Overwintering begonias: how to make the flowers survive the winter


For me plants are some of the most exciting living beings, even though they live in slow motion. They have fascinating abilities and just so much potential! That's why I studied organic farming. However, since plants are rather thin on the ground in my city, I often spend time hiking in the nearby mountains at the weekend. In the future I would love to run a farm myself.

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Not every begonia is hardy and copes well with the cold season. We give tips on successfully overwintering begonias.

indoor potted begonia beside window
Find out how to successfully overwinter your begonias [Photo: Asetta/ Shutterstock.com]

In winter, when it is frosty cold and your fingers and toes freeze off, there’s nothing like a cosy spot by the warm stove with a cup of hot cocoa. Begonias (Begonia) have a totally similar idea. Although they do not necessarily need it warm, depending on the species, and their need for drinks also decreases noticeably over the winter, it should definitely be frost-free according to the taste of these exotic plants. Below, we have summarised how to successfully overwinter your begonias.

In this country, begonias are often cultivated only as annuals or even sold as annual plants. However, this is a pity because in their homeland, the plants are by no means annuals. The problem in Central Europe is only the cold winter, which most begonias do not tolerate. But this can be easily remedied if you give your begonias a frost-free place over the winter.

When does it get too cold for begonias?

Most begonias are not used to low temperatures in their original habitat. Plants already dislike low temperatures, but when temperatures drop below 0 °C and the first frost settles, then it really takes its toll. The plant tissue dies and more often than not, this is the end of the whole plant.

Overwintering begonias successfully

Overwintering begonias differs slightly from species to species. Begonias that can also be planted outdoors like it a little cooler over the winter. Wax begonias (Begonia semperflorens), for example, will be totally happy placed in a bright staircase at around 16 °C. However, the plants can also be cut back in autumn and stored in a frost-free cellar or the garage over winter with very little watering. From March you should bring the pots out again and start watering them again slowly.

Bee collecting pollen from white flowering begonia
Overwintering begonias properly will help ensure they bloom again the following spring

The large group of tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida) are overwintered in a similar way to dahlias. It forms underground tubers, into which it retreats after the first frost. Cut back the above-ground parts of the plant to a few inches in autumn and dig up the tubers. Now you can overwinter them in the dark at about 10 °C. To prevent the tubers from drying out over the winter, you should place them in a cloth bag or similar. It is also possible to overwinter them in almost dry soil. Watering is then not necessary and will be necessary again only when you can already see new shoots in the spring. If you have overwintered the tubers, you can plant them directly in the garden again in May after the last frost. The hollow in the tuber should always face upwards.

See our special article for more on planting begonias.

flat round begonia tubers
Tuberous begonias overwinter inside their eponymous tubers [Photo: angelaflu/ Shutterstock.com]

Overwintering begonias outdoors

Outside, only very few begonia species can be overwintered and only to a limited extent. In order for them to actually sprout again the following spring, they need a thick frost protection of brushwood, leaves or mulch. And even then, overwintering is not guaranteed. Especially in regions with harsh climates and low winter temperatures, it is best to bring even so-called hardy begonias indoors after the first light frost.

Overwintering begonias indoors

The heat-loving elatior begonias (Begonia x hiemalis) are often kept as houseplants throughout the year and for this reason do not need special care over winter. The same is true for other pure indoor begonias such as the polka dot begonia (Begonia maculata) or the eyelash begonia (Begonia bowerae).

Winter hardy begonias

So far, no truly hardy begonias are known. Nevertheless, two species in particular bear this title: the hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) and Begonia panchtharensis. Both species originate from mountainous regions of Asia but are hardy only to a limited extent. You can learn more about winter-hardy begonias here in our dedicated article on the subject.

Tips for overwintering begonias:

  • Outside and with frost protection, only a few frost-tolerant species can be overwintered
  • Pure indoor begonias can be easily overwintered in the home
  • Outdoor begonias should be brought indoors and kept cool and frost-free indoor over winter
  • Tuberous begonias are cut back in autumn and overwintered in dry, dark and cool place – either as a bare tuber or in dry soil
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