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Home > Care  > April  tips

Tips for April
by Brad Thompson

(from Palos Verdes Branch - April 2009)

      Fertilizing:              Everyone should start fertilizing regularly now since your begonias are bursting with new growth and need the food.  Quarter strength fertilizer once a week is the best method.  Any balanced fertilizer is fine.  Now is a good time to apply Nutricote if you haven't already. 

      Cleanup:                As usual, keep the dead stuff picked up.  Clean out old dead leaves and debris from inside your pots while your plants are pruned back.  Its much easier to clean out the debris now than it will be later when the plants have filled out.  Get your pots all cleaned up and ready for repotting if you haven't already.  Now that your plants have new growth, make sure to remove any old damaged leaves. 

      Pests:                    Watch for aphids.  I have seen plenty of them already.  Any spray will kill them, including soap spray.  You can also wash them off with a strong spray of water.  Since you have fewer leaves and are probably trimming back your plants, now is a good time to do a methodical inspection of all your plants for giant white flies and mealy bugs.  It will be much easier to keep these pests under control if you start now before you have a lot of lush new growth.

      Mildew and Disease:         Now that the weather has warmed up and it hasn't been rainy you should have less disease problems.  If you have any plants that you commonly get mildew on, now is a good time to spray with a fungicide.  Most fungicides are preventative sprays and you must start spraying before you get mildew if you want to control it.  As with pesticides, use proper precautions and follow directions.  Fungicides are toxic and should be used with care.  Most carry warnings that they can cause permanent eye damage if they get in your eyes, so use protection to be safe.  Sometimes moving begonias to a different location it likes better will solve a mildew problem.  Mildew is usually a sign the plant doesn't like the conditions.                       

      Pruning & Pinching:          You can safely prune any of your begonias now without worrying about die back.  Make sure to start pinching the tips of your begonias, especially basket types and any you choose not to prune back.  When pinching the tips, allow the shoots to grow out until they have three side buds before pinching the tips again.  Some of the larger leafed upright canes, if they have been pruned, don't require pinching.  Not every begonia needs pruning, especially if it is a younger plant.  Some just need repotting.  Don't prune and repot the begonia at the same time.  Do one or the other.  Plants (except rhizomatous types) should be repotted deeper in the new pot, in fact, pot them as deeply as possible to encourage new roots and new basal growth. 

      Watering:              Your plants will be need more water now that the weather is warming up.  I generally water my begonias about twice a week during warm weather.  This is only an example, not a guide, but should give you some idea how often you really need to water.  Begonias in sunnier locations may need watering three times a week. 

      Repotting:              You can safely repot your begonias now.  Any begonias that you pruned shouldn't be repotted until new growth has come out.  A rule of thumb would be to wait until you have new growth about 6" tall.  A good practice is to try to pot your begonias in such a way that they all dry out and need watering at the same time.  Plants that you notice are always drying out before the others can be moved up to larger pots and any that seem to never be dry when the others are, can be moved to smaller pots.  The older the plant, the less often it needs repotting.  Young plants should be moved up to larger pots as often as they are ready.  (When the roots have filled the pot). 

Young plants that are actively growing may need repotting several times during the year.  Only move them up one pot size at a time.  Older plants (a few years old) that are now in 10" and 12" pots may only need to be repotted every two or three years, and usually back into the same pot with fresh soil.  It is a good idea to at least top off the pot with fresh soil on these larger plants  to replace the mix that has washed out over the year,  Larger pots should be filled to about 1" of the rim. 

In general It is warm enough now that you can  start cuttings in baby food jars of water.  Make sure to start cuttings from all your plants, for selfish reasons if for no other.    This practice will provide you with replacement plants should something happen to the original.  Sharing with the clubs and friends has its rewards too.  Should you lose a plant, those same friends can provide you with a cutting.  Generosity with your plants always gets you more in return than you give.  Since begonias are not commonly a commercial plant, sharing with friends and club sales is the only way they are circulated.  Keeping a variety to yourself will get you in the end.  Eventually you will lose a plant and have no way to get it back again if you keep it to yourself.  The more rare the plant, the more reason to share it so it isn't lost.


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