Begonias for Shady Sites

    • Last chance for asparagus roots this year. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • Potatoes like to grow in the cool weather of spring. Plant them as soon as possible.
    • Tree peonies are long-lived shrubs that are available now as root divisions. Their large, fragrant flowers bloom for two months each spring.
    • Wildflower seeds can be broadcasted now on hillsides for colorful blooms and erosion control.
    • Lettuce, cabbages, broccoli, onions and other cool-season vegetables can be set out with no frost protection. They will give you a delicious early harvest.

The Beauty of Begonias

If you have shady garden areas or are looking for a brilliant accent for your patio or balcony this summer, you can start some tuberous begonias indoors in March or April. Tuberous begonias provide a spectacular display from July through October and come in white, pink, red, yellow, orange, and apricot.

There are upright begonias and hanging begonias and they grow from tubers which look like small brown lumps with a depression on one side. Choose only firm tubers and look for those with tiny sprouts showing on their upper, concave surfaces.

Start with small, clean pots 2 to 3 inches deep. Fill them with a mixture of equal parts of potting soil, peat moss and sand or perlite. Place each tuber hollow side up with the top just even with the soil level. They rot easily if planted too deep. Water the tubers once really well, to wake them up, and place them in a warm, bright spot.

Cover the freshly-planted tubers with plastic wrap to promote growth, but remove the covering as soon as growth appears. Don’t water again until you see some growth or the soil is quite dry. Some begonias will sprout right away others will take weeks, but you should see growth shoots within a month.

Once the shoots are showing, water them regularly, never allowing the soil to dry out. Give the new plants bright light, but shade them from direct sun. Feed them with half strength fertilizer when their leaves and stems are about 3 inches tall, and every two weeks after that. When the shoots are 6 inches tall, the begonias are ready to be transplanted to the garden or outdoor containers. Don’t put them outdoors, though, until all danger of frost has passed, and remember to harden them off properly first.

Tuberous begonias thrive in partial to full shade and need well-drained soil. They need to be kept away from hot sun and drying winds. Water them generously, especially during hot weather. Keep their soil moist but not soggy; the tubers will rot if they get too much water. Keep an eye out for mildew and first sign of a white patch on any of your begonias’ leaves, apply a fungicide right away.

If you’re growing hanging types, pinch out the primary growing tip when the plant is about 2 inches tall to make sure they have lots of branches to cascade down from their pots. Plant 3 tubers in a hanging basket.

Deadhead begonias regularly, removing wilted leaves and flowers to encourage them to produce more blooms. The large-flowered, upright types of begonias should be staked.

Once the show is over in the fall, you’ll be able to dig and store your tubers until spring rolls round again. Properly stored, tuberous begonias will give you years of vibrant, eye-popping blooms to brighten up your shady garden areas. So get your tubers started now for a show-stopping summer!

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