Storing Begonias over winter

Storing Begonias

Begonias, although often sold as half-hardy annuals, are mostly in fact, perennials. The tuberous varieties can be over-winter for progressively better results year after year.

As you may know, I do love Begonias and every summer my garden is full of these colourful and varied flowers.

I especially prize my collection of tuberous rooted varieties, such as Begonia Apricot Shades, Non-stop Mocca, Aromantics and trailing varieties such as Cascading Picotee and Boliviensis.

Many Begonias have tuberous roots which means that they are actually perennials, but unfortunately incapable of surviving the damp and cold of the UK winter. They will require a period of dormancy in a cool, dry place. The main benefit of storing tubers is that you not only save having to buy new plants in the spring, but every year the tuber increases in size and so does the plant that comes from it!

Protecting Begonia Tubers

Overwintering Begonia tubers is quite simple:

  1. Dig up the entire Begonia plant with foliage still attached before the hard frosts set in, ensuring that the tuber is not damaged in the process.
  2. Cut away with a sharp knife, any disease parts of the tuber.
  3. Leave it to dry in a frost free and sunny place for about 1 week.
  4. Remove the foliage by gently teasing the stems from the tuber.
  5. Clean away any excess soil or compost.
  6. You may dust your Begonia tuber with sulfur powder to guard against rot.
  7. Store tubers in a cardboard box, space them evenly apart and put them in a dry, frost-free and dark place until spring and then plant as normal.

I like to occasional check my Begonia tubers during winter to ensure they are still dry and rot-free. I tend to remove any that aren’t to prevent the risk of infecting other tubers.

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  • Barbara Fortin on December 1, 2009 at 9:06 pm said:

    I am new at this gardening thing thing. I was told I can ‘tent’ my bagonia to save it over the winter. Is it that simple. I live in Bellingham Washington. It is still before the frost.

  • James Middleton on December 2, 2009 at 12:36 pm said:

    Hi Barbara,

    I haven’t heard of ‘tenting’ begonias, except perhaps for propagation purposes. I’m not too sure what kind of weather you have in Bellingham – how cold it gets or general humidity, but I would suggest that digging up and over wintering your begonias is a very safe option. It also gives you the opportunity to perform a little health check on your plant’s tubers. I found a few grubs in mine this year – now I’m glad I checked.

    If your begonias are fibrous rooted, then you can either dig them up, trim them back and store as house plants over winter, or take cuttings and keep in a warm spot in your house. Most begonia varieties easily take from cuttings – hardly any labour at all.

    I hope this helps.

  • diane turner on September 5, 2010 at 11:27 pm said:

    i’m new at geraniums and begonia over wintering. i have kept plants as indoor but have many pots and not enough room for all so have decided to dryroot them. i am zone 6 (ontrio canada) have done much research and have come to the conclusion that dry root is the best method ?? i have both geraniums and begonias. any advice would be welcome.

  • James Middleton on October 2, 2010 at 10:46 am said:

    Hi Diane. The method doesn’t really matter, as long as you do the following to over winter your begonia tubers:

    * Keep in a frost free place.
    * Keep dry.
    * Check on them every now and then to ensure aginst fungal infections or pest infestations.
    * You can pack them in dry compost or in newspaper.

    Let the frost just touch the begonia plants before removing the tubers – this will allow for some of the nutrients to return back to the tuber. Don’t leave them in the ground for too long or you will loose them! It’s also a very good idea to label each tuber. I forgot to do this one year and had trailing begonias in tubs and erect forms in my hanging baskets!!!

  • James Middleton on October 2, 2010 at 10:55 am said:

    Last year, I left my tubers on my windowsil to dry for a week. Once dry, I tapped away the remaining compost and found and removed several vine weevil lavae. I’m glad I did this now as the weevils would have had a begonia snack over winter!

    Always be careful when cleaning a begonia tuber. They may look as tough as old boots, but they are not. The skins around the tubers are very thin and can easily peel away increasing the chances of fungal infection.

  • CAROL IRELAND on October 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm said:

    My husband has stored my begonia tubers in newspaper, in an airtight polystyrene box.
    Is this OK.

  • James Middleton on November 12, 2012 at 8:58 pm said:

    I think that sounds like a reasonable why to store them. Just make sure you check them every couple of months to ensure that they aren’t going rotten and keep each one separately wrapped. Thanks – a good suggestion.

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