Even though there’s snow on the ground, now’s the time to put some spring into your step! Take advantage of the month of March by beginning to grow begonia bulbs indoors. Begonias are such bold and brightly coloured flowers, and growing them comes with beautiful rewards! In our climate (zone 3), you can begin your begonias mid-March—between 8 to 12 weeks before the threat of frost ends. They’ll be in bloom and ready for planting into your garden and containers come planting time.
LET’S GROW BEGONIA BULBS!
1. PREPARE YOUR POTS OR TRAYS
Fill pots or trays with 2-3 inches of soil and moisten. Surround the bulbs (also called tubers) completely in potting medium. Begonias love arid mixes such as soil mixed with coco fibre and/or coir. These mixes retain moisture while allowing young, new roots to breathe. Be aware that roots develop all around the bulb. Place the tubers hollow side up, and cover them with another inch of soil and water them in.
2. KEEP COVERED AND COZY ON
Begonias like to grow in warm and humid environments. Cover pots or trays with plastic wrap or a clear plastic dome, but make sure they can still ‘breathe’ under there. Keep the bulbs at 20 degrees Celsius or higher – but never cooler than 15 degrees Celsius. Bulbs prefer bright, direct light or indirect sunlight. Monitor their growth and keep the soil moist, but not overwatered or the bulbs will rot. After about 5-6 weeks, you should see shoots or leaves coming out of the soil. Remove their plastic covers and continue to offer sunlight and regular waterings.
3. TRANSPLANT AND ENJOY BEGONIAS OUTDOORS
Once the begonia leaves have started to show good growth you can begin to ‘harden them off’ by setting them outdoors during the daytime and bringing them in at night. This gets them used to being outside and in cooler temperatures. When the risk of frost has passed, (this is typically after May 18 in Manitoba), transplant them outside into your containers or shaded garden beds. Fertilize every two weeks for maximum growth and vibrance. Keep watered and enjoy the bright colours all summer long!
WHAT TYPE OF BEGONIA BLOOM TO CHOOSE?
There are four common begonias varieties and within each variety you’ll find a rainbow of colors!
Fibrous Begonias are known for their colourful flowers, compact shape, and rounded green, bronze, or variegated leaves. They can even be overwintered inside the home in a sunny window as a pretty tabletop plant.
Tuberous begonias are in a class all their own! They’re big, lush, rose-like flowers are incomparable, and are one of the best (if only) blooms that can bring colour to the shade garden or north facing containers. At the end of summer, tuberous varieties can be stored in a cool, dry place over winter, to be grown the following spring.
Rieger Begonias, also known as Solenia, offer outstanding performance in flower beds and in containers. They are vigorous growers with a mounding habit that are wind resistant, drought tolerant, and mildew resistant. Unlike other shade loving begonias, Riegers can take full sun! Solenia turns heads wherever they’re grown, with small colourful blooms that sprout from every branch.
Rex begonias are as cool as their name sounds! Prized for their patterned and uniquely shaped leaves, they’re at home in the shade garden or planter, as well as a houseplant. Rex lovers tend to collect multiple varieties – they’re a strangely addictive plant family!
We hope that we’ve inspired you to try out a new gardening activity by starting some begonia bulbs this spring. Our team gets so excited for the arrival of begonia bulbs each March – they truly are work of nature’s art!