Caring for your Begonia Maculata
With a stunning combination of silver spots on the top and a rich red to purple on the bottom, the unique leaves of Begonia Maculata add an element of interest to any boring indoor space. This idiosyncratic spotted appearance of the plant has rightly earned it the name of Polka Dot Begonia or Spotted Begonia. Angel Wing Begonia and Trout Begonia are some more common names that are usually used for this beauty.
Begonia Maculata was first found in the 1600s in Southeast Brazil, and was named after the Governor in its native area – Micheal Begon. The plant grows abundantly and lusciously in the Atlantic Rainforest today.
Though it is easy enough to cultivate Begonia Maculata in these regions, growing it elsewhere requires quite a bit of effort. So, if you are aiming to add spark to your indoor garden with this beauty, you have got to be willing to put in the work. Here is a detailed guide to keeping your Begonia Maculata happy and flourishing in any indoor setting.
How to care for your Begonia Maculata
The most common mistake that Begonia owners make is using the wrong soil mixture for their plant.
The Polka Dot Begonia is especially susceptible to root rot, and must be rooted in well-draining soil to avoid this problem. If the soil is not porous enough and holds the water instead of letting it run through, the roots may become infected and start decaying.
A good mix of equal parts of sand, clay, perlite, and loamy soil makes for a nice growing medium for the Begonia Maculata. This potting mix contains plenty of air pockets providing the necessary ventilation and drainage that your plant needs to stay healthy and happy.
When it comes to light, the Begonia Maculata requires plenty of it. Simply an hour or two of being in the sun does not cut it for this beautiful plant. If you want to see the true potential of your Begonia, make sure that it is getting ample sunlight.
At the same time, direct sunlight that is too intense may cause the leaves to burn. When growing a Begonia Maculata plant, you have to be careful about the placement of your pot. The best location for it would be in front of an east or west facing window, where the light is filtered and more gentle to the plant, but spread out over the daytime hours.
Maintaining the right balance between too wet and too dry is another challenge with the Begonia Maculata. Mostly, Begonia enthusiasts find the sweet spot between the two by practice and trial and error. But if you know a few tell-tale signs of overwatering and underwatering your Begonia Maculata, you can save it from a lot of unnecessary stress.
Ideally, the soil mixture of your Begonia Maculata should always be a little damp to touch. This sensitive plant loves its moisture and does not like it when the soil runs too dry. However, as we already mentioned before, it is also very susceptible to root rot – a problem that arises due to frequent watering and poor drainage.
To figure out when your plant needs to be replenished, do the finger-soil test. Simply stick in the finger about an inch deep into the soil to feel for dampness. If the soil feels too dry to touch, this is a clear indication that your Begonia Maculata is thirsty. Usually, your plant will need to be watered once every week.
When you water your plant, always take care to water it directly at the roots. Wet leaves are another problem that you do not want.
To maintain its stunning foliage, the Begonia Maculata requires humidity levels to be above 50%. If you live in a dry, arid region, you may have some trouble achieving this level of humidity. A smart hack would be to place your plant in the kitchen or the bathroom in these cases, as these areas of the house are typically more humid than the rest. Of course, you will have to ensure that the rest of its needs, such as the right sunlight and temperature, are also being met.
Other methods of maintaining high humidity are placing a pebble filled water saucer or a humidifier near your Begonia Maculata. Alternatively, you can house your plant in a terrarium where these conditions are artificially maintained.
As you would expect from any other tropical plant, Begonia Maculata, too, needs a hot and humid environment to thrive. For the best possible results, keep the temperature between a comfortable 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature below 60 degrees Fahrenheit would be too cold for this tropical beauty, and it may affect the growth rate and spread of its beautiful leaves.
Talking about growth, this plant is quite an impressive species. The maximum potential height for a Begonia Maculata being grown indoors is around 4.9 feet. When the conditions are favorable, the leaves also tend to get pretty big, reaching almost 8 inches in length. Along with these larger leaves, you will also find a few small ones here and there, giving the Begonia Maculata its characteristic bushy appearance.
As the leaves sprout, they have a pink to maroon hue to them. However, the color deepens as they mature, with the adult leaf having a dark green upper surface with prominent silver spots, and a beautiful red on the underside.
Regular pruning will encourage your Begonia Maculata to grow faster and spread its foliage wider. By taking off the wilting blooms and leaves, you effectively conserve the nutrition that the plant was spending in trying to maintain these hopeless appendages. This diverts the nutrition to the growing parts of your Begonia Maculata, sprouting new shoots and leaves.
Trimming down the overgrown branches can also help your Begonia Maculata gain a couple of inches in height. The practice also results in a bushier, more aesthetic plant. Spring and summer are the best seasons to prune and shape up your Polka Dot Begonia.
If you notice that your spotted princess is looking a bit sad and nothing seems to be helping, try giving it a little liquid fertilizer as a treat. Sometimes, the soil may be running out of essential nutrients and your Begonia Maculata may need a little extra help to flourish.
During the growing seasons of Spring and Summer, you should add a good quality liquid fertilizer to the soil once every two weeks. In the colder seasons when the plant is not in its active growth phase, you can cut down the frequency to once in two months.
When using fertilizer, beware of chemical burns. The sensitive Begonia Maculata can be easily damaged if the fertilizer you have used is too strong. To prevent this from happening, dilute your liquid fertilizer in twice the volume of water that is recommended on the packaging.
The pot you choose to plant your Begonia Maculata is yet another factor that can influence its growth. Unlike most other houseplants, this gorgeous indoor plant prefers a snug and cozy home. Hence, a smaller pot that hugs the roots is best to grow a Begonia Maculata.
At the same time, the Begonia Maculata grows out of its snug home quite quickly. With an impressive growth rate, especially during the initial years, you will need to repot your plant quite frequently. When you notice that the plant is struggling to find room to grow and the roots begin to poke out of the drainage hole, it is time to relocate your Begonia Maculata in a slightly bigger pot.
Like pruning, repotting is also best done during the active growth seasons – that is, in the spring and summer months. When picking out a suitable pot for Begonia Maculata, make sure that it has proper drainage holes to prevent the all-too-common root rot.
Any house that has small children or pets running all around is not suitable to grow a Begonia Maculata in. If you are adamant on rearing one of these despite having kids – whether your own or the furry ones – make sure that you put the plant in an inaccessible location.
Although the plant will not really kill you, it can cause irritation and moderate to severe gastrointestinal problems if ingested. Cats are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of Begonia Maculata.
Growing Tips and Guide
Several common problems can be avoided if you know a few tips about growing Begonia Maculata indoors. Here are a few hacks that may help you steer clear of these easily avoidable issues.
- If your house does not get enough sunlight, you can place your Begonia Maculata outdoors for a few hours everyday. Just remember to bring it back inside for the night.
- If you live in a colder region, be extra careful about the temperature. The plant will instantly start to wilt if it gets too cold.
- A soil moisture gauge can help you figure out when your Begonia Maculata needs to be watered.
- When watering your plant, aim the stream at the soil. Take care to not get the stem or the leaves wet.
- Make sure no water is left in the soil after you are done watering. This can lead to root rot, a major problem with plants like Begonia Maculata.
How To Grow Your Begonia Maculata?
Begonia Maculata may be propagated in one of three ways: leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, and cultivating the plant from seeds. Out of these, the first two are the easier methods of multiplying your Begonia Maculata.
For the leaf cutting method, cut a few fresh leaves from the plant along with at least an inch of petiole. Slice up the leaf in strips, making sure each strip has a well developed vein. Now place the leaves in a previously prepared pot with moist, well draining soil and cover it with a plastic bag to maintain humidity. You can expect the roots to start sprouting in around 3 to 4 wells, and by the 6th week, your new Begonia plants should be ready to be transplanted.
If you wish to opt for the stem cutting method, cut an inch long piece of stem from a mature Begonia Maculata and stick one end into a previously prepared pot with moist, well draining soil. Care for it the same way as detailed above for stem cutting, and you will notice new roots sprouting in about 5 to 7 weeks.
The most challenging propagation method for Begonia Maculata is through its seeds. For this reason, it is best left to professionals.
Common Problems And How To Treat Them
Begonia Maculata is susceptible to a variety of pest infestations. From caterpillars and earwigs to the very common snails – a myriad of pests may inhabit the striking leaves of this plant. These pests then feed on the foliage, leaving behind unsightly holes in them.
To get rid of pests, the best course of action is to pick them off of the plant, followed by a good pesticide spray to keep them away for good.
Common diseases of the Begonia plant include bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew, and blight. The result of these plant conditions are damaged leaves, which ultimately lead to the death of the entire plant. However, there is a simple solution to prevention of all these types of diseases.
Most of these conditions originate in the background of overwatering. It is when water accumulates in a poorly draining soil that the plant develops these conditions. Simply being careful with the watering schedule and investing in a moisture gauge is enough to keep these problems at bay.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Begonia Maculata rare?
While Begonia Maculata used to be a rare species, the increased demand has led to many people trying to cultivate the plant in order to sell it. Due to this increased attempt at propagating this plant, it is no longer considered as rare and can be easily sourced from a good nursery or Etsy.
Do Begonia Maculata go dormant?
During the colder months, the growth rate of Begonia Maculata drops and they propagate less readily. However, at no point does this plant go completely dormant.
Do Begonia Maculata need structural support?
As the Begonia Maculata plant achieves a certain height, it starts to lean due to the weight of the leaves and stem. To keep your plant upright, a bamboo stick or a moss pole can be stuck in the center to provide structural support.
Wrapping It Up
So, there you go! The perfect guide to taking care of your Begonia Maculata.
Truth be told, the Begonia Maculata is not easy to grow. There are plenty of factors that need to be taken into consideration to ensure its survival. But as long as you follow these directions, you can be guaranteed a luscious, stunning Polka Dot Begonia.