Ask a Question forum→Storing tender bulbs or tubers over winter

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North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
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joannakat
Dec 27, 2020 12:37 PM CST
Hi everyone,

I'm in zone 5b where we have substantially cold winters. But I do love begonias and ranunculus but they're considered annuals here and I'd like to keep them by storing the bulbs.

I found a great article on how to dig them up and store them, but because our growing season is pretty short, I decided to try to store my begonias in soil in pots this year. So I dug them up and just replanted them in individual pots and brought them indoors where the temperature rarely drops below 60 F.

My question is, how can I keep them healthy so that I can bring them outdoors in the spring and have them bloom beautifully? Do I need to cut the stems off and put the pots somewhere dry and dark? Or should I treat them like indoor plants and keep them in light and water them?

I'm also considering buying some ranunculus, but only if I can somehow store them for the winter.

All help is appreciated.
AKA Joey.
Name: Steve
Port Orchard, WA (Zone 8b)
BrooklynStart
Dec 27, 2020 4:19 PM CST
When living in z2b, grew tuberous begonias. Would lift them a
& place them atop (not buried) of a nursery container fill with various leftover garden soil--also did same with red potatoes. Placed the containers near (about 4'-5") the house boiler, located in the garare--boiler stopped the gararge from dropping below 32f when outside temps were -18f. About once per mont watered the tubers, and potatoes, to prevent drying out. Moved from the 2b to a 8b over 5 yrs ago, still have the same begonia. In 8b still periodically I water the tuber each month.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Dec 27, 2020 4:22 PM CST
I grew tuberous begonias and kept them over winter by storing them, still in their pots, in the barn. I didn't water but watched them for signs of life in the spring then started watering again. You can store them in individual paper bags and it would be easier to make sure they weren't rotting or sprouting but I am a lazy gardener. Smiling

If you have a set out date in mind, bring them into a warm area and start watering 2 months prior.

Ranunculus can be dug after their leaves die back. Dry the bulbs for a few days then store them someplace cool and dry until time to plant them again.
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Name: Steve
Port Orchard, WA (Zone 8b)
BrooklynStart
Dec 27, 2020 5:47 PM CST
My begonia tuber that is at least 7 yrs old:
Thumb of 2020-12-27/BrooklynStart/2d172a
Thumb of 2020-12-27/BrooklynStart/23e643

It had 1.5" diameter stalks in 2017. The stalks broke being top heavy, and I produced 2 pups from the stalks. In 2019, the pups did not overwinter. In 2020, set the tuber atop of a nursery pot without burying it in soil. Estimate the tuber to be in its 9th yr in 2021. Believe only that part above the dollar in second photo is still alive.
[Last edited by BrooklynStart - Dec 27, 2020 5:49 PM (+)]
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Name: Steve
Port Orchard, WA (Zone 8b)
BrooklynStart
Dec 28, 2020 1:03 PM CST
joannakat, correction, when I posted the zone 2b that was Western Garden Book's zone 2b. The US Ag Dept zone was 5b, possibly 5a--the zip code zone look up gives z5b and is for the town of Parker, Colorado, which has an altitude of near 5900 ft. I was 5 miles outside of town at an altitude of 6,440 feet. The town of Parker's trees leafed out 2 weeks plus before mine. Been out west since 56 and use Western Garden Book very frequently.
[Last edited by BrooklynStart - Dec 28, 2020 1:14 PM (+)]
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Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
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Paul2032
Dec 28, 2020 1:19 PM CST
I used to grow a lot of tuberous begonias. I would let a light frost touch them, dig and let dry for a few days and the tops would usually come off. Then I would store them in a tote in vermiculite to which I had added just a little water. Then I would moisten several layers of paper towels and put them on top so the vermiculite wouldn't pull the moisture out of the tubers. Then I kept them in a basement room that was around 50 degrees. As spring approached I would bring them up stairs where it was warmer and they would sprout.
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
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joannakat
Dec 28, 2020 1:26 PM CST
Paul2032 said:I used to grow a lot of tuberous begonias. I would let a light frost touch them, dig and let dry for a few days and the tops would usually come off. Then I would store them in a tote in vermiculite to which I had added just a little water. Then I would moisten several layers of paper towels and put them on top so the vermiculite wouldn't pull the moisture out of the tubers. Then I kept them in a basement room that was around 50 degrees. As spring approached I would bring them up stairs where it was warmer and they would sprout.


Paul, that sounds like exactly what I need to do. Unfortunately, our first frost came early this year, and it was heavy. So I dug the three begonias up and potted them. I'll post a picture of them later--I currently have them near a window that gets only some light, and surprise, they're sprouting new leaves an one even gave a flower.

My big questions are, should I move them to a darker space (like my warm-ish and dry basement)? I also give them a bit of water now and then, should I continue to do that, or stop watering completely? And the real biggie, should I cut them back to 3 or so inches, or even nothing?

AKA Joey.
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Bee Lover Garden Photography Cat Lover Butterflies Region: Massachusetts
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joannakat
Dec 28, 2020 1:28 PM CST
BrooklynStart said:My begonia tuber that is at least 7 yrs old:
Thumb of 2020-12-27/BrooklynStart/2d172a
Thumb of 2020-12-27/BrooklynStart/23e643

It had 1.5" diameter stalks in 2017. The stalks broke being top heavy, and I produced 2 pups from the stalks. In 2019, the pups did not overwinter. In 2020, set the tuber atop of a nursery pot without burying it in soil. Estimate the tuber to be in its 9th yr in 2021. Believe only that part above the dollar in second photo is still alive.


Wow! That is amazing! I'm so glad to hear that it's possible to keep them going for so long. I'm definitely interested in learning more about the "pups," and the non-living portions of the tuber. How can you tell? Confused Confused Confused

AKA Joey.
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Bee Lover Garden Photography Cat Lover Butterflies Region: Massachusetts
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joannakat
Dec 28, 2020 1:29 PM CST
DaisyI said:I grew tuberous begonias and kept them over winter by storing them, still in their pots, in the barn. I didn't water but watched them for signs of life in the spring then started watering again. You can store them in individual paper bags and it would be easier to make sure they weren't rotting or sprouting but I am a lazy gardener. Smiling

If you have a set out date in mind, bring them into a warm area and start watering 2 months prior.

Ranunculus can be dug after their leaves die back. Dry the bulbs for a few days then store them someplace cool and dry until time to plant them again.


Thank you Daisy, so glad to hear this. I bought some ranunculus after reading your reply!

AKA Joey.
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Bee Lover Garden Photography Cat Lover Butterflies Region: Massachusetts
Image
joannakat
Dec 28, 2020 1:31 PM CST
BrooklynStart said:When living in z2b, grew tuberous begonias. Would lift them a
& place them atop (not buried) of a nursery container fill with various leftover garden soil--also did same with red potatoes. Placed the containers near (about 4'-5") the house boiler, located in the garare--boiler stopped the gararge from dropping below 32f when outside temps were -18f. About once per mont watered the tubers, and potatoes, to prevent drying out. Moved from the 2b to a 8b over 5 yrs ago, still have the same begonia. In 8b still periodically I water the tuber each month.


This sounds very much like my basement, which is easily accessible so I could keep an eye on them. Thanks! Thumbs up

AKA Joey.

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