The begonia boliviensis is a stunning plant that doesn’t resemble the large flower begonias most people are familiar with. However, its smaller red colored flowers come as a bunch making them amazingly breathtaking to look at.
This tuberous perennial grows to between 12 to 20 feet high and wide. Its cascading looks makes it perfect for hanging baskets. But, it likewise works well as a landscape plant or in containers.
Best of all, it is very easy to care for, making it a low effort, high reward plant.
Begonia Boliviensis Plant Care
Begonia Boliviensis Light
The begonia boliviensis can tolerate different lighting conditions. But, it does best given bright, indirect light. Outdoors, thrives in partial sun or partial shade.
The most important thing about providing light for this plant is to keep it away from direct sunlight. Keeping it exposed to these conditions will cause its leaves to scorch.
That said, be aware that while your begonia boliviensis won’t die in low light, the less optimal the lighting is, the fewer and smaller its flowers will be.
Thus, you want to find that balance where it receives enough light to sustain its beautiful blooms.
Indoors, this makes east or southeast facing windows great options. You get more hours of sunlight with the latter. Although, you depending on how afternoon sun it gets, you’ll want to see how intense that sun will get. This way, you can keep it protected during this time.
Alternatively you can place the plant in the west and south facing directions as well. As long as they received filtered light. If you don’t like covering the windows, you can keep the plant farther from the opening. This also works.
If your home doesn’t have a lot of light coming from outside, artificial lighting is your best option.
Outdoors, placing it under some kind of shade works best. This can be a patio, balcony or even a tree.
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Begonia Boliviensis Temperature & Humidity
Your begonia boliviensis is hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11. It is not frost hardy and prefers moderate temperatures, ideally between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just as importantly, you want to keep it away from areas that are under 50 degrees. In these conditions, you plant will struggle and start to deteriorate.
Similarly, while can tolerate temperatures to about 80 and 85 degrees, anything above that is too hot for it, especially for long periods of time.
The good news is, most homes maintain temperatures within the plant’s ideal range. This makes it easy to care for indoors without having to make any special arrangements.
In addition to being picky about climate conditions, it also dislikes winds and drafts. So, if it grows outdoors, you want to position it so that your home, trees or bushes block it from strong winds.
Indoors, keep them away from vents, heaters and air condition.
The other part of the climate equation is humidity. Here, the plant is likewise demanding.
Ideally, it needs humidity to very high, between 80 to 95% for best growth. Considering that the average household humidity is about 50%, it’s likely you’ll need to apply some humidity-increasing strategies.
Before doing so, I highly suggest getting a digital hygrometer. This measures humidity in any give room. As such, it will tell you how much you need to increase it.
If the difference is big, a humidifier is your best option. It costs a little more than the other options and requires more maintenance. But, it is precise and can push up humidity more than natural methods.
If the level isn’t too far off, you can group all your plants together. Or, you can likewise set up a pebble tray with water under the plant.
Because the plant is susceptible to powdery mildew and fungal disease, I don’t recommend misting since if you wet the leaves too much, it increases their risk of these problems.
Watering Begonia Boliviensis
Your begonia boliviensis enjoys moist soil. Thus, regular watering is key to keeping it healthy especially during the warm months. These also happen to the ben it Is actively growing. As such, it will consume more water.
In the fall, start scaling back on water and gradually slow down. The cooler temperature combined with the plant about to go dormant means it won’t need as much water.
That said, the number one thing to avoid with your begonia boliviensis is overwatering. It is prone to root rot and fungal disease. So, allowing it to sit in water for long periods of time is a recipe for disaster.
The best way to avoid this from happening is toe keep a few things in mind.
- Always check the soil before watering. Before you water, stick your finger down 1 to 2 inches into the soil. Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter. If the soil is still moist, wait 1 to 2 days then test again. Only water when the top 1 to 2 inches feels dry.
- Allow the plant to drain after watering. This is a little time consuming considering it takes between 5 to 12 minutes (by my count) to let a just watered pot drain excess moisture. But, taking this extra time to let all the extra liquid drain immediately after watering reduces the risk of waterlogging.
- Drainage holes. Make sure that the container you use has a few holes underneath. This will allow excess water to easily escape.
The final thing to consider with water is that if your tap has hard water, it is a good idea to leave the water to sit at room temperature overnight before using it on your plants.
This will allow the chemicals including chlorine and fluoride,which can be harmful to plants at high enough amounts, to evaporate.
Because of your begonia boliviensis’ need for water and its sensitivity to too much moisture, soil plays a very important role in keeping the plant alive and healthy.
Here, the best soil is rich, loose, airy and well-draining soil. A good combination you can use is peat moss and perlite.
The former will help the medium retain enough water, which helps keep it moist. The latter improves drainage which reduces the risk of root rot and fungal problems.
Together, they keep your begonia boliviensis from drying out or being waterlogging.
In addition, it is likewise a good idea to use soil that’s slightly acidic to neutral. pH levels of 6.1 to 7.5 work well for optimum growth.
Like other begonias, the begonia boliviensis needs quite a bit of feeding if you want to enjoy beautiful blooms.
You want to feed it a balanced liquid fertilizer (20-20-20) diluted to half-strength during its growing season (spring and summer) once every 2 to 4 weeks.
Because too much fertilizer is worse that too little plant food, make sure not to overfeed the plant. Fertilizers leave salt residue, which when it builds up will damage your plant’s roots.
Once fall arrives, start slowing down on the feeding and completely stop in winter. During the cold months, your begonia boliviensis will go dormant. As such, it doesn’t need any feeding.
You begonia boliviensis blooms between spring to fall. During this long periods, you’ll be able to enjoy its stunning red flowers.
But, too much or unruly growth can mess up its looks. So, if it gets a little too messy or bushy, you can prune it to control its size and shape.
The plant itself doesn’t get to big. It grows to about 12 to 18 inches both in height and width. But, it can get dense.
Similarly, you want to remove any dead, discolored or damaged parts. These not only look unpleasing, but they also make the plant use up its resources of areas that are deteriorating. By trimming these off, you allow it to focus on new growth.
Your begonia boliviensis can be propagated via a few different methods. These include:
- Stem cuttings
- From seed
Among them, the easiest way is from stem cuttings. That’s because you don’t need to start these from scratch as you would seed (which takes much longer because of germination). And, it is less cumbersome than division which involves some digging.
How to Propagate Begonia Boliviensis from Stem Cuttings
- Before starting, have a new container readily where you’ll be growing the new plant. You’ll also want to have fresh potting mix ready. You can use a combination of peat moss and perlite.
- Pick a healthy 4 to 6 inch stem with a few leaves on it.
- Cut the stem about a quarter of an inch below a node. The node is where the leaf meets the stem.
- Dip the stem end into rooting hormone powder. You can cut the edge at an angle to increase the surface area that’s exposed to the powder.
- Make a small hole in the is soil and insert the stem cutting. Then, fill in the soil and pat it down.
- Water the soil and regularly do so to keep it moist.
- Keep the new plant in the same conditions as the mother plant.
- Within a few weeks, it will begin to root.
- In a few months, you’ll see it start sprouting.
Begonia Boliviensis Transplanting & Repotting
Your begonia boliviensis will need to be repotted once every 2 years or so depending on how fast it grows. The only you need to do so is when it outgrows it container.And you’ll be able to tell as its roots will overrun the container.
However, because the plant generally lives to between 2 to 3 years, you may or may not want to repot it.
Repotting is necessary because plants left in too tight a container will be stressed due to the cramped living conditions. This state makes them more susceptible to pests and diseases.
But, since begonias don’t mind being a little pot bound, you have a little time to keep them in their current containers.
Whether you decide to repot or not, you want to make sure the new container has drainage holes at the bottom. You also want to increase its size by 2 inches, not much more than that.
Keep your begonia boliviensis away from young kids and animals as it is toxic. If your kids or pets happy to ingest any part of the plant makes sure to contact your pediatrician or vet and immediately tell them what happen.
If enough is ingested, it can cause mouth irritation diarrhea, vomiting and nausea to name a few side effects.
Pests and Diseases
The begonia boliviensis is naturally susceptible to pests and diseases. As such, you’ll want to keep it as healthy as possible to make it more resistant to them.
That said, always be on the lookout for pests. Regular inspection is the best way to find and treat them early.
The most common pests that bother your begonia boliviensis include mealybugs, aphids and whiteflies. You’ll also encounter snails and slugs.
On the other hand, powdery mildew and root rot at the most problematic diseases for the plant.
Root rot is potentially deadly. So, you always want to avoid overwatering the plant. Making sure the soil is well-draining and your pot has holes also prevents waterlogging which are the best ways to avoid root rot.
If it does happen, you’ll need to trim off the black and mushy roots and repot the plant. Then let it dry a bit and adjust your watering routine. Unfortunately, extensive rotting cannot be reversed which often leads to having to throw away the plant.
Powdery mildew is caused by high humidity, excess moisture or dryness. It is a fungal infection that will damage your plant’s foliage and affect its growth. Again, water is plays a key role here so it is very important not to overwater your plant, wet its leaves or let it dry out.
To treat it, you can spray it with insecticidal soap solution or use fungicide.