Begonia bonfire

usha_srinivasan(z5/6 SE MI)October 10, 2011

Hello plant enthusiasts,

I am a long time member here, mostly lurk in the perennials and tree forum. My indoor gardening has been mainly restricted to an Indian curry plant that I use for cooking, and a bay leaf plant both of which are on my east facing kitchen window.

Having added a new great room to our house this past year,I finally have a plant room to keep me smiling through the long grey winters in Michigan (our old dining room with two windows facing east and south.I have managed to collect some of the usual plants: pothos, dracaena, croton, mother in laws tongue (what an aptly named plant :), philodendron, also a huge schefflera that I rescued from the curbside and soon my first banana tree (Thanks craigslist !).

Anyways, I have this Begonia Bonfire, that I bought from HD this spring and would like to overwinter as a houseplant.

Looking for advice on the best way to keep this begonia happy. Should I prune it back before bringing it in or just keep as it is ? It bloomed beautifully over spring and summer but nothing for the past month, looks healthy but somewhat bare, lots of leaves at the tips of the branches but not so many along the stem and also has a few yellow leaves. I should add that I did not fertilize it at all but did keep it well watered over summer.



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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Two things that contribute to the poodle look (foliage at branch ends only) are tight roots and a lack of N, which tends to suppress lateral breaks (back-budding) and force the plant to steal nutrients from older parts to support new branch extension (then the plant sheds the older parts).

The best way to overwinter would be to let the plant dry down, then cut it back to very near the base and store it in a very cool room. Give it just enough water to keep the tuber firm. In the spring, when it's telling you it's awake, bare root and repot into a soil that drains well.

If the plant is still growing well for you (mine are), I would fertilize now with a full strength dose of Miracle-Gro or other brand of fertilizer in a 3:1:2 ratio. MG 24-8-16 is a commonly found 3:1:2 ratio. You could also use MG liquid 12-4-8 (yellow plastic container). Plants store not only photosynthate, but nutrients as well. The fertilizer NOW will help immensely when it comes fueling the spring push.

If you decide to overwinter it as an actively growing plant, it will be more difficult & probably won't appreciate indoor conditions much. You should probably repot it now and cut back with the idea you'll be removing all the lanky growth that occurs over winter when you move it outdoors in May. I would still fertilize & wait about 2 weeks before repotting or cutting back. Then withhold fertilizer after repotting until new growth is obviously under way.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 4:07PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I meant to leave pics


    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 4:20PM
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usha_srinivasan(z5/6 SE MI)

Thanks Al,

Those are beautiful, what is the white flowered one in the bottom pic ? (and I am glad I have not figured out how to post pics on gardenweb, because mine dont look anywhere as happy :)

I think I will go with your first idea : cut it back and try to keep it from drying or drowning over winter. I also have a cyperus that I am going to do the same. The only issue is that my basement is neither dry nor cool so it is going to be a challenge. I will report back on progress.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 8:55AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The plant with the cream colored blooms you inquired about is one of the Fusion series of Impatiens - probably 'Fusion Glow'.

For next year, you might note that Impatiens & Begonia both take a fair amount of nitrogen to keep them from shedding older foliage & getting a leggy look that has nothing to do with light or internode length. Please don't use a 'bloom booster' fertilizer, and when you start to see the interior leaves getting light colored, fertilize with one of the fertilizers listed above & you'll do fine, as long as the roots don't get too congested or the soil isn't too water-retentive.

Good luck with your plant(s)!


    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 3:33PM
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