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Vermont Garden Journal: Create An Indoor Flower Show With Begonias

Cane begonias, such as the Angel Wing begonia, flower in winter and have brittle, thick canes, hairy, knobby stems and attractive leaves.
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Cane begonias, such as the Angel Wing begonia, flower in winter and have brittle, thick canes, hairy, knobby stems and attractive leaves.

As the outdoor flower gardens wind down, it's time to think about continuing the flower show indoors. One of the most colorful plants for indoor growing is begonias.

Most gardeners know begonias from the wax leaf, bedding plant with red, white or pink flowers that grows well in shade gardens, containers and window boxes. While you can bring these types indoors, there are other begonias, such as the rhizomatous and cane begonias, that make better houseplants. Some will flower in winter while others have amazing leaf colors and shapes.

The cane begonias, such as the Angel Wing begonia, flower in winter and have brittle, thick canes, hairy, knobby stems and attractive leaves. Modern varieties are more compact and don't grow as leggy. Rhizomatous begonias, such as the Rex begonia, flower in spring, yet have unusual, colorful leaves. These are evergreen, making for a great year-round houseplant.

Place your cane or rhizomatous begonia in a bright room out of direct sunlight. For winter flowering types, make sure they have enough light to flower. Foliage types are fine in darker conditions. Any problems related to indoor begonia-growing usually can be traced to watering. It's easy to overwater begonias. Too much soil moisture leads to root rot and blight diseases. Wait until the plant shows signs of wilting, then water. Begonias like humidity in winter. Grow plants on a pebble tray with water to keep the humidity high. Begonias like to be pot-bound, so don't rush to repot them. Rhizomatous begonia roots live near the soil surface. They grow best in a shallow pot. Remove dead foliage and flowers and you should be able to enjoy your begonias all winter.

Now for this week's tip: let sweet potatoes stay in the ground as long as possible. Once frost threatens, though, dig up the tubers, cure them in a warm, well-ventilated room for a few weeks and store them in a cool basement for up to six months.

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