The escargot begonia is a one of the most popular Rex Begonia hybrids. The reason for this is its stunning spiral-like pattern on its leaves that look like the tiny snails. As such, it gets its nickname.
Unlike many begonias that people are familiar with, this one isn’t known for its large, colorful showy flowers. Instead, its green, purple leaves are the stars. Although during the fall, it produces pale pink flowers.
The escargot begonia is a rhizomatous plant that forms attractive clumps. With a few varieties available, you’ll find a few different color options including purple, green, brown, pink, red and silver.
Their leaves likewise vary from 4 to 9 inches long. The plant itself can grow to about a foot tall and a foot wide.
Their size, low maintenance and amazing looks make them perfect for displaying in containers at home.
Escargot Begonia Plant Care
Escargot Begonia Light
The escargot begonia does best in partial sun or partial shade. It likewise doesn’t mind full shade. As such, you always want to keep it protected from direct sunlight. That’s because in its native habitat, it lives under the cover of other plants in forests.
So, while the plant does need some light to maintain its colors and pattern, it doesn’t like spending long hours under the sun, especially, in the path of the sun’s rays.
Indoors, this means you don’t necessarily need to keep it near a window. If you would like to, then a north facing window is best.
Similarly, in the winter, an east facing window works well because there’s less light in the mornings during that time of year.
The middle of rooms and low light places work as well. But, if you want tot situate it in a south or west facing window, make sure to give it filtered or dappled light.
Outdoors, keeping them under some kind of shade with low to bright light works as well.
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Escargot Begonia Temperature & Humidity
Since the escargot begonia is native to tropical and semitropical conditions, it enjoys moderate to warm climate. Ideally, it does best when temperature is kept between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Although, it can tolerate it if the weather dips down to 55 to 60 degrees. Or, go up as high as 85 to 90 degrees.
Anything above or below that would make it struggle. As such it isn’t a good idea to keep it in colder or warmer that that range.
This also means that that if you live in USDA zones 10 and 11, it can live in your garden or you can keep it in a container outside all year round.
But, in most parts of the country, the plant is either grown as an annual or as a houseplant. Since its ideal temperature range is similar to what humans like, it is a natural fit indoors in homes.
The other thing to consider when it comes to the escargot begonia’s climate preferences is humidity. To keep it happy, keep humidity above 50% at the minimum.
While its ideal humidity is a bit higher than that, I’ve found that you can go down to about 45% and keep it in good condition.
This means that you may or may not need to increase humidity at home. That reason is that average household humidity here in the U.S. runs between 40% and 50%. If you fall in that range or higher, then there’s no need to take extra measures to boost room humidity.
Otherwise, it is a good idea to do so. Since humidity increases during the summer and drops in the winter. If the difference between your room humidity and the plant’s desired level is big, you’ll likely need to get a humidifier.
The fastest and easiest way to check humidity for any given day is to get a digital hygrometer. This will instantly tell you the humidity in any given room. Plus, it’s very inexpensive.
Escargot Begonia Watering
Your escargot begonia needs to be regularly watered during the spring and summer seasons where it is in its active growing phase.
Come fall, its growth will slow down and come to a halt in winter. This is when it goes dormant to rest and recover to start over next spring.
As such, gradually cut down on watering in fall and scale back more in winter allowing the soil to dry out before watering again. However, don’t completely spot watering the plant. In some cases, you may even see it drop leaves in the winter. This is normal. And, should this happen, maintain the reduced watering schedule.
What this all means is that keeping a fixed watering routine all throughout the year is not a good idea. In all likelihood, it will cause you to overwater your escargot begonia in the colder months.
Instead, use you sense of touch to tell when to water.
You can do this by sticking your finder into the top 1 to 2 inches of the soil. If soil at that depth feels dry, it is a sign to water. If it is still slightly moist, wait 1 to 2 days before testing again.
If you have difficulty feeling wetness of soil or telling the difference, I highly suggest getting a moisture meter. This is an inexpensive device that you stick into the soil and it will give you a digital reading oh how much moisture there is.
This is a more precise way of knowing how wet or dry the soil is without any estimating or guessing.
Your escargot begonia likes light, fertile, well-draining soil. This will allow it to live in moist conditions without the risk of wet feet.
Since the plant is susceptible to root rot, the most important thing in keeping your Begonia rex ‘escargot’ alive is to make sure that excess moisture drains well.
Similarly, misting to increase humidity and watering over the plant and getting its leaves wet are not good ideas. This is because the plant is prone to powdery milder, bacterial leaf spot and gray mold (botrytis). All of which are problems related to watering.
Thus, you always want to water directly onto the soil and allow excess moisture to dry. Keeping the plant in a location with good air circulation also helps its leaves and soil dry when they get wet.
As such, when it comes to potting soil, you want to choose a high quality mix that’s light and drains well. The best option if you want a commercial product is to use African violet mix which has these exact features. And, it works well with your escargot begonia.
If you prefer making your own potting soil at home a combination of peat moss and perlite will do the job. The combination gives you the water retention capability to keep the plant hydrated, while allowing good drainage as well.
If you keep it outdoors, it is likewise a good idea to add mulch over the soil to shade its roots from the sun.
Like watering, you’ll be focusing your feeding during spring and summer. Once fall comes, slow down until and completely stop before winter arrives. You don’t need to feed your escargot begonia during the 3 months of winter as the plant will go dormant to take a breather from all the growing.
Since the begonia rex ‘escargot’ is a foliage plant, it is a good idea to use a balanced houseplant fertilizer. You want to keep the nitrogen concentration up to encourage leaf growth.
Apply every 2 to 4 weeks diluted to 50% strength. But, don’t overfeed it.
Too much fertilizer will make your plant long, thin and unpleasant looking. More importantly, it increases the risk of fertilizer burn.
Escargot Begonia Pruning
From above, you can already tell why the plant is relatively easy to care for. Once you’re able to keep humidity high and figure out its watering needs, you’ve got most of the work covered.
Pruning is probably the easiest part of caring for your escargot begonia. That’s because you don’t need to do any pruning.
If you do, it will be for aesthetical purposes. This includes:
- Controlling its size and shape so it looks the way you want
- Pinching off leggy stems to keep it tight and bushy
- Removing dead or discolored leaves which don’t look good
I’ve found that it is also a good idea to check the soil to see if any leaves or any other debris fall from the plant. When you see them clear them out. This will help prevent disease problems.
Escargot begonia can be propagated in 3 ways:
- Stem cuttings
- Leaf cuttings
- Sectioning the rhizome
Both leaf and stem cutting are very easy to do. And, they don’t require digging up the plant. The main difference between them is the part of the plant you’ll be using to grow the new plant from.
How to Propagate Escargot Begonia from Stem Cuttings
- Select a healthy stem that has at least 4 to 6 inches to make a cutting. The best ones are those that have a few leaves on them without any flowers.
- Depending on how confident you are at success, your experience and how many new plants you want, make the necessary number of cuttings. You want to cut the stem off just under a node.
- Insert the ends of the stem cuttings into water. You can use a glass or jar. Change the water as it gets murky.
- After a few weeks, you’ll see roots develop from the stem.
- You can now pot them into fresh well-draining potting soil or wait a little longer. Stem cuttings can say in water for months. But, eventually, you’ll need to move them to soil
- Within the next few months, you’ll see it start sprouting leaves.
How to Propagate Escargot Begonia from Leaf Cuttings
Leaf cutting is easier than stem cutting. But, since you’re starting from leaf, it takes longer than stem cuttings to root. Here’s how to do it.
- Choose a healthy leaf from your plant.
- Cut up the leaf across the largest veins. This will give you a few pieces of the leaf to propagate from.
- Press then down into the soil. To keep them on the soil, you can pin them down or place small pebbles on top of them.
- In about 6 weeks you’ll start seeing some growth.
- Once they reach about 3 inches high and have at least a couple of leaves, you can transplant each of the new plants into their own containers.
Escargot Begonia Transplanting & Repotting
You’ll only need to repot your escargot begonia once very 2 years once it matures. But, you’ll need to do so more often with younger plants since they’re growing faster and you only want to move up pot sizes in small increments.
When choosing containers, make sure that it has drainage holes at the bottom to allow water to easily escape. This will prevent waterlogging.
Similarly, for plants that don’t like sitting in soil, I like to use clay. Thus, ceramic and terracotta pots are made from this material. The reason is that they are porous. As such, they wallow moisture to seep out in very small amounts. This helps with water drainage.
Also, they’re heavier. Thus, they’re a good option for keeping plant that grow tall or spread out over the pot. Top heavy plants tend to be harder to balance. So, the extra weight of clay pots help keep the center of gravity low.
Keep your children, dogs and cats away from your escargot begonia. The plant is toxic. And, if they get curious and get the urge to ingest parts of the plant it can lead to mouth irritation, vomiting and drooling.
The most poisonous parts of the plant are those under the soil. As such, it is more dangerous to cats and dogs that may dig.
Pests and Diseases
Besides watering, the other thing you’ll need to keep an eye out with your escargot begonia is pests and diseases. Like other begonias, it is prone to both.
Let’s begin with diseases because they can cause a ton of damage fairly quickly. And, if not treated, can actually kill your plant.
The biggest threat here is root rot. Rooting roots turn brown, black, mushy and soft. This prevents them from doing their job which is to absorb nutrients and water from the soil. With your roots out of commission the plant will deteriorate and die.
The problem with root rot is that if not treated early, it will spread. And, past a certain point, there is no reviving your plant. Even mild rotting requires immediate and drastic action.
So the best cure here is prevention.
This is why I’ve stressed so much on well-draining soil throughout the article. Waterlogged soil or overwatering is the main cause of root rot. So, a good watering routine and fast draining soil will avoid this issue.
Additionally other water related diseases are common with escargot begonia. This includes powdery mildew, botrytis and leaf spot. All of which can be avoided by not wetting its leaves or allowing excess moisture on both soil and leaves to dry or drain. Unfortunately. Because the plant likes moist soil and high humidity, this can be a challenge.
Pests are another issue. Here, your escargot begonia’s biggest enemies are aphids, mealybugs, mites, caterpillars and thrips. In most cases, using an insecticidal soap spray will get the job done.