Begonia maculata is more commonly known as the polka dot begonia. This is because its large dark green leaves are adorned with white round spots. You may likewise hear it referred to as the spotted begonia or trout begonia.
Once you enter a room where the plant is present, there’s almost no way you’ll miss it. That’s its leaves are not only large, but they’re also unique and stunning to look at.
Come springtime, the plant also produces white or red flowers with yellow centers. Although, their beauty pales in comparison to the foliage. As such, it isn’t the focal point of the plant.
Begonia Maculata Plant Care
Begonia Maculata Light
The begonia maculata can tolerate both bright and low light conditions. However, it does best when given bright, indirect light. This will allow it to grow at its best and produce amazing blooms.
That said, you want to keep it away from direct sunlight. If under the sun’s rays for long periods, you’ll see its silver spots start to fade. And, more intense sunlight can dry and scorch its beautiful leaves.
As such, consider the following when placing them in different areas of your home.
- East and west facing windows. These are the best places to keep them all year round as long as you keep it away from direct sunlight.
- Southern window. This is ideal if you live in a cooler region. You don’t want to keep it there if you live in warm areas or experience brutal summers unless you keep it at least a few feet from the window. This area gets the most sunlight throughout the day. So, you want to filter that light.
- North window. Depending on how low the lighting is, it may or may not tolerate it. The begonia maculata can handle lower light. But, it will struggle in dark place. Also, the less light you give it, the more it will have to adjust to collect that light to produce energy. As such, its leaves will become more green and lots its polka dots.
Outdoors your begonia maculata is best grown as a shade place. This keeps it away from the sun’s rays at all times. But, you want to keep it somewhere that’s still bright to allow it to produce beautiful flowers and grow.
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Begonia Maculata Temperature & Humidity
in addition to giving them enough of the right kind of light, the other key to growing successful begonia maculata is humidity. Ideally, you want to keep humidity above 45%.
This may or may not be a challenge depending on where you live since more homes’ average humidity runs between 40% and 50%. However, if you have cold winters, it will likely drop to under 40% during that time.
Moderate to high humidity is essential for it thrive. While it won’t die in less humid conditions, you’ll also notice lose foliage and have difficult flowering depending on how far below 45% you go.
More importantly, higher humidity will allow it to thrive and look like its stunning self.
And, the easiest way to monitor indoor humidity is by using a hygrometer. This is an inexpensive device that measures humidity. It will give you a digital reading instantly telling you whether or not you need to increase moisture.
If such it the case, you can either keep in on top of a water tray or group it with other plants. But, should humidity be really low in your home or room, investing in a humidifier is a better option. This lets you adjust and increase humidity more than the other two methods. Although, it is more of a hassle to maintain.
The plant needs a lot of humidity because this mimics its native habitat, which is in the tropical rainforests of Brazil. As such, in addition to humidity, it likes warm conditions alongside dappled light.
It’s ideal living conditions include temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It can likewise tolerate warmer climates as well. However, avoid temperatures lower than 60 degrees.
Similarly, keep them away from draft and breezes. This includes vents, heaters and air conditionin.
Their climate preference makes it easy to care for as a houseplant since it enjoys conditions similar to what humans do. As long as you give it enough of the right kind of light, it will thrive.
Outdoors, they are hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11. As such, you can plant them in the ground or keep them outside all year round if you live in these areas. Other than that, you’re better off keeping them as houseplants or in containers so you can bring them indoors before first frost arrives in the fall.
Watering Begonia Maculata
Water is a different story. With light and humidity, you want to hit certain levels to keep the plant happy. Here, it’s all about avoid one thing, overwatering.
The begonia maculata is prone to root rot. It is likewise susceptible to fungal disease and gnats, both of which are also borne out of too much moisture.
Thus, you want to avoid giving it too much water. Or, allowing it to sit in water for long periods of time.
That said, your polka dot begonia likes moist soil. And, it cannot tolerate dry conditions.
This is what makes watering the plant tricky.
And, the best way to avoid too wet or too dry soil is to check it before watering. Ideally, you want to lear nearly the top half of the soil to dry before watering. If you it feels moist in any way, wait. Watering it while moist is a sure way of increasing the risk of overwatering, especially if you get into the habit of doing so.
One reason you don’t need to worry about waiting longer is that the plant’s thick stems allow it store water. While it isn’t as efficient as succulents are, it means that it is easier to give it too much water.
This is also the reason why soil plays a very important role. Having the right kind of soil allows it to drain excess moisture efficiently. Thus, reducing the risk of wet feet.
If you find yourself having a hard time estimating your begonia maculata’s watering needs, I highly suggest you invest in a moisture meter which is fairly inexpensive. Stick it into the soil and you’ll get a reading.
This will let you record it’s the soil moisture levels and compare it with the plant’s response. From there you can keep adjusting. Your records will let you know how low or how high to adjust. Over time, you’ll be able to find a sweet spot where the plant thrives.
From the previous section, you can already guess that your begonia maculata likes well-draining soil. And, you would be correct.
However, because it likes moist conditions, you don’t want the soil to be overly light in that it allows water to pass through too easily.
Instead, you want something that retains enough moisture to keep the plant fed and hydrated. But, also well draining enough so it doesn’t end up sitting in too much water.
This makes a light houseplant mix perfect for your begonia maculata. You will likewise want to monitor to see how well the mix is draining water. If it needs a little help, add perlite to improve it. But, only do so a little at a time. This will let you keep adding until you get the right combination.
On the other hand, another good commercial option is palm soil mix. Palms like soil that hold enough liquid while still offering good drainage.
Another thing to remember is that maculatas have large foliage and relatively thinner stems to compare. While this makes their leaves catchy, this kind of plant structure also means that it is top heavy.
As such, as the leaves get bigger and the plant grows taller, the stems won’t be able to hold the leaves up very much. So, it is a good idea to stake them and tie the stems to the stake for support.
Your begonia maculata isn’t picky about fertilizer, Thus, a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted o 50% strength will keep it happy. Apply this once every 2 to 4 weeks during the spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. You can extend a little into the fall.
Although by mid or late fall and all through winter, the plant will need to take a break and recover from its growth spurt. So, you can stop feeding it at this time.
Your begonia maculata is a flowering plant. And, during the simmer you’ll being to see its white flowers bloom. That said, these are not the main attraction of the plant since its foliage easily overshadows them. However, they do make it look more beautiful.
Because of this, the maculata needs feeding every so often, It has medium feeding needs so you don’t want to overdo it. This will cause brown leaf edges and tips. If you want the plant to grow more flowers, place it somewhere it gets more bright light, as long as it doesn’t receive direct sun.
Pruning Begonia Maculata
Begonia maculatas look their best when they are full and filled out. But, keep in mind that they are fast growers. This increase the risk of them becoming bushy. Their growth also means that stems can get leggy as the plant will overemphasize growing as opposed to producing foliage.
This is why pruning is important. It allows you to limit the plant’s shape, fixes leggy stems and promotes new growth. Ideally, you’ll be doing it every 6 months or so. A little sooner if yours is growing very well.
Another good thing about the polka dot begonia is that it is very easy to propagate. And, the best way to do is via stem cuttings. Like many houseplants, you have a couple of options when it come to rooting your cuttings.
You can start in water or directly plant it into soil. I’ve found that while water propagation takes an extra step, that time and effort is well worth it. The reason is that roots faster and increases the success rate.
That said, both methods work. So, you can use either.
How to Propagate Begonia Maculata
- Start by making a stem cutting. You want to choose a healthy stem for this.
- Now make your choice. If you decide to start with water, place the stem end into a jar or water. It will take a few weeks to root.
- After it develops roots, you can move it into a pot. You don’t have to hurry here since the plant can stay in water and keep growing there for a while. Eventually though, you’ll need to move it into a container with soil.
- On the other hand, you can plant the stem cutting directly into the sol. If you choose this method, allow the cutting to dry then apply rooting hormone powder to the end of the stem.
- Next, plant the stem cutting into fresh potting soil in a small container.
As you can see both methods lead to the same end point. Once you have the cutting in the pot, water it to keep soil moist. You also want to keep it in a warm area with bright, indirect sunlight. To increase humidity, you can place a plastic bag over the plant and open it once in a while to let oxygen in.
After a few weeks. The plant will be established.
Transplanting & Repotting Begonia Maculata
Your begonia maculata will need to be repotted once a year. This is for two reasons.
- It grows fast. The plant will eventually grow up to 3 feet or more. And, they have good growth spurts during their active season. So, sooner rather than later, it will outgrow its container.
- Refresh the soil. Probably the more important factor is that its dense roots exhaust the soil quickly. As such, many gardeners actually repot their maculatas back the same container. But, they refresh the soil each year. Doing so keeps the soil from getting too compact. It also replenishes nutients.
That said, keep in mind that the plant likes being a bit rootbound. As such, when you move containers, go up slowly in size. This does a few things.
- Prevent waterlogging. Much larger pots relative to the root system means there will be a lot of moisture when you water your plant. It also takes longer for this liquid to dry. Being that the plant is susceptible to root rot, this is not something you want to put it in.
- Root growth. Plants need to establish their roots when young to provide foundation for its crown. But, after that you want the plant to focus on its leaves and flowers. With eh case of the begonia maculata, it is the former. However, too large a pot will signal its roots there’s a lot of room to grow. As such, it will focus more energy on growing its roots than its foliage. Again, not what you want to happen.
Finally, make sure to get a heavier container. As mentioned earlier, your begonia maculata is top heavy. So, you want to counter that weight with something at the bottom so it doesn’t tip over.
And, to improve drainage, make sure the pot also has holes at the bottom for liquid to escape.
The plant is toxic to humans and animals. So, keep young children, dogs and cats away from it. Ingesting the stems and leaves can irritate the mouth and throat. Although the most poisonous part are its roots.