The Q&A Archives: B.I.B.T.----Begonia In Big Trouble

Question: I planted a begonia bulb in a 6-inch clay pot in late March. I placed the pot indoors on a west- facing windowsill for about 1-week, then moved it to my east-facing windowsill for 2-3weeks, then to my bathroom which has a heat lamp in the ceiling for the past 2-weeks. It gets really warm in there,so I thought the warmth would help the plant grow bigger and stronger. I live in Northern Illinois and we don't get much sun from March -April,and the temperatures are cold. However, My begonia began to shoot through the soil in mid-April. It now has three stems about 2-4 inches in length and each stem has 1(one)leaf on it. The leaves feel kind of tough like a brown paper bag with fuzz on them. Is this normal? I'm not sure what variety of begonia I have I was hoping you could help me figure this out by my description. The bag the bulb came in shows a beautiful deep orange flower kind of looks like a rose. Do you recognize this variety? If so, please help me figure out how to care for it. Also, the leaves seem to be turning brown on the edges and it hasn't grown much since late April. I live in an apartment with an east-facing windowsill and balcony and a large west-facing windowsill. Should I place the begonia on my east-facing balcony which gets sun from about 6 a.m.-2 p.m. or is this too much sun. I must keep it in a container since I live in an apartment, Is it okay to keep it contained in a pot? Or should it be in the ground? How often should I water and what temperature? Is tap water ok? The pH in our local water tends to be a little high and the water is hard. What type of fertilizer should I use and how often should I fertilize? I planted the bulb in Miracle-Gro Enriched Potting Mix for container flowers. The soil mix cotains plant food, so do I have to supplement this food with added fertilizing? As I said above, it seems to have stopped growing. Do begonias have a dormant stage, or am I doing something wrong? Do I need more light? More water? I let the soil dry out slightly between waterings, to avoid overwatering. Is this okay? Or should I be watering more frequently. I need help! I'm very new to gardening and I absolutely love the beauty of the begonias I've seen at local nursery's. I really want it to grow this year,please help.
Also, please direct me to a great book, article, website(s), or guide to growing begonias, calla lillies, and lobelia-These are the flower varieties I'm trying for the first time this year. I need advice for the complete novice. I'm talking babystep-by-babystep directions for the complete gardening dummy Smiling

N. Illinois

Answer: You have asked so many questions, I will try to give you an overview to help you trouble shoot. It sounds like you have a tuberous begonia. Furry leaves would be normal and the leaves may be different colors as well. They do well as container plants and can also be planted outdoors in a shady spot once the soil has warmed up. (They will not tolerate frost or cold soil.) Indoors an east window is fine in very early spring but you may need to add a sheer curtain to filter the sun in the summer months. They do well in a bright indoor location but without direct sun. I do not know if the browning you are seeing is due to over or underwatering, lack of humidity, too much direct sun or a fungal infection. The constant changes in growing conditions are stressful as well. I would suggest you select one location and leave the plant there for several weeks to acclimate and adjust to it then see how it is doing. Try to avoid hot or cold drafts but provide good air circulation. Water when the soil surface begins to dry, your goal is consistently slightly damp like a wrung out sponge rather than sopping wet or bone dry. Use your finger to dig into the soil a bit and see if you need to water yet. When you do, use tepid water and avoid splashing the leaves. Provide as much humdity as you can as this plant requires it to stay healthy. You could set the plant on a pebble and water tray (shallow tray, fill with pebbles, set pot on pebbles, add water to tray to just below the base of the pot, the pot should not sit in the water) or in a humid room such as the bath or kitchen. There are many articles at the National Gardneing Association web site as well as the searchable archive of questions and answers. You should be able to find information about the other plants there as well. You may need to cut and paste the complete url into your browser ot make it work correctly.

For the lobelia you will need to do a search, you should indicate annual or perennial or the botanical name if you can. Good luck with your new plants!

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