Beefsteak begonia (Begonia Erythrophylla) gets it odd name because it looks like a beef steak from above. Honestly, I don’t see a lot of resemblance. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to come across some fun plant names once in a while.
Besides beefsteak begonia, it also goes by a few other names including pond lily begonia, swamp lily begonia, kidney begonia. In some texts or documentation, you might come across another botanical name used for it, Begonia bunchii.
In any case, this is one of the rarer varieties of this genus. Thus, if you are able to get your hands on one, it makes for a good addition to your collection.
The plant is fairly short reaching around 18 to 20 inches or so in height. But, its beautiful long stems and slightly oblong leaves make it very attractive.
It likewise produces pink and white flowers to complement the foliage.
Beefsteak Begonia Plant Care
Beefsteak Begonia Light
The beefsteak begonia can tolerated different lighting conditions. But, it thrives most when given bright, indirect light or light shade. You do want to be careful with providing it with too much sun.
But, the most important thing to remember is to keep it away from direct sunlight which will scorch its leaves.
As such, if you’re growing it outdoors, you want to find a spot that’s bright but not sunny. Ideally, under some kind of shade. This can be via trees overhead, a canopy or the shade cast by your home especially in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is the most intense.
Indoors, and east facing window works very well because the morning sun isn’t harsh or intense. You do want to position it so it’s not directly under the sun’s rays here.
With the west and south, keeping the plant at least a few feet away from the window is probably the easiest way to keep it safe from the sun. You can likewise filter some sunlight using sheer shade or other kinds of shade cover.
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Beefsteak Begonia Temperature & Humidity
Your beefsteak begonia’s ideal temperature range is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Although, it will tolerate up to 85 degrees without any problems. However, you do not want to keep it somewhere the mercury will drop under 50 degrees.
Left there for long periods of time will damage the plant. And eventually kill it.
As such, if you live in USDA zones 9 to 11, you can grow the plant outdoors the entire year round and it will be very happy. However, below zone, it is important to bring your beefsteak begonia indoors once the weather drops under 60 degrees to be safe.
The good news is, it grows well in normal home temperatures. This makes it easy to care for as a houseplant since it easily acclimates to human conditions.
The bigger thing for some plant owners is humidity. In general it tolerates a wide ranges of humidity levels as well. But, on the higher end. Ideally you want to keep humidity between 60% and 80% which will allow it to produce the most vibrant foliate.
Unfortunately, most homes average around the 40% to 50%. And, if you live in a cooler region of the country, the air will be on the drier side.
If this is the case, you’ll need to apply some humidity-increasing strategies to keep the plant happy.
It is worth noting that misting is the easiest solution to keep moisture up. But, it is not a good idea with your begonia because this genus is prone to powdery mildew and leaf fungal problems.
As such, if you happen to spray too much water on its leaves, it increases the risk of causing these issues. Anything the keeps its leaves wet for hours is no-no.
That said, the best ways for increasing humidity around your beefsteak begonia include:
- Keeping it in the bathroom. Bathrooms are the most humid places in the home. But, they’re often dark. As long as there’s enough light here, it will do fine.
- Grouping it with other plants. But make sure there is enough air circulation to help moisture on the leaves dry.
- Setting It on a water tray. As long as the pot and plant are kept away from the water, it till be fin.
- Humidifier. This is the best way to increase humidity by a significant amount. So, if your homes humidity is 30% to 40%, you’ll probably want to go with this option because of the big jump you need to make.
Keep the soil slightly moist consistently. This is what your beefsteak begonia likes most. But, be careful not to leave the soil wet or soggy. Your beefsteak begonia is prone to root rot. As such, letting it sit in water for long periods of time with increase the risk of this problem.
It is likewise important to note that this is a rhizomatous plant. And, its rhizome is stores water much like a succulent’s leaves do. So, giving it too much water or watering it too often increases the risk of moisture issues also.
The best way to keep the plant happy is to allow the soil to dry a little between waterings. Ideally, let the top 1 to 2 inches of soil dry up before you water again. You can stick your finger in the soil down to the knuckle nearest your palm.
If the soil at that depth feels wet or moist, wait 1 to 2 more days. Then, check again. if it feels dry then it is time to water.
How to water your beefsteak begonia is just as important as when you water it.
Here, the best way to do so is to slowly pour water onto the soil until you soak the entire root ball. This ensures that moisture reaches the roots.
You also don’t want to water over the plant which will get all the leaves wet. Again, that increases the risk of fungal leaf infection if it doesn’t dry fast. However, if it gets enough sunlight, warm weather and good air circulation this is less of an issue cine these factors will help it dry faster. But, it’s almost never worth the risk.
In any case, once the root ball is wet. All the excess water to completely drain. This takes a while, so you’ll want to do other things while it does. It usually takes me anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes for any given plant depending on how big the plant is and the kind of soil it uses.
So, be patient. Doing this every time you water is essential to prevent root rot, especially since your beefsteak begonia is susceptible to rooting roots from excess moisture.
From above, you already know that your beefsteak begonia likes loose, airy and well-draining soil. This type of soil allows water to drain faster. It is also light enough to allow oxygen to flow through it easier, letting your plant breath better.
Additionally, going with a slightly acidic to neutral potting mix lets it thrive as well. Thus, choose a mix with pH of between 6.1 to 7.5 for best results.
If you want to go with something out of the box, pick up some African violet potting mix. While designed for African violets, its features are perfect for growing beefsteak begonia.
If you prefer making your own mix, you can use a combination of peat moss and perlite or vermiculite. Peat and perlite are often used by home growers because they’re very cheap, making it more economical when you’re growing many plants.
Fertilizing Beefsteak Begonia
Apply liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to 50% strength every 2 to 4 weeks during its growing seasons. Begonias actually do well with plant food because they’re fairly heavy feeders.
That said, you always want to be careful with too much fertilizer because it can burn your plant’s roots. Thus, always begin at the more conservative end. Then, observe how the plant responds.
If it isn’t growing as it should, or it looks dull and lackluster, gradually increase the dose until it gets to the point where it is doing well.
Once fall arrives, begin to back off on the fertilizer and completely stop once winter arrives. During this time your beefsteak begonia will rest in order to prepare for next spring’s growth spurt.
Pruning Beefsteak Begonia
Beefsteak begonia only get to about 15 inches tall. They also look better in a group. And, less so when sparse. So, you don’t need to do a lot of pruning unless its they get crowded.
That said, you do want to watch out for a few things.
- Leggy stems. When this happens, you want to remove the leggy ones to allow for new growth which often fixes the legginess.
- Dead leaves. Dead, yellow, damaged or discolored leaves should also be taken asway since this will cause the plant to expend valuable resources on these deteriorating parts. Once you trim them off, it will be able to focus on new growth instead.
Beefsteak begonias are among the longer living begonias. They have average lifespan of between 4 to 5 years. If you want to keep them for longer periods, propagating them is the way to go.
The good news is there are many different ways to do so. This includes:
- Stem cuttings
- Leaf cuttings
- Rhizome cuttings
Of the four, leaf and stem cuttings are easier to do. That’s because there’s less work involved in the process. And, you don’t have to dig up the rhizome in either case.
This means less manual labor and dirt. It also causes less shock to the plant.
How to Propagate Beefsteak Begonia from Leaf Cuttings
Leaf cuttings are by far the easiest way to propagate your beefsteak begonia. Here’s how:
- Take a healthy leaf
- Cut it up into pieces
- Get a small pot and fill it with well draining potting mix
- Press these leaf cuttings into the soil
- Wait a few weeks and it will begin to root
How to Propagate Beefsteak Begonia from Stem Cuttings
Stem cuttings are likewise very easy. They take a little more work than leaf cuttings. But, nevertheless the process is still very straightforward.
- Chose a few healthy stems
- Trim of the stems making sure you have something that is about 4 to 6 inches long. You want to cut these off just under a leaf node, which is where the leaf branches out from the stem.
- Remove the lower leaves since they’ll be placed into the water or soil anyways.
- Place the stem end into the soil .
- You can likewise root it in water then move it to soil after the roots develop. That takes more steps. But, from experience, it allows the roots to develop faster and has a higher propagation success rate.
- Keep the soil moist and leave the pot in a warm, humid place with bright, indirect light.
- After a few weeks, it being to develop roots
- After a few months, it will be time to move it to a larger container
Transplanting & Repotting Beefsteak Begonia
You’ll likely need to repot your beefsteak begonia once every 2 years or so. The exact timing will depend on how fast is grows and how big your current container is.
That said, begonias tend to like being slightly pot bound. So, it is okay to leave hem there for a little bit. However, once you see its roots fill the container, it is time to repot.
Repotting will allow the plant to continue growing thanks to the extra space. When you repot, you’ll also be changing the soil. Fresh soil is looser and more airy. It likewise replenishes nutrients.
Altogether, these help you plant to grow better.
Keep young children and pets away from your beefsteak begonia. The plant is toxic to both people and animals. So, you don’t want young children, dogs or cats ingesting them. Doing so will cause mouth irritation. It can also cause vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness.
Pests and Diseases
As pretty as your beefsteak begonia is, it is just as prone to pests and diseases. Thus, it is very important to be wary of these so you can take preventive measures.
When it comes diseases, powdery mildew, gray mold and root rot are all potential problems. Because the plant likes moist soil and humid conditions, water plays a big role in keeping it healthy.
However, too much water or allowing water to sit, be it on its leaves or via the soil are both no-no’s.
This is why you don’t want to let its leaves get wet and stay wet for long periods of time. This opens the doors for mildew gray mold and bacterial leaf spot.
On the other hand overwatering, allowing soil to get waterlogged and heavy soil increase the risk of root rot.
As far as pests go, a big part of your routine will be to inspect for them every 1 to 2 weeks. Be on the lookout for spider mites, mealybugs and aphids which are common among begonia.