Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bonfire ignites

In the next few months, those little pale pink nodules will grow into a lush plant 
with graceful orange-red bell-shaped blooms.

In bloom, Begonia 'Bonfire' is a hot little plant. Hot enough, in fact, to make room in the downstairs closet to overwinter it. A weekend check of the overwintering chambers revealed tiny nubbins of new growth on 'Bonfire.' Time to move it to brighter quarters!

I've been really happy with 'Bonfire.' The burn begins slowly, but will escalate into a full-fledged explosion of color in the next few months. It's easy care during the growing season -- I treat it as I treat most of my container plantings. That means a weekly shot of liquid fertilizer and nearly daily watering in hot weather. The last two summers it's had a place near the front door where it gets morning sunshine and afternoon shade. It may get moved to the backyard this year, near the pond but out of intense afternoon sun and where it may better fit in with the prevailing color palette.

Overwintering the plant couldn't be easier. In fall, right about the time of the first frost, I whack off the stems and leaves. It's brutal but necessary because I want the plant to go dormant. Make sure the pot is moist and move it into a dark, cool place. I use the big downstairs closet where we also overwinter the potted water lilies and store the potatoes and onions. I check on it occasionally during the winter and if it seems exceptionally dry I give it a sprinkle of water. (But not too much -- I don't want rot to set in.) Then, in spring, it tells me when it's ready to come back into the light, and I, gradually, over the course of a couple of days, acclimate it to brighter conditions. Once it gets a little more growth under its belt, it will start getting lightly fertilized, and, possibly, a new pot and fresh soil. Then, sometime around the end of May it will find its way outside.

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