The begonia is an extraordinarily popular houseplant. This common household plant has garnered favor amongst many as it is easy to care for and has absolutely gorgeous foliage.
If you’re eager to grow your very own begonia, care for it optimally, and know what to keep your eye out for then this care guide is perfect.
This species belongs to the Begoniaceae family and can be found all over the world. The precise native region will differ depending on the variation, however, most are native to tropical regions in south China, northeastern India, South Africa, and Brazil.
There are three different types of begonia; tuberous, fibrous, and rhizomatous. Each of these three broad groups is classified according to the plant’s rooting system.
It is a herbaceous perennial with striking foliage that comes in an array of shapes, sizes, and colors. We’ll discuss the different varieties of begonia below.
Fun fact: In 1960, Charles Plumier who is a highly-regarded French botanist, named this houseplant after his friend Michel Begon.
There are around 1,500 different begonia species. You can tell each variation apart as they have their own unique leaf shape, variegation, and markings.
- Mistral begonia: The ‘mistral pink’ begonia produces a large mass of vibrant pink blossoms with green arrow-shaped leaves.
- Begonia dregei: The ‘maple leaf’ or ‘grape-leaf’ begonia sprouts maple-shaped, green leaves from tall, brittle stems. The green leaves have a red tinge to them underneath which is contrasted with pretty white flowers that sprout during its blooming season.
- Picotee begonia: This variation blooms intricate flowers with ruffled petals that are either yellow, apricot, or pink.
- Begonia rex: This begonia is extremely popular and is also known as the ‘painted-leaf’ begonia. Its deep red leaves have green edges as well as intricate variegation.
- Corallina begonia: The ‘angel wing’ begonia grows elongated emerald-green foliage with white spots.
- Begonia semperflorens: It is also referred to as the ‘wax’ begonia and sprouts long-lasting flowers during the summertime. These clusters of blooms come in an array of colors such as pink, yellow, white, and red. The foliage often has a bronze-tinge to it as well.
- Begonia aconitifolia: This variation goes by a few other names like ‘metallica’ begonia, ‘holly-leaf’ begonia, and ‘cane’ begonia. This upright, evergreen houseplant has deeply lobed leaves and produces white or pink blooms.
- Begonia maculata: The ‘polka dot’ begonia has olive-green foliage with creamy-silver specks on top and is completely crimson underneath.
- Hiemalis begonia: A ‘Rieger’ begonia blooms striking shades of yellow, white, red, and pink flowers during the wintertime.
- Bossa nova begonia: This type of begonia is nicknamed the ‘bossa nova pure white’ due to its long, thin white flowers that grow on top of pink-green stems.
Fun fact: The begonia has often been associated with future misfortunes and symbolizes caution.
How Big Do They Get?
A healthy begonia will grow between 12 to 18 inches (30.5 – 46.7cm) tall, and around 12 inches (30.5cm) wide.
Fun fact: The tallest recorded begonia reached a height of 11.8 feet (3.6m).
How Fast Do They Grow?
The typical begonia can grow an additional 4 to 6 inches (10 – 15.2cm) a year until it has reached its mature size. The precise growth rate will depend on the species and the care it receives.
How Long Do They Last?
The begonia doesn’t have a particularly long lifespan and usually only survives for approximately 2 to 3 years.
Are Begonias Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?
The begonia is toxic to both cats and dogs. The negative side effects are caused by the sap found in the stem and roots. These juices contain calcium oxalates which are tiny needle-like structures that can cause harm when ingested or dropped onto the skin.
All parts of the plant can be considered toxic, however, the roots are extremely poisonous so be wary that neither your cat nor dog can dig up the houseplant.
A cat or dog may face one of the issues below if it eats the sap:
- Swollen throat
- Kidney failure
- Burning sensation in the mouth
When your furry friend comes into contact with the sap, the following may occur:
- A red rash
- Skin dermatitis
The symptoms are usually short-lived but always be on the safe side and contact your vet immediately.
The begonia is a fairly simple plant to grow indoors and with the right care, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blooms. Check out the precise care requirements summarized below.
How Often to Water It
When it comes to watering the begonia, you’ll want the soil to be consistently slightly damp. The number of times that you water your houseplant will vary across the different seasons. A general rule of thumb is that once the top 2 inches (5cm) of the soil is dry then you can water it.
Typically, you will water the houseplant every 2 days during the warmer spring and summer months, however, as it gets colder in winter and autumn you can water it once a week.
Whilst watering your plant, always keep in mind that you don’t want to completely saturate, drench or drown the plant. So, only maintain a moist potting mixture.
Having an effective drainage system is important, which is the same when it comes to growing the basil plant. The begonia is quite a thirsty plant but it’s also susceptible to root rot and a variety of other fungal diseases.
It is vital that the container has a few holes at the bottom to allow any excess water to escape. The soil can also contribute to drainage. A great way to enhance drainage is by adding a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot.
How to Prune It
Trimming the begonia is necessary if you wish to restore its appearance or remove any unhealthy foliage. Ideally, you should prune it during the springtime, the same time that you would trim your Calathea.
It is also a good idea to water the begonia at least one day before you plan on pruning it.
If you wish to remove either the stem or leaves then follow the steps below:
- Sterilize a pair of scissors with rubbing alcohol.
- To remove a leaf, you must cut it by the leaf node.
- If you are removing an entire stem or large portion of the plant then cut the stems down to 3 inches (7.5cm) above the soil line.
How to Deadhead It
Deadheading isn’t necessary for the houseplant to survive but it sure does improve its appearance. You can deadhead the flowers after they have bloomed and begin to die.
This will encourage new growth and even better blooms.
Follow the steps below:
- Use a clean blade and cut 1 inch (2.5cm) below the flower.
- You can also simply pinch the flower off as well.
Typically, you should repot your begonia every 3 years or once the pot is totally full of roots. The houseplant does prefer to be slightly pot-bound, so avoid transplanting it when the soil is still loose.
You must repot it during the springtime as this plant’s roots are sensitive to transplanting stress and any exposure to cooler temperatures will shock the roots.
When choosing a new container, you shouldn’t increase the size too drastically. A large pot will lead to root rot as the soil will remain wet for longer. Simply increase the pot by a few inches.
Below, we’ll guide you through repotting your begonia:
- Lift or slide the houseplant out of its current container.
- Gently shake the roots to get rid of extra soil surrounding the rootball.
- Fill a new pot with fresh potting soil and plant the begonia.
- Water it well and place it back in its original home.
How to Overwinter It
We’ll discuss how to winterize your stunning begonia. This way you’ll preserve your houseplant and keep it healthy for another blooming season.
The following guide will explain how to dig up the rootball and store it through the winter. It’s best to begin winterizing it during late autumn or early winter.
- First, you will need to loosen the soil and gently lift your plant out of the container.
- Place the roots in a warm, dark room and allow them to dry out for around a week.
- Once the leaves have dried up, simply remove them.
- Keep the roots in a room with a temperature of around 55°F (12.7°C).
- You can replant the roots in well-draining soil in early spring.
Sun or Shade
The begonia thrives in bright, indirect sunshine. It can tolerate complete shade but its growth may slow down.
It is best to place it in an area where it’ll receive at least 4 to 6 hours of morning sunshine a day. You may need to place it under partial shade or filtered sunlight during the afternoon as the sun rays become harsh.
Best Soil Mixture
The most important part when it comes to the potting mixture is that it must be loose, well-draining and light. An airy soil will allow excess water to drain through and the roots will receive plenty of oxygen, this is also important when growing a pitcher plant.
Any general or all-purpose potting mixture will do just fine, and even a succulent mix will suit this houseplant.
You should throw in some compost to make the soil more fertile. Additionally, you can mix in some perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss to further improve the soil’s drainage.
The top two types of fertilizers for a begonia are one’s with the following ratios; 15-15-15 or 7-9-5.
Just like when you feed the orchid, you can either feed the houseplant once a week with a fertilizer that has been diluted to one-quarter of its strength, or you can feed it once every two weeks with a fertilizer diluted to half its strength.
It is only necessary to feed your plant during its active growing seasons. The plant may be a heavy feeder but fertilizing it during the winter may cause a fertilizer overdose.
Pot Size and Type
The perfect-sized pot is one that is 1 inch (2.5cm) wider than the plant’s rootball.
The ideal material is plastic because a clay or terracotta container will cause the soil to dry out too quickly. This will require far more frequent watering and monitoring.
No matter what type of container you decide to use, the pot must have a couple of drainage holes at the bottom.
Fun fact: The begonia rex looks amazing in hanging baskets and was even regarded by the American Begonia Society as “the showboat of the begonia world”.
How Cold Can It Tolerate?
The begonia flourishes in temperatures between 60 and 70°F (15.5 – 21°C). The houseplant is slightly sensitive to extreme temperatures so it cannot withstand the frost or a temperature above 80°F (26.7°C).
Do They Like Humidity?
This houseplant loves a humid environment. It requires a relative humidity level between 70 to 90 percent, so you will need to ensure that your house’s air isn’t too dry.
You can enhance the humidity level surrounding your houseplant by placing it in your bathroom, amongst other plants, or by misting its foliage several times a week.
How to Care for It Outside
Begonias can be grown outside year-round in USDA hardiness zones of 10 to 12. It should be noted that the begonia is more likely to thrive indoors as you can create optimal conditions for it.
When it is placed outside, you may need to water and spritz it regularly to maintain a moist environment. You must also be cautious that it isn’t placed under direct sunlight or its leaves will burn.
The temperature also mustn’t fluctuate too much as if it’s too hot or too cold then the foliage will lose its attractive appearance.
The flower is usually about 1 inch (2.5cm) long and can either be waxy or tuberous depending on the species.
When Do They Bloom?
The begonia is a seasonal bloomer and each species will bloom at a different time of year. Typically, this houseplant can flower anytime between early summer through early winter.
How Long Do They Bloom?
Aside from the fantastic shades of color, these blooms can last for up to 6 months. When cared for well, you can expect shades of yellow, white, pink, red, and orange.
How to Get It to Bloom
The best way to promote blooms is by feeding it well. The begonia is a heavy feeder and a fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 will do the trick.
Watering is another straightforward way to encourage flowering. Make sure to keep the soil moist but don’t overwater it either.
If you’re still not happy with the number or size of blossoms then try removing any dead flowers as soon as possible. This will allow for energy to be directed to healthy growth.
Fun fact: The begonia flower is related to a few well-known vegetables such as the pumpkin, cucumber, melon, and squash.
How to Keep It Blooming
The best way to keep your begonias flowering is by planting it in good soil, feeding it well, and watering it properly.
The potting soil must be lightweight and quick draining. It must be able to retain some water but if it’s too heavy then the roots will become waterlogged. It’s also important that the soil is fertile and this can be achieved by adding in some compost.
A flowering plant will require a good amount of nutrients. To make sure that it has enough energy and nutrients to maintain its flowers you must feed it with a liquid fertilizer during the spring and summertime.
You will need to water your plant appropriately. It needs a decent amount of water, however, it cannot tolerate being overwatered. To keep your houseplant blooming you should set up a consistent watering schedule.
How to Grow It
You can expand your begonia collection through multiple propagation methods or by planting its seeds. The best time of year is right after it has finished blooming during either the spring or summertime.
Always remember to sterilize your pruners, scissors, and other tools to avoid spreading bacterial diseases.
You have a few propagation methods available such as planting its cuttings, rhizome division, or tuber propagation. We’ll explain the processes below.
Growing in Soil
When it comes to propagating a new plant in the soil you can plant divisions or plant a leaf cutting. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the potting mixture must be fresh and nutrient-dense.
Rhizome division is suited for those rhizomatous begonias. It’s a fairly simple task as you’ll only need to slice the rootball and then plant it.
Follow the steps below:
- Remove your houseplant out of its container and examine the rootball.
- Find different sections of the rhizome where there is at least one leaf scar, leaf stem base, or has a growing bud.
- You can then slice through the rhizome and separate the divisions.
- Fill the new pots with potting mix and plant each division.
- Pat the soil down to anchor the separate sections and water them well.
- Position the plants under some partial shade and monitor them for new growth.
- Keep the soil moist at all times for the first 4 to 10 weeks, and once a new leaf emerges then your division has successfully rooted.
Leaf Cutting Propagation
This method of propagation is easy and reliable. All you have to do is snip off a leaf and plant it in some soil.
Here’s a more detailed guide:
- Use a clean pair of scissors and cut off a leaf. There must be at least 1 or 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) of stem below the leaf blade.
- Slice the leaf into separate wedges so that each section has one main vein.
- Prepare a few smaller pots with soil and press the leaf wedges gently into the potting mix.
- Put the cuttings in a shady area and mist them frequently.
- In about 4 to 10 weeks, the cuttings will sprout new growth and have successfully rooted.
How to Plant the Bulbs
This method of division is suited for those tuberous begonias. You will have to split the tuberous roots and plant the bulbs in their own containers.
Keep in mind that the tuberous roots must have at least two clear stems.
- Lift the houseplant out of its container and shake off the excess soil clinging to the rootball.
- Use a sharp knife and slice the rootball in half.
- Place them in a warm room and allow them to dry out for 3 days.
- Find two new pots and fill them with fresh soil.
- Plant each division in the soil and water them well.
- In around 6 weeks, you should notice new growth.
Propagation in Water
You can grow an entirely new plant from a single cutting, and all you have to do is place it in a glass of water. We’ll go into more detail in our step-by-step guide below.
- Snip off a leaf blade with 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) of stem still attached.
- Find a glass jar and fill it with clean water.
- Place the leaf in the center of the jar and monitor the water. If it becomes murky then replace it with fresh, room temperature water.
- Locate the glass jar in a shady area and wait for new leaf growth.
- In 4 to 10 weeks, you should repot the cutting in some soil and care for it well.
How to Grow It from Seed
You can grow an entire begonia by sowing its seeds. This method may not be as reliable at propagating its cuttings, however, it’s a relatively simple one.
Check out the steps below:
- Fill a tray with some seed starting mixture and sprinkle the seeds over the soil.
- You mustn’t add another layer of potting mixture but rather mist the seeds.
- Place the tray on top of a heating mat set between 60 and 70°F (15.5 – 21°C).
- Keep the potting mixture moist and place the seeds under filtered sunshine.
- In about 3 weeks the seeds will germinate and you can repot them when they’re big enough.
Why May It Be Dying?
It isn’t uncommon for the begonia houseplant to run into a few health problems every now and then. You don’t need to worry too much because each of the following three issues can be remedied easily and quickly.
Why Do the Leaves Turn Brown?
The discoloration of your begonia’s foliage may be caused by a few things; overwatering, direct sunshine, and a lack of humidity.
All you need to do is check that the topsoil is dry before watering it again, move into a shady area, and spritz its leaves with lukewarm water.
Why Is It Drooping?
When the foliage becomes limp and droopy, your plant is being watered improperly, exposed to extreme temperatures, or may also be receiving too much sunlight.
There are a few simple changes that you can make and your plant should recover quickly. You must make sure to develop a consistent watering schedule where the soil is kept moist but not waterlogged.
You may also need to move your houseplant to a new area during summer and winter. This way you can maintain a consistent temperature range.
During the summertime, the sun rays become especially strong so it’s a good idea that you find a new home for your plant. The begonia should be positioned under filtered sunshine or even partial shade.
Why the Leaves Turn Yellow
The yellowing foliage is caused by overwatering. When your plant becomes waterlogged it can develop root rot and other fungal diseases.
If you’re concerned that the soil is too wet then allow it some time to recover and dry out before watering it again.
If your houseplant has developed root rot then you will need to remove it from its pot and cut off damaged roots. Then you can repot it in fresh, dry soil.
Wrapping It Up
The begonia is an excellent houseplant to add to your collection. Not only will you be rewarded with vibrant foliage but you’ll see long-lasting bright blooms too.
Always remember to keep the soil moist, place it under bright light, and feed it well. If you create the optimal environment then your houseplant will be happy and healthy.