By Gail S. Bones
Our routine is to place the tuber in lunch bags in separate cubicles of booze boxes along the outside wall of our heated basement. We let the frost kill the leaves first, bringing the pots under the overhangs until they totally dry out (no more watering), then spread out the tubers on paper in the cellar, their labels with them, until totally dry-usually mid to late October. At this point we put them in the cartons, with labels in bags. We describe them by color, size, and how they acted (“huge red double upright” or “dainty yellow hanging, sprawl-out-of control”, etc!). With our short growing season, we do not attempt to alter their growing by pruning. They do their thing and we love them as they are. Now and then, we’ll remove a leaf to let a bloom show better .. that’s it.
We start the tubers in Mid-April, planting up the ones that are showing only. Usually all of them are planted by mid-May in shallow aluminum throwaway (but we keep them) roasting pans under grow lights in a bedroom window. They go into pots in late May to mid-June and outside by late June. (1998 was a warm spring and everything got accelerated one to two weeks.) We put two to five tubers in the hanging baskets lined with moss or cocoa fiber and two to three in the large deck pots. Species that are described as 8 to 12″ tall get 3′ high for us so staking is always a problem.. (I suppose with no frost they’d rival the house in size. I was amused at the lady’s description of a neglected begonia that rooted to her greenhouse floor and hit the ceiling, still growing!) We are always hunting down supports for the huge, heavy blossoms, usually the ones we bind are too short. Suggestions on sources would be appreciated.
My husband and I still work, so free time is taken up with house and yard in our beautiful summers; we never go anywhere then and vacation right here, playing host to city dwellers who escape sweltering heat and the rat-race. The begonias obviously love our 75º days and 60º nights. They get morning and midday sun through the tree leaves and thrive.
Every year we have a large outside party in mid-August and while most hostesses would be worrying about the house or food, my concerns are always only: How are the plants looking?! They are the subject of lots of oohs & aahs — sometimes from people who have never seen tuberous so large. People pull in the driveway and inquire what’s in the baskets!