the winter is relatively easy. Because the chocolate flower does not need much in winter. It is neither watered nor fertilized. The soil in the bucket even has to dry out so that the tubers don't rot. The tubers should therefore also be checked regularly. If rotten plants appear, they must be removed and the tubers can then no longer be saved. The hobby gardener can tell that the tubers have survived the winter by the fact that they are firm and without bruises.

spring habituation

Potted plants, spring habituation

In order for the chocolate flower to be able to thrive in all its glory again in the new year, it is essential to get used to the warmer temperatures and brightness in spring. As a rule, the flower can remain in the bucket in which it was overwintered. But every few years and if too many tubers have formed in a pot, they should be removed from the pot, divided and distributed over several buckets. This has the side effect of propagating the graceful plant. Further, in the spring, the habituation process is carried out as follows.

  • Start late February, early March
  • Put pots in a brighter and warmer place
  • bright staircase or bright entrance area
  • outside on warm days
  • protected from direct sunlight
  • on the terrace or balcony
  • start fertilizing
  • water regularly again
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • spend inside again on frosty nights

The chocolate flower will now slowly sprout again. However, as long as the nights can still be frosty, she must be spent indoors at night. It is only allowed to remain in its original summer location after the Ice Saints in May.


tubers overwinter

If the chocolate flower was cultivated in the garden bed, then the tubers must be removed from the bed completely after cutting the plant at the end of October. These are carefully removed from the ground and completely freed from the surrounding earth. If many tubers have grown together, they can also be divided by hand or with a sharp, disinfected knife. In spring, the hobby gardener has more tubers, which are then all planted individually and from which even more decorative chocolate flowers can grow. Before digging up, the plant should not be additionally watered to avoid too much moisture. The natural rain in autumn is usually sufficient here. The procedure for overwintering the dug up bulbs is as follows.

  • Temperatures of 8° to 10° Celsius are ideal
  • a dark, dry basement room is recommended
  • with moisture, the tubers can rot
  • dispose of rotting tubers immediately
  • if the basement is too dry, there is a lack of moisture
  • the tubers then shrivel
  • put in an air-permeable bag and hang up
  • let it dry well beforehand
  • an old potato sack or net is also suitable for this
  • Ventilate the basement room on frost-free days

In order to protect them from evaporation and dehydration in a very dry cellar, it is advisable to overwinter the tubers in a peat-sand mixture in a well-ventilated wooden box. A fresh, not too moist substrate can also help against drying out. For example, fresh potting soil is suitable, which is filled directly from the closed bag into the box, into which the tubers are then distributed.

tubers in spring

The tubers that have spent the winter without soil must not be planted in the bed before the ice saints in May. However, so that they can already get used to the warmth and brightness and drive out beforehand, they can be placed in potting soil in a bucket for the transition. This is then placed in a bright and warmer place from February. Not all tubers can still be used after the winter, so rotten tubers, those with bruises and shriveled tubers should be sorted out because they can no longer be used. Next, in the spring with the tubers proceed as follows.

  • water regularly
  • fertilize regularly
  • Prepare garden bed with compost
  • Put the buckets outside on warm days
  • protected from sun and rain on the balcony or terrace
  • back inside on cold nights
  • otherwise a bright place inside
  • However, avoid heated air
  • better in a cool stairwell or entryway

The chocolate flower is already beginning to sprout. If it is transferred to the garden bed in May after the last night frosts, care must be taken here so that the young shoots are not damaged.

Overwinter in a bucket outside

If you have no way of bringing a large and heavy tub in which the chocolate flower was cultivated to a sheltered location inside, you can also try to overwinter it outside. However, this is often not the best solution, particularly in very cold winter regions. However, it can succeed in areas that only have a moderate winter. For wintering in the bucket, the pot must be protected overall.

This is done as follows:

  • Cut the plant completely after it has finished flowering
  • water only moderately from September
  • look for a protected corner on the terrace or balcony
  • place the bucket on a block of wood or styrofoam
  • Cover the whole with mats of brushwood
  • also place a brushwood mat over the bucket
  • Plastic is not recommended
  • The soil and tubers then do not get any air
  • could rot or mold

The tubers in the bucket should be observed regularly. On frost-free and dry days, the mat of brushwood above the soil can also be removed for a few hours so that the soil can be aerated and rotting of the tubers or mold formation on the soil can be avoided. Casting is not allowed. After the winter in spring, on warmer and lighter days, remove the mat of brushwood over the pot regularly during the day, water the tubers again and fertilize. During the night, the young plants that are now sprouting are protected again with the mat or plant fleece until no more frosty nights are to be expected. Only then is the bucket unpacked and brought from the protected corner to its summer location.

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