Why do my begonia plants die every winter? I keep them in containers and move them indoors when cold weather sets in.
—Pamela Huffman, Icard, North Carolina
Although begonias are shade lovers outdoors, they need a sunny window or artificial lights indoors.
Gradually move the plants indoors. Grow in a sunny window or 6 to 12 inches below a set of artificial lights. Give the plants plenty of space to grow.
Low light conbined with poor air circulation (from overcrowding) increases the risk of powdery mildew. This fungus forms a white powdery substance on the leaves. As the disease progresses, it causes the leaves to yellow and eventually brown.
Water the plants thoroughly, pouring off the excess water or collecting it in a pebble-filled saucer. This avoids root rot. As this water evaporates it increases the humidity around the plant where it is needed. Wait until the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist before watering again. Fertilize only healthy, actively growing plants.