Using a sunroom to overwinter begonias?

bettylu_zone6aAugust 27, 2009

This year I fell in love with some begonias for the first time (Black Coffee, Last Laugh, Rex, and another unnamed) and they are doing great on my front porch...Well, now it is almost September and I would really like to be able to winter them in my sunroom, which I usually keep just barely heated except when I am using it, then I turn on the fireplace to bring it up to a comfortable temperature.

Will this work for begonias?

My plan is to group the plants near a baseboard heater that I leave on all winter, and put the pots in a pebbled tray for humidity. My concern is that it will get too cold, although it does stay above freezing and I have been able to winter other houseplants just fine... I just don't know about the begonias. They will get a lot of light, since the room has a south - west - north exposure. Is there a particular direction that would be best?

Any suggestions as to when to bring them in, location, fertilizing, expected leaf drop, or whatever would be very much appreciated. Two of my plants are pretty good size (about 2' leaf spread) and the other two are much smaller.

Thanks in advance

BettyLu in St. Louis

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They should do okay with this set up but not sure about placing them too close to heat vents. Ease up on watering when it is cold (cold and wet can be very detrimental to begonias and a lot of houseplants). Begonias are tougher than a lot of houseplants although there are some that need it warm and humid. I would think a southern exposure would be best but the plants will tell you when they are happy and when they aren't. The rex may defoliate which is in its nature - cut back on watering if it does this else it may lead to rot.

I bring mine into the basement in late October before our first frost but you can bring yours in anytime you choose. You may have leaf drop - it depends on the particular begonia and your indoor conditions. Bringing them in from a cool outside temp to a cool inside temp should not be much of a change. Fertilize lightly or not at all during the winter rest months. You may have to or you should spray them with a fungicide to prevent or control mildew.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 3:02PM
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Ok, good, that is encouraging...

The portable baseboard heater is a fluid filled one - no blower so the heat is steady. My choices for placement of the pots would be either on the floor next to the heater or on a glass top table that I COULD place so that it straddles the heater to allow the heat to rise from below. The only problem with this would be that it would be further from the heat source, do you think heat from below to be the better choice??? I could also put them in my west facing kitchen window at the sink (it is a deeper counter at that point, so I have room) if you think it would be better.

Thanks for your input!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 5:57PM
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I think anything above 40 at night would be A-okay as long as it gets semi-warm in the day. I had a greenhouse at my last house and often it got below freezing but keeping the frost and wind chill outside kept most plants looking good. The ones on the gravel floor came out worse than the ones on wooden shelves so draw your own conclusions.

In my current house I have wintered over some bigger begonias in the very cool, semi-dark garage. The Benitochiba came through with flying colors but the bigger ones suffered some setbacks. I suppose the reason is the Benitochiba is considered a rex and goes semi-dormant for winter whereas the others kept their leaves but kept shrinking. Lights and some warmth are a better solution for a lot of begonias.

You will find out what works and what doesn't this year. Expect most begonias to stay looking good through Jan, maybe Feb and then start a decline through Apr on a lot of them. I've been doing this for a few years and that is my observation but maybe it is something I am not understanding or doing in my basement. The lights and temps are fairly constant but perhaps my watering becomes erratic or the humidity fluctuates too much. One thing I know I have to do is resist the temptation to fertilize in winter which may be my biggest problem.

The very few begonias I have in the house during winter do very well without a lot of extra attention - just water and a southern exposure. The rest stay in the basement under lights or near windows.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 8:25PM
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BettyLu, I'm just east of you in Illinois. If you aren't heating the room I wouldn't put a pebble tray under a Rex. The Rex begonias I've had in the past were mildew magnets over winter when they were exposed to any humidity along with low temperatures. The begonias on my barely heated back porch get very little water and stay pretty dormant until the days get longer in February. Anita

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 11:15AM
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Hcmcdole, thanks for your input. I think I will put the two big ones (Last Laugh and Black Coffee) in the sunroom and the Rex and the NOID one at the kitchen sink (since they are smaller). Then I guess I can just observe and see which spot seems to be working better. It would be fantastic if they would continue to look pretty as long as you say they might, but I guess if they don't, I can move them to the basement window and let them go dormant.

Anita, this will put the Rex in my heated kitchen, right where I can keep an eye on it. It is actually pretty small, but healthy again after I almost lost it. I apparently put it in too big of a pot (22") with a couple of tuberous begonias to make what I thought would be a pretty combination in a 22" pot outside. I guess it was just too much space for the Rex, because once I put it into a smaller pot by itself, it recovered nicely but is still only about 6" tall with about 7 leaves :-(

I am SO much a newbie regarding begonias... I have gardened for years, but didn't attempt begonias until last year when I had a gorgeous big pot of mixed begonias!(now I know they were all Non-stop varieties) I didn't realize that they did not like the same growing conditions and I have been busy reading past posts to learn all that I can.

I have always loved unusual leaves and had no idea that there were so many colors & shapes of begonias to choose from! Hopefully this winter I will be successful in saving the ones I have, because I REALLY want to buy more next spring!!!!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 2:27PM
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I mirror what has been said all round but, I wouldn't move them yet--they still have a couple months to enjoy the great outdoors.
If they were going into storage, they'd be allowed to be hit by frost, but that isn't the case, you intend to winter-over in their pots and keep them flowering for as long as possible---which will no doubt be sometime in January.

The southern/western exposure shouldn't hurt them any when you do move them. AT that time the sun is pretty low and its intensity is fast losing it. As long as any window glass doesn't increase the rays to any burning extent, they should be fine.

Are you going to leave them for a time---if you are going to be in the home, there's no need for special watering attention--you water them as the soil needs it and it will, eventually, need a lot less as the sun goes down.

One of the hardest things I think to do in the fall is remove the flowers from my begonias when they are still so actively going but once the frost hits the foliage and it withers, there's no point in lingering any longer and so the foliage is got rid of, the plant lifted, the soil got rid of and the bulb dried out a bit before storage.

Begonia for me is accepted to be late blooming...but this year it put that word "late" to shame....mine didn't start blooming until well into late July/early August and its turned awfully cold this past week.
The Canada Geese are flying across by the hundreds....and I'm wondering..."do they know something I don't"?
Its been a lousy summer---I just hope it doesn't portend a lousier winter.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 9:27PM
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Thanks for all your info, I am going to try to keep them pretty all winter! It will be nice at Thanksgiving and Christmas when the family comes and they can see some beautiful begonias.

The weather in St. Louis has been VERY different this past summer... I feels more like Michigan weather than our typical unbearably humid and hot July/August. Right now the temps are in the low 60's - in August? Crazy? Absolutely!

Does this mean a colder, lousy winter to come? I sure hope not!!!!

At least those hard gardening chores and projects can be done now without dealing with our usual heat - time to get out and re-stain my deck and move some of my rocks around!

Happy Gardening to all!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 11:29AM
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I have my first begonia this year and am contemplating what to do with it over the winter. I'm thinking that I'll put it in our garage, which has three windows and although it's not heated, it keeps the frost off my husband's car windows :) I've taken a clipping of the begonia and I'm rooting it in water (just started this yesterday) in case my plant doesn't survive the winter. I would take it in the basement, but I'm leery of pests, so the garage will have to do.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant Avenue

    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 10:40AM
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