Begonias are an all season flowering favourite amongst plant collectors, known for their floral but not frilly appearance. Easy to maintain and often with shimmering silver spots on their leaves they offer a great way of introducing pops of colour amongst the mainly green foliage options out there.
Through caring for so many of the varieties in the past we have learnt that Begonias are wonderfully easy-going, like most plants out there they require little care and give a lot in return. Place them somewhere where they will get bright indirect light and plenty of humidity. If the air in your house is dry, especially in winter, the easiest trick is to place your houseplants in a tray filled with pebbles and water. This helps to create and ambient humidity around the plant. Keep them in a room between ideally 15-22 °C. Make sure they don’t get overwatered and let the first inch of soil dry out between waterings to prevent root rot.
The Begonia family are native to both tropical and subtropical climates in southern America, Asia and Africa. Luckily for all of us living in cooler climates, these guys also love indoor-life. It’s also worth noting they are toxic to pets.
Begonias grow either from tubers, rhizomes or canes, have both male and female flowers on the same plant and are thought to have been cultivated since the 14th century. A little historical excursion; the name “Begonia” is in honour of the former French regime official Michel Bégon, who lived between 1638-1710, and who was an enthusiastic plant collector…
Another Fun Fact: There are over 1,800 varieties with one foliage more stunning than the other. The subspecies have striking names ranging from ‘Begonia Angel Wing’ to ‘Polka Dot Begonia’ and some varieties blossom in beautifully delicate white and pink flowers (e.g. ’Begonia Tamaya’).
Begonias are enduring houseplants, easy to care for, and quite happy being neglected. Requirements are often similar within the plant family but can differ a little depending on the variety, so for a flourishing long term relationship with your houseplant you will need to look a little into the specifics of each species’ care.
Let’s dive straight into the general care requirements: These stunning perennials are super sensitive to frost and struggle in cold and dark spaces. So make sure to bring on that Vitamin D and place your Begonia in a bright spot out of direct sunlight. They love light but not too much direct midday sun because this might scorch the leaves. These subtropical greens love warm temperatures and high humidity levels - so it’s best to keep them in a room between ideally 15-22 °C, with a minimum temperature of at least 13 °C. Any extreme shifts in temperature can shock the plant, so watch out for this.
Water when the top layer of soil has dried out, but never let the substrate dry out completely, with the exception of the Tamaya which seems to have little problem with dry soil. Begonias enjoy a good drainage system and don’t like sitting in water. The worst thing we can do is to overwater them because this can cause root rot. To prevent root rot, make sure the top inch of the soil feels dry before you water them again. If in doubt stick your finger in the soil and have a feel!
Most tropical plants struggle in dry spaces, avoid placing Begonias near radiators or fireplaces. Even though they love humidity, avoid misting the leaves as they are prone to powdery mildew. One trick to increase humidity, that has worked well for us, is to place the plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water. As mentioned before; this creates an ambient humidity around the plant.
Your houseplant will need a little feed when it is flowering and growing new foliage during its’ main growth period (June - September). For us, liquid fertiliser has worked well which is super easy to use and can be added to the plants’ diet once a month. Well established plants will need repotting after a few years just so their roots can expand and grow. Our Plant Elixir is an all purpose plant feed that can be used weekly during the growing seasons.
Begonia Maculata Polka Dot
As part of our care guide we’d like to share a thing or two that we’ve learned about houseplant propagation: Depending on the variety, it is generally easy to start off new Begonia plants, especially propagation by leaf cuttings!
We advise taking cuttings in summer months; Jun-Sep, choose a healthy looking, fairly young leaf and remove it from the stem. Cut the leaf in half, place and pin it down on top of moist compost (multipurpose compost works well). Now, all you need is water and patience, it really pays off, you soon will have the potential to start your own Begonia nursery! Always propagate a few more than you need because not all of them might form roots and new leaves, there can be the occasional casualty. You will have to wait a fair few months before roots and new leaves start growing but we have found that it’s really worth the wait. What’s better than gifting a plant that you’ve propagated yourself!
A little tip: This leaf propagation method works especially well with the variety ‘Begonia Rex’.
Begonia Red Ruby
We all strive to be the best botanists we can - but there might come a time when your Begonia looks a little poorly. This can usually be avoided with the right care, we have found a number of easy solutions for the most common problems, just in case previous attempts have been made in vain.
Root rot: How much love have you given your Begonia lately? Do you think you might have overdone it a little and have given it more water than it actually needed? One thing about Begonias is that they have an aversion to sitting in water and their soil being soggy. Remember to only water when the top layer of compost has dried out.
Brown leaves: Are the edges of leaves turning yellow, or are you getting spots of yellow or brown? Are the leaves drying to a crisp? There’s many reasons this can happen but the most common include the following (or combinations of):
Too much sunlight
Too much water
Not enough heat
Remember, though, that these tropical greens don’t like sitting in direct sunlight or near radiators and fireplaces and that they need lots of humidity.
Polka Dot Begonia
Tucked in a windowsill or on top of the piano, begonias always brighten up our homes. Sometimes it can be hard to choose though, especially when there’s over 1,800 amazing varieties…
As part of our care guide we can’t miss out on the opportunity to shout out to some of our favourite varieties:
Begonia Albo Picta (Angel Wings)
Begonia Conchifolia (aka Red Ruby)
Begonia Tamaya in full bloom
Have you guys found your favourite yet? We hope that you were able to get some answers and inspiration and that you’ll have fun looking after your new Begonia variety at home, either growing from canes, tubers or rhizomes, there are plenty to choose from and to fall in love with…