Begonias typically originate from tropical or subtropical regions, and are often used as houseplants or in shaded summer beds. Some begonias are grown for their asymmetrical, patterned, or variegated foliage, while others are grown to add color to shady garden areas with their bright blooms. Although they are typically on the smaller side, begonia plants pack a big punch of color and interest.
Most varieties of this plant take 9-11 months to grow, but it is commonly grown as an annual or houseplant.
The size of the plants varies, with some being 6-12 inches tall, while others are much taller, reaching 5 feet or more.
Sun to shade, depending on variety.
The most common types of begonias bloom from early summer until frost, but some types may bloom all year if grown indoors.
Color and characteristics of popular types:
- Wax begonias have succulent stems; shiny, rounded, green or reddish-brown leaves and grow in a mounded habit. They bloom with 1-1/2-inch single or double flowers in shades of red, pink, or white. (Learn more about growing wax begonias.)
- Tuberous begonias come in two forms, either upright or trailing, and have green or burgundy leaves. Their single, double or ruffled flowers bloom in shades of pink, yellow, orange, red, or white.
- Angel wing begonias have attractive year-round foliage with speckles or streaks on dark green leaves. The underside of the leaves is usually deep red.
Are begonias poisonous?
While begonias are not poisonous to humans, they may cause allergic reactions. Their tubers are the most poisonous part, and they are toxic to pets.
Are begonias deer resistant?
Begonias are deer resistant.
COMMON BEGONIA TYPES
The most common type of begonia is the Begonia semperflorens, which is also known as a wax, annual, or bedding begonia. These plants thrive in shady areas and can add a splash of color when planted under trees or in planters, hanging baskets, or window boxes. Wax begonias usually only last for one growing season, but they can reach 6 to 12 inches in height and width.
Bit more about tuberous begonias- they have amazing colorful flowers that make them stand out in hanging baskets or containers. They grow anywhere from 12 to 18 inches tall as houseplants, and up to 3 feet or more in outdoor containers.
Cane types of begonias have an upright growth habit and segmented stems. They are known for their beautiful foliage and wide array of colors. Angel wing begonias, which get their name from their wing-shaped leaves, are a type of cane begonia. They are popular as houseplants but can also be grown outside. Their size varies depending on growing conditions, from 6-inch houseplants to 5-foot bushy plants.
The most notable class of begonias is rhizomatous begonias, which are characterized by their thick stems, or rhizomes. These grow near the surface of the soil and produce new roots and leaves. They also tend to have interesting leaves and stems, and are often grown as houseplants. They come in a range of sizes, from just a few inches to large plants that are up to 3 feet tall and wide.
Rex begonias (Begonia rex) are a subgroup of rhizomatous begonias that are widely available for purchase year-round. They typically grow to be 12-18 inches tall and wide, and their distinct foliage makes them a popular choice for a houseplant. However, they can be finicky to take care of. They make for beautiful additions to summer flower beds or containers, especially when combined with other plants that enjoy semi-shaded areas.
When to plant:
Transplant the plant after all threat of frost has passed. The plant is extremely frost tender and even temperatures below 50 degrees can cause damage.
Where to plant:
Choose a spot for your roses that gets some shade or filtered sunlight during the day; with morning sun and afternoon shade being the ideal, especially in hot climates. For sunnier locations, go for a dark-leaved variety or one that is specified as being tolerant of strong sunlight, like Surefire® Rose. Plant them in a spot where they will have good airflow around them to prevent powdery mildew.
How to plant:
You should transplant your begonia plants six to eight inches apart, and space other plants according to their mature size. You can start begonia tubers indoors by placing them, hollow side up, in a shallow tray with moist potting mix. Put the tray in a dark room and water it just enough to keep the potting mix moist, but not soggy. The tubers should sprout in four weeks, and you should move them to an area with bright light once the sprouts are an inch tall. Only plant outdoors when there is no longer a threat of frost.
Tuberous begonias will start to yellow and die back naturally each year. In late summer to early fall, start decreasing the amount of water you give them, and trim back the foliage. At the first threat of frost, dig up the tubers. Clean any remaining dirt from the tubers, and dry them on newspaper in a sunny location for about a week. To prevent powdery mildew, lightly dust them with sulfur powder. Store them individually in paper bags or wrapped in newspaper.
The following text is about what to do with plants that don’t die back and need to be pruned each year. Rhizomatous and wax types need to be pruned each year to keep them healthy and encourage full growth. In warmer climates, this is best done in spring. In cooler climates, you can do this in fall as a clean-up before bringing them inside for the winter. In addition to cutting them back, check for signs of pests or disease before moving them indoors. Slowly acclimate them to their new inside location by first placing in a bright window and gradually decreasing the amount of light. This will help prevent stress, which causes the leaves to drop. Once warmer temperatures return, reverse the process and move them back outside.
How do you care for a Begonia maculata plant?
Several hours of dappled sunlight each day is best. The most misunderstood topic in houseplant care, next to watering, is light. When grown indoors, Begonia maculata does like some partial sun. The best amount of sun for this plant is several hours of dappled sunlight each day.
The maculata begonia does not prosper in low light and prefers brighter conditions. It does not need to be kept in full sun all day, but some direct sunlight is beneficial.
This plant needs to be in front of a window, otherwise it will grow weak and lanky. I find that they tend to need support regardless, and if you have these plants in conditions that are too dark, you will be disappointed.
This plant should not be grown in front of a North window because it will not get enough light. A better location would be an East or West window.
If you have windows that let in a lot of sunlight, you may want to use blinds or a thin curtain to make the light less intense. Too much direct sunlight can damage these plants, cause the color of the leaves to fade, and make the polka dots disappear!
The American Begonia Society says that you don’t need a lot of natural light to grow begonias, and that they can thrive under fluorescent lights.
If you are on a budget, the Australian Bureau of Statistics says that you can use a plain shop light with cool white bulbs and leave them on for 14 hours a day. Just be sure to have the bulbs 2 inches above the top leaves for best growth.
You will have to adjust the lights as the plant grows.
2. SOIL MOISTURE, WATERING & HUMIDITY
Begonias need very moist soil, so make sure to water them frequently. This is important because if the soil dries out, the plant will wilt and may die.
I’ve found that it’s important to strike a balance when watering begonias indoors. They seem to need very specific soil moisture conditions to look their best!
If you don’t mind a plant that isn’t perfect looking, begonias can be a good option for you as long as you follow my advice.
If the soil is kept dry, Begonia maculata is prone to dropping brand new green leaves.
This means that you will get more crisp, brown leaves, as well as some of the lower leaves turning brown and falling off.
If your leaves are yellowing and falling off, you might be watering it too much. To figure out what’s going on, stick your finger in the soil to see if it’s wet or dry.
Therefore, you should not allow these plants to dry out completely! If you want to learn more about why plant leaves turn brown and crispy in general, read my blog post on the subject.
Do not keep your begonia too wet, as this will lead to rotting and invite diseases such as powdery mildew.
I recommend watering your plants when the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry.
Water your plant until all the water escapes the drainage hole. Discard the excess water and don’t let your plant sit in water.
Although begonias thrive in high humidity, it is difficult to replicate these conditions indoors. Begonias are native to the jungles of southeast Brazil and are accustomed to high humidity.
If you can increase humidity to the 40-60% range, your maculata will benefit, even though it is more important to water it regularly and not let it dry out completely.
3. SOIL TYPE & REPOTTING
Cane begonias are not as choosy about soil as some other begonia types. Many other begonias need a rougher mix.
I have a plant that is in a pot with all-purpose Miracle Gro potting mix and some perlite. It is doing well.
Be sure not to overwater your plants, and remember what I said about watering from the previous section!
A caution to take when repotting your begonia is to not use a pot that is much bigger than the one it was previously in. If you use a pot that is too large, the soil will stay wet for a longer period of time and you will risk harming your begonia.
Grow your plants in pots that are one size larger than the previous pot. For example, if the plant was in a 4 inch pot, move it to a 6 inch pot. Also, loosen the roots before placing the plant in the new pot.
I’ve switched to using Dyna-Gro Grow fertilizer on most of my houseplants and I’m very impressed with it. It doesn’t contain urea, it’s balanced enough to be suitable for most foliage plants, and it provides all the essential major and minor nutrients.
I add 1/4 to 1/4 teaspoon of fertilizer per gallon of water and use this every time I water my plants throughout the growing season. I don’t fertilize my plants in the winter when growth slows down or stops.
I highly recommend Dyna-Gro Grow fertilizer for anyone taking care of indoor plants – it’s the best all-purpose fertilizer I’ve used.
This is a micronutrient and macronutrient-rich solution that is perfect for all plants. It is urea-free, so it will not harm your plants.
6. PRUNING BEGONIA MACULATA
After a while, your plant may become gangly and you might want to rejuvenate it.
You can encourage your plant to grow more branches by trimming and pruning it. I trimmed mine as shown in the photo below, and it has begun to grow back.
I had neglected my plant and it showed, but I perked it up with some tough love. Pruning may seem drastic, but it can work wonders for a plant that’s been neglected.
Take a look at your begonias and decide what you’d like to do to them. You can do some maintenance on your begonias in late winter or early Spring when they start growing again. Look at your plants and decide what changes you want to make.
The flowers are beautiful, but they will fall off eventually. If they fall onto the leaves, be sure to remove them quickly, as they could cause damage or attract pests and disease if left for too long.
If your plant is not blooming, it is probably not getting enough light. Increasing the amount of light it gets will help it to bloom.
If you want a fuller plant, throughout the growing season pinch the tips of the canes to encourage growth from the base.
After you’re done trimming and pruning your plants, you can use the cuttings to propagate new plants.