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Home > Care  > July tips

Tips for July
by Brad Thompson

1. Fertilizing: Continue fertilizing regularly using quarter strength fertilizer once a week. Your begonias will not grow to their best if you are a sporadic fertilizer. You will notice a big difference in how well your plants grow with regular feeding. Carmen brought up an important detail at the last PV meeting. She asked why we suggest using Nutricote and also say to fertilize with a liquid. It isnít absolutely essential to use both but the Nutricote is a catchall for when youíre too busy to keep up with the weekly liquid. Plus it adds a little fertilizer to those times in between liquid fertilizing when you are using plain water.


2. Cleanup: Keep bad leaves removed, they wonít get any better and they will quickly be replaced by fresh new leaves. If you remove the bad leaves now the plant may still have time to fill in that bare spot before a show. Your plants will be healthier if you keep the leaves cleaned of dirt and dust. Keeping both your pots and your leaves washed and clean will be a big timesaver when you take plants to shows. Do not use any type of leaf shine products on begonia leaves. Some members spray their plants with Epsom salts to keep the leaves healthy. Iím not sure of the ratio but I believe it was 1 teaspoon to a gallon of water. I try to keep my leaves rinsed off when I water but I donít do this to plants that seem to resent getting their leaves wet or when the sun is brightly shining on them or if the weather is extremely warm or cold.


3. Pests: Try hard to keep up with inspecting your begonias and other plants for giant whitefly and other pests. Giant whiteflies are easy to miss because they make their clusters under the leaves and you don't notice them until they have built a large colony. Carefully checking under the leaves and either removing the leaves or wiping off the eggs will go a long way towards helping to keep them in check. Carefully check any plants you purchase to make sure you donít bring home the giant whiteflies from meetings. When taking plants to shows take special care in looking under the leaves for whiteflies and mealy bugs and also in the leaf axils. I have seen many otherwise wonderful plants removed from a show when pests were overlooked.


4. Mildew and Disease: You shouldnít be having a mildew or disease problem at this time of year. If you do, you may want to question some of your cultural practices or enlist help from other members. You may be trying to grow varieties that donít like the areas where you are growing them. Try moving those to other areas with more air or light to see if that helps. After Jeanne Jonesí suggestion of using Rose Defense and a couple years of using it myself I can say that it works very well on begonias. Be sure to follow the package instructions and avoid spraying plants during the hottest part of the day or when the sun is on them. As with all new things, try it first on a couple of plants and wait a few days to be sure that it works the same for you.


5. Pruning & Pinching: You should stop pinching any plants that you intend to enter in a show this year. Any plants that you arenít going to show you of course continue to pinch if you want to make the plant fuller. You will sacrifice blooms though. Donít forget to keep pruning down or pinching back new shoots that come up so they donít ruin the shape of your plants on basket type plants. You should continue to do this even on plants that will be going to shows. Make sure to cut those stray stems down inside the plant so the stump doesnít



6. Watering: Your plants will be needing watering more now that the weather is warm. I generally water my begonias about twice a week during warm weather. This is only an example, not a guide, but should give you some idea how often to really need to water. Begonias is sunnier locations may need watering three times a week. If you have a begonia that wilts make sure that it is dry and not wilting because it has root damage. If a plantís soil is wet and the plant is wilted it has suffered root damage and should be repotted right away. Remove all the dead roots and soggy soil and pot into a pot slightly larger than the remaining rootball. You may need to trim back some of the plant so it will have less foliage

to support when it recovers.


7. Repotting: In observing your plants you may notice some that dry out faster or slower than the other plants around them. These plants probably need repotting. Potting up in the case of plants that dry out too soon and possibly potting down for that that are staying too wet or donít seem to be growing back too well from pruning. You can safely repot all begonias now. Any new plants you purchase from shows should be immediately put in your own mix, even if itís into the same size pot. I know some people advocate letting the plant acclimate first but from my experience they donít acclimate that well when you are trying to water them correctly in someone elseís mix. Newly repotted small plants should be kept in a shadier location for a few days after the repotting though to make the adjustment to a new locale easier. I know there are some people that donít always practice what they preach but you can ask anyone who knows me if I donít repot every plant the day I bring it home. Iím not insinuating that Iím perfect in following my own advice, except for this one item. When potting plants up to a larger pot, usually you only go up one pot size at a time. All begonias except for rhizomatous and rexes should be planted lower in the pot that they were in the previous pot if possible. This will cause the plant to put out more new roots and also cause more new basal growth.


8. General Notes: Itís still not too late to be taking a few cuttings and starting new little plants to share with friends and the clubs. I try to do a few cutting every day. This time of year those cuttings are mostly stray stems or stems that are facing the wrong direction. Taking cuttings this way isnít so much of a chore. Every few days I look through my little jars of cuttings to see if any have rooted. I try to pot up a flatís worth at t time to make it easier. A flat is 25 3 inch pots. So when I see I have 25 or so rooted I pot them up. All this cutting taking and potting up only takes a few minutes every week. If you buy plants at any of our sales this year, keep in mind that you can get a faster start on a big plant by buying three of the same plant and combining them in a larger pot or basket. Not everyone can afford this practice but if you can it does speed up the process. Starting with one small plant may take a few years to grow into a large full plant whereas combining three will give you a large full plant in a year or less, sometimes immediately depending on how big the three you combine are.


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