Begonia maculata, otherwise known as the spotted begonia or polka dot begonia, is a perennial flowering plant found in many gardens. The flower’s unique color and shape make it popular among gardeners who like to add a pop of color to their plants.
It has been cultivated since 1850 and grows well in zones 7to 10. If you want your begonia to thrive for years to come, read this guide on how you should take care of them.
Overview on the Polka Dot Begonia Maculata
The begonia maculata is a plant that can live in many conditions. However, it is best when planted outdoors during summer or indoors with proper lighting. The spotted begonia is native to Brazil, Columbia, and French Guiana. In addition, it is found in the subtropical regions of Southeast Asia, India, Sri Lanka, and Australia.
The cane begonia has many varieties that are available in the market. Moreover, hybrid variants of the spotted begonia are also popular. These hybrids are usually bred to resist pests and diseases and tolerate low light levels.
These plants can grow well indoors or outdoors as long as they are planted in a humid environment with filtered sunlight exposure. The leaves of the spotted begonia will change to green when exposed to direct sunlight. This is because it helps them absorb carbon dioxide needed for photosynthesis.
The spotted begonia grows up to 36 inches tall when planted outside but only about 18 inches inside a home. It can also be trained to grow as a small shrub. The plant has broad leaves about eight inches long and four inches wide, but these can vary depending on the individual plant’s growth.
Begonia plant can only survive in zones seven through ten because it cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. In addition, they cannot grow in areas with high humidity.
You can find the flowers of the begonia plant growing on long stems during summer, but this diminishes when winter comes around. The flower stalk can grow up to 18 inches tall and features delicate white, pink, or light purple flowers.
This plant has large foliage that is dark green and spotted with purple spots or veins depending on its variety. In addition, it has a glossy finish that makes the leaves shine.
Overview of Plant Care Requirements
The spotted begonia can grow well in most soil types as long as they have good drainage. However, if your plant’s leaves start yellowing and falling off, you should check whether your plant is suffering from too much water or not. However, if this is not the case, it could be suffering from a pH imbalance.
The next thing you need to know about taking care of these plants is that they cannot tolerate cold temperatures. Therefore, make sure to bring them indoors before winter hits your area. Since the plant originates from Brazil, the light and humidity requirements are similar to the native country. It thus needs plenty of sunlight and moisture.
The begonia maculata needs plenty of light, primarily when grown indoors. It usually requires bright light. However, the light should be indirect and filtered. Ensure the plant is not exposed to direct sunlight when you place it indoors or near a window because this can burn its leaves and turn them yellow.
If your spotted begonia is thriving, then that means there’s enough light for photosynthesis, which helps the plant grow healthy and strong. When placed in direct sunlight, the leaves will turn green.
Conversely, if your plant is not receiving enough light, you can supplement with artificial light. This can be done by placing fluorescent grow lights near the plant or using a sun lamp. However, ensure to keep an eye on your plant because it may start to stretch and grow tall if it’s getting too much light.
The begonia plant requires plenty of water. However, this should be done in moderation. You should not overwater the plant because that will kill it. The best way to tell if your plant needs water is by checking the soil moisture levels. If the soil is dry and there’s no noticeable moisture, then it means the plant needs water.
Additionally, you should only water your plant when the top one inch of soil has dried up as well. You can check this by sticking your finger in between the potting mix and seeing if it feels moist or not. If there are wet spots, you should wait until the top layer of soil is dry.
When watering your plant, it’s best to water from above or at least pour water into the pot and let gravity do its work. This reduces the risk of getting any leaves wet, which can cause them to rot and fall off and give insects a chance to invade the plant.
Plant Soil Requirements
The spotted begonia maculata is a plant that can thrive in most soil types as long as it has good drainage. It does well with both commercial potting mixes and garden soils. However, if you are using homemade compost, then make sure to use one part sand so your plant will have proper drainage.
The soil can mix loamy, sandy, clay, and perlite soil. Loamy soil is light and slightly porous. This allows adequate air circulation in the soil to promote the growth and propagation of the polka dot begonia.
The soil pH should be neutral to slightly acidic. You can determine the pH levels of your plant’s soil by using a simple kit that you can buy at any gardening center or store that sells plants and flowers. Alternatively, if you don’t want to invest in after-market tools, take a sample of some of the soil and place it in some water. If the mixture bubbles, your plant’s soil is slightly acidic, which can be fixed by adding a cup of lime to every two gallons of soil mix.
If you are growing your spotted begonia outdoors or indoors, make sure to check if there are any harmful chemicals present in the soil. This is because begonias are susceptible to certain types of herbicides and pesticides. If you find that these toxins harm your plant, it’s best to move it to a new spot or remove the contaminated soil and replace it with a fresh potting mix.
For houseplant potting, consider adding perlite to the soil to increase drainage. The pebbles improve drainage in the pot, which prevents rotting and overwatering. When planting your begonia, make sure to leave at least two inches of space between the soil surface and the top of the pot. This will help with drainage when you water your plant.
Location and Temperature Needs
The begonia plant is a houseplant that can grow well in most areas. It thrives in tropical and subtropical regions where it’s warm all year round. However, it does very well when grown indoors as long as you follow its proper care requirements.
In the United States, this type of plant can grow well in USDA growing zones nine through 11. The cane begonia is not meant to be grown in colder climates. It won’t survive the winter when plants are dormant and freezing temperatures occur. Examples of states that offer optimum conditions for this begonia are California, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.
The ideal temperature range for growing this plant is 60 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It can tolerate a small range of temperatures. However, the spotted begonia should not be exposed to any sudden changes in temperature as that may cause the leaves to drop or the plant to die.
To prevent this from happening, you should use a heating pad on your plant if it’s going to be exposed to temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also increase the room’s temperature by turning up vents and closing window blinds, creating a greenhouse effect that keeps heat trapped inside.
If you live in a colder climate and want to grow the begonia, you can do so by using a sunroom or greenhouse. These areas offer the necessary warmth and light for this type of plant to thrive. You may also need to use supplemental artificial lighting if your sunny spot doesn’t get enough sunlight hours during the winter season.
Special Requirements for the Begonia Maculata
The spotted begonia thrives in humid climates. The optimum humidity level for this plant is 60 to 80 percent. This can be achieved by misting your plant’s leaves with water once or twice daily. You can also place the pot on a humidity tray filled with water and pebbles. The increased moisture in the air will help keep your begonia healthy and looking its best.
If you live in an area where the humidity is low, you can place your plant on a pebble tray filled with water. Place this at least two feet away from all heating sources, as dry air will cause your leaves to drop and its flowers to die off quickly. You may also choose to use a humidifier that releases mist into the air.
If the humidity in your area is very high, you may need to place a fan near your plant to avoid getting too wet or soggy. You can tell if this is happening by checking on your plant’s soil after watering for signs of over-saturation, such as algae growth and excessive bubbling.
Begonias need good air circulation to prevent the leaves from becoming infected with fungal diseases. This can be achieved by placing your plant in an area where it will get at least four hours of direct sunlight each day. You can also use a fan to circulate the air around your plant or move it to another location if you notice the leaves are turning brown or black.
The leaves of your plant will droop if it’s located in an area that is too drafty or windy. This may happen when the air circulation around the pot isn’t good enough to prevent dryness and hot, stale air from damaging its roots and overall health. If this happens, you can place your plant in a more sheltered spot or use a windscreen made of bamboo or other natural materials.
The type of water you use to irrigate the spotted begonia’s roots can affect its overall health. It should always be filtered or distilled before being poured into the pot so it doesn’t contain any minerals, chemicals, or other additives that may damage its leaves and stunt growth. You also shouldn’t use hard tap water as it can contain high salts that are harmful to the plant.
Ideally, you should use room-temperature water when watering your begonia. You don’t want to pour cold water on its leaves as this will cause them to droop or even fall off. If you live in an area where the tap water is too cold, you can heat it in the microwave or stove before using it.
Begonia maculata Feeding/fertilizing Requirements
Since this type of begonia likes plenty of moisture in the soil, it’s best to fertilize it every two weeks during the growing season. You can use a standard houseplant fertilizer. You might want to get specialized fertilizers such as one specifically made for begonias because these contain higher levels of phosphorous and potassium which promote root growth.
When fertilizing your plant, use a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted in water every other week. You can also do a liquid feed once a month if you feel that the plant is not getting enough nutrients from the soil. Then, you should fertilize the soil every two to three months with a liquid or water-soluble fertilizer. Ensure that it is diluted before adding it to your plant because it will prevent overfeeding damage.
The best time for indoor fertilizing plants is during fall and winter to avoid shocking them in spring when they are starting to grow again. If you use a soil mix that doesn’t have any fertilizer, you can add it every month. You can also use organic mulch such as compost, which will help feed the plant slowly. However, ensure not to pile too much on top of the pot, or the water will not drain.
Additional Tips for Success with the Polka Dot Begonia
When it comes to planting, you should use a pot with plenty of drainage holes and avoid overpotting the plant. A good rule of thumb is that one square inch is the size of your fingertips. This will give enough space for each new leaf once it starts growing again after dormancy.
The type of potting containers the work best for the plant are clay, plastic or glazed ceramic. Avoid terracotta pots as they dry out the soil too quickly. You can also use a potting mix that is designed for begonias. Alternatively, you can make your own by mixing one part peat moss and two parts perlite together.
Your plant will need to be pruned regularly, or it can grow too large for your container. The older leaves at the bottom of its stems tend to rot and fall off if they are not removed on time. You should also remove brown, yellow, or dying leaves not to spoil their overall appearance.
The best time to carry out pruning is when the begonia is growing, which is usually from spring to fall. Use sharp pruning shears and cut the stems at an angle just above a node. This is the point where a leaf or branch grows from the stem. You can also use your fingers to pinch off the leaves instead of scissors.
Make sure that you sterilize your tools with a bleach solution before using them on another plant to prevent any diseases from spreading. Moreover, you can propagate the begonia leaves by rooting them in water or soil.
The best time to propagate your begonia maculata plant is when it’s in its growing season, from spring until fall. You can do this by rooting the leaves or stem cuttings. The process involves cutting the stem and inserting it into moist soil so that new roots grow on it.
You will first need to wash off any soil or debris from the cutting and then allow it to dry for a day. Once that’s done, you can use a rooting hormone powder if you have one before planting it into moist soil. Ensure that the container has good drainage and place it in a warm area where there is indirect sunlight.
If you are using water, you will need a glass of water that has been boiled and cooled for about an hour. After which, the cutting should be inserted into it to allow its new roots to grow under the soil line. Once this is done, place another jar over the top with holes before placing both jars on a warm windowsill or somewhere else where there is indirect sunlight.
The begonia plant can stay in its original container for about three years. However, you will need to remove the top inch of soil and replace it with fresh potting soil before re-planting it into another larger container at least once every year. This is because the plant’s roots fill up all of their space over time, so they need more room to grow.
If you are not going to be repotting it, you can top dress the soil with fresh organic matter such as compost or manure pellets every three months. This will help feed the plant slowly over time. You can also use organic mulch such as compost, which will help feed the plant and retain moisture in the soil.
The begonia plant is susceptible to various diseases and pests affecting its appearance. As such, it’s important to learn about some of the common ones to know how to deal with them on time.
Mealybugs are one of the most common issues for this type of plant because they love sucking nutrient-rich juices from the leaves. This will cause them to become covered in a white, waxy substance. If you spot mealybugs on your begonia, use horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to get rid of them.
Another common pest for this type of plant is the spider mite. They are tiny pests identified by their webs on the leaves. If you have a spider mite infestation, use a miticide to get rid of them.
An easy way to get rid of pests such as aphids, whiteflies, roaches, or mealybugs is by using an organic insecticide like neem oil. This contains Azadirachtin, which inhibits larvae growth and stops eggs from hatching while also killing any existing pests on contact. For a stronger effect, mix it with pyrethrins to create an organic insecticidal soap that will kill the insects even faster and stop them from climbing back up onto your begonia plant.
-Plant Fungus & Bacteria
Various diseases can affect your begonia plants, such as botrytis (a type of fungus), root rot, and leaf spot. It’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of disease and immediately treat it. Fungi can be treated with fungicides, and root rot can be treated by improving drainage in the soil.
If your begonia starts losing its leaves, it is a sign of leaf spot. This means it’s time for you to water more often and give it some humidity. Ensure not to overwater as this will cause stem rot instead.
Bacteria and fungi thrive in moist soils. Therefore, ensure that the container has good drainage to prevent diseases from forming. You can also use a sterile tool when handling your begonia plant to avoid transferring bacteria and other pathogens onto it. Make sure you clean up any debris or fallen leaves, as this will help reduce the risk of pests infesting the soil. It would help if you also avoided over-fertilizing or over-watering as this can stress the plant and make it more susceptible to diseases.
The begonia plant is poisonous to cats and dogs that cause vomiting and drooling. The poisonous part of the plant is located in its leaves and stems. Therefore, make sure you don’t let your pets eat any parts of it or touch their mouths after doing so. If you are looking for non-toxic plants, check out these 27 pet friendly house plants for your home.
If you suspect that your pet has eaten a begonia, then take them to a vet immediately. The vet would assess how much was ingested and what needs to be done.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Revive a Dying Polka Dot Begonia?
The best way to revive a dying begonia maculata is by repotting the plan into a new container with fresh soil. Be sure the new pot has proper drainage. You can also give it a good drink of water to help it be rehydrated.
What is the Best Soil for a Begonia?
The best type of soil for begonias is one that drains well and has plenty of organic matter in it, like compost or peat moss. You can also add a bit of lime to the soil to help with pH levels.
Can I move my begonia plant outside in the summer?
Begonia plants are best kept indoors in the summer. However, you can move them outside during the spring.
My begonia plant has yellow leaves. What does this mean?
If your begonia plant’s leaves turn yellow, then it may have a disease or pest infestation that is causing nutrient deficiencies and leaf loss. It could also be due to overwatering, underwatering, or poor drainage.
Where can I buy a Begonia Maculata?
Etsy has some really nice plants for sale at a good price. I have purchased from a number of resellers there. Always read the reviews on how they send the plant, the packaging, and the locations in which they send to. You can find the begonia maculata from a well known Esty seller here.
I think my begonia plant has root rot. What can I do?
If you suspect that your begonia plant has root rot, you should improve the drainage in the soil by adding some sand or perlite. You can also water less often and use a fungicide to treat it.
What does my begonia plant need to grow?
Your begonia needs lots of light, adequate water, good drainage, and an even temperature throughout the year. Ensure you fertilize your begonia monthly with a liquid fertilizer so that they can grow at their best.
Is the spotted begonia poisonous to humans?
Yes, the spotted begonia is poisonous to humans as it contains oxalic acid. This can irritate skin and mucous membranes when ingested or inhaled. You will want to keep kids and pets away from this beauty. Love from afar and enjoy!
Caring for a begonia plant is not difficult, but there are a few things you need to know to keep it healthy. Ensure you water it properly, provide adequate light and avoid over-fertilizing or overwatering. By following the above advice, you can help prevent diseases or pest infestations and keep your begonia plant looking healthy.