Just because your hostas are starting to look about as attractive as cattle silage, don’t despair. Their roots will do just fine in our northern winters, and they’ll come back bigger and better than ever in the spring.
Not so begonias. These natives of tropical climates will not survive if left outside in the winter. If you’re happy with treating your begonias as annuals and replacing them every year, then go ahead and compost them when you’re done with them.
If you can’t decide when the right time is to do that, then leave them alone and the first frost will make the decision for you by killing the stems and leaves. The first hard frost will put an end to the roots.
If the first frost hasn’t arrived yet, you have a chance to overwinter your wax begonias indoors as house plants. These are the begonias that have shiny, waxy-looking leaves. They can be finicky due to the change in humidity, heat and light indoors, so don’t be surprised if you experience some leaf drop.
Put them on a tray of pebbles to increase humidity, place them in bright filtered light and don’t let their feet sit in water. Sounds a lot like an African violet, doesn’t it?
Just make sure when you bring any plants inside you don’t bring little critters or diseases in with you. Don’t forget to do some detective work and look for slug and snail eggs that may have been left to overwinter in the soil. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.
Tuberous begonias, on the other hand, enjoy dormancy during the winter months. They just can’t enjoy it outside in our winters, so they can come indoors too. But instead of treating them like house plants, you’re going to store those tubers until spring gives the signal for new growth.
The first step is to stop watering them. When they’re dry you can bring them indoors and take them out of their pots. They can withstand a light frost, which will make your job easier by killing off their leaves and stems. Just don’t wait until after the first heavy frost or it’s too late.
Clean off all the dirt and use a sharp knife to cut out any rotten spots you might find. Lay them out to dry in a warm and dry spot for several days. Once they’re completely dry, any remaining stems should be wizened enough to just come off Put them individually in something breathable, like a paper bag or newspaper, and store them in a cool, dark and dry place. If your garage gets cold enough to freeze in the winter, that wouldn’t be the place.
Some people like to sprinkle their tubers with a fungicide before storing them. That’s up to you. You might also want to label them with the color if you’ve got more than one kind and color schemes matter to you.
Check them from time to time during the winter and know you can still cut out any more rotten spots that crop up.
You’ll know when it’s time to replant them when they start to sprout.
As you stare out your window at rain and more rain, think how pretty those begonias will look on your front porch come summer. Keeping thinking it. Winter doesn’t mean your begonias are gone forever.