The Scarlet Begonia is also called the Begonia Coccinea. It is a stunning show-stopper that is known for its gorgeous red blooms.
Note that while the red scarlet begonia is the most popular variety, there are other colors as well. Two well-known examples are the pink scarlet begonia and the orange scarlet begonia.
Like the non stop begonia, the Scarlet Begonia is mostly made up of its flowers.
But its green leaves are just as attractive. Although, they often hide under the large, stunning blooms at take all the attention.
The plant is native to the Atlantic Forest in Brazil.
How do your care for Scarlet Begonia? Give it bright, indirect light indoors and partial shade outdoors. Avoid excess direct sunlight as this can scorch its leaves.
The plant needs well-draining soil as it is prone to root rot. So, always let the soil partially dry between waterings. Fertilizing it during its growing season will encourage growth and flowering.
Scarlet Begonia Plant Care
Begonia Coccinea Light Requirements
The Scarlet Begonia thrives in bright, indirect light. Plenty of light is needed if you want the plant to produce its beautiful red flowers and stunning leaves.
As such, the best spot for this plant indoors in near an east or west facing window.
Both directions supply more than ample natural light from the sun. Although, they do vary a bit since the east has the morning sun while the west has later afternoon sun.
Either way, both give you several hours of natural lighting that the plant appreciates.
Similarly, the light you get from both sides are not overly strong or intense.
The reason is that the Scarlet Begonia cannot tolerate very harsh light. This is what we get during mid day between 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
During this time the sun moves from east to west so the heaviest exposure comes into your home via a south facing window.
Thus, keep the plant at least 3 feet from the window opening if you want to position it in this direction.
Or you can use sheer curtains to filter the light.
In general, the Begonia Coccinea thrives on direct morning sun and afternoon shade or shelter.
Again, this has to do with the intensity of the sun’s rays. It is much gentler in the morning but will become very strong during mid-day.
Outdoors, you want to practice the same principles.
The simplest way to do this is to keep it in partial shade. However, if the sun’s rays hits your home in a way where it moves from one area to another, you can find a spot to place the Scarlet begonia where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade.
On the other hand, I don’t suggest low light.
Note that the plant will survive and do okay in low light. But it will reduce its flowering ability and delay it at the least.
You’ll also see fewer branching and leaves develop.
Begonia Coccinea Temperature
The Begonia Coccinea enjoys temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It likes moderate to slightly warm environments.
Although, it can withstand higher temperatures as well.
That said, the higher the temperature, the more you need to give the plant optimal hydration. This will prevent it from drying out very quickly.
Its love for warm weather is why the Scarlet Begonia thrives outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. These areas have steady climates that feature sun and moderate to warm temperature year-round.
Therefore, if you live in these regions, you can grow the plant outdoors without any issues.
On the other hand, in colder regions it is crucial to bring the plant indoors once the temperature nears 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is its temperature tolerance.
And it will start to struggle once temperatures drop below that. Initially, you’ll see slower growth.
But after a while, there will be more issues. These usually start with the leaves as they develop discoloration.
Later on, you’ll see foliage drop and the wilting occur.
Cold damage will likewise set it if the temperature does not improve. And the plant will eventually die from the cold.
This is why it is an annual in regions with frost and freezing climates.
It is also the reason why growers usually keep the Scarlet Begonia indoors as a houseplant in these areas.
Begonia Coccinea Humidity
The Begonia Coccinea likes humidity. And it thrives when humidity is between 60% and 80%.
Note that it can tolerate 50% humidity and a bit lower than that as well.
But for optimal growth and vibrant leaves and flower color, high humidity is recommended.
This can make caring for the plant indoors a bit challenging depending on where you live. Although, you do have a few options you can turn to.
But before you do, it is a good idea to know what the humidity in your home and the different rooms in it have.
You can easily check this with a hygrometer.
It will update the humidity as it changes based on the weather.
As such, you’ll easily know that the humidity is and if your Scarlet Begonia needs any help.
Another telltale sign that the plant is struggling with dry air is brown leaf edges and tips. These will get crispy and feel dry.
If this is not happening, then the plant is happy so far with humidity levels.
But once you see the brown leaves develop, it means it needs more moisture in the air.
A simple way to remedy this is to mist the plant.
I don’t particularly like misting (although it is very effective) because you need to keep repeating every few days. More importantly, if you wet the leaves too much, make sure to pat them dry a bit.
Excessive misting can lead to fungal diseases.
As such, there’s always a risk that comes along with misting.
On the other hand, you can likewise get a humidifier. Or move the plant to the bathroom.
Among my favorites are using a pebble tray or a humidity tray. Both work in similar fashion. But their setups are different.
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How Often to Water Scarlet Begonia
The Scarlet Begonia has moderate watering needs. This means that it does not like too much water (wet, soggy soil. Nor does it like going completely dry.
Of the two the latter is much easier to avoid at least that’s why I’ve seen from experience.
That’s because many beginner gardeners tend to be overly generous with watering. I think there is a misconception that plants need lots of water to grow.
In the case the Begonia Coccinea, excess water can cause side effects and hinder the growth of both leaves and flowers.
What’s worse is that it can lead to root rot which can eventually kill your plant.
Therefore, avoid this at all costs.
This is why for the Scarlet Begonia it is safer to stay on the drier side.
This means you want to wait until the top 1-2 inches of soil dry out before adding more water. You can easily test thing by sticking your index finger down to this depth.
If your fingertip feels any moisture whatsoever or any soil sticks to it, then don’t water the plant yet. But if your fingertip feels dry or only some soil dust is there, it is time to water the plant.
Allowing the soil to dry partially between waterings will prevent overwatering.
It also prevents you from adding water too frequently which will eventually drown the roots in moisture.
Meanwhile, just as too much water is bad, too little is also unhealthy for the plant.
Plants need water and nutrients to grow. Lack of water means many of its processes will slow down as the plant will work to conserve as much of the moisture it has.
This will slow down overall growth and development.
The key to watch out for here is letting the entire root ball go dry. That’s a no-no.
Even worse is leaving it this way for weeks or months at a time. Doing so can damage the roots.
The good news is before this happens you will see some signs. Brown leaves is a sign of lack of moisture. Similarly, wilting is another way of the plant telling you that it is underwatered.
Scarlet Begonia Potting Soil
The Scarlet Begonia needs well-draining, humus-rich soil. It also does best when soil pH stays between 6.1 to 7.5
While it appreciates moist soil, it cannot stay in wet, mucky soil for long.
So, always check the surface of the soil make sure the soil is not soggy and there are no pools of water. These are bad signs.
And one or the other means that either it is being overwatered or the soil is waterlogged.
If you always wait until the part of the soil to dry between watering, then soil is probably the culprit. It is likely retaining too much moisture which is just as dangerous as watering the plant too often.
This is why well-draining soil is essential.
It helps prevent overwatering and allows you to avoid waterlogging.
Well-draining soil stays moist as it holds some moisture but not a lot of it. Just as importantly, it quickly drainage excess water to ensure that the roots never end up sitting in too much liquid.
One way to prepare this soil for your Scarlet Begonia is to mix:
- 1 part potting soil
- 1 part peat moss
- 1 part perlite
The perlite provides drainage. And this is very important because the Begonia Coccinea is prone to root rot from overwatering.
As such never use any soil that is heavy, water-retentive, dense or compacted.
Begonia Coccinea Fertilizer
For optimal growth, fertilize your Scarlet Begonia during the spring and summer. This is the time it grows the fastest. It is also when the plant does most of its growing.
As such, it is important to supply it with proper nutrients.
In addition to fertilizer, make sure to provide bright, indirect sunlight and sufficient water during this time.
Together, these will allow your plant to thrive.
You can use many different kinds of fertilizer since the Begonia Coccinea is not particularly picky.
A balanced or all-purpose fertilizer works really. I like using a liquid formulation (water-soluble) since this makes it easy to dilute the dose.
Feed the plant once a month during spring and summer diluting the dose by 1/2 or 1/4 strength. You’ll need to dilute it if you’re growing your Scarlet Begonia indoors in a pot.
Otherwise, the dose will be too strong. And you’ll end up overfertilizing the plant.
If you grow your Scarlet Begonia outdoors in the ground, then use the full strength amount suggested in the produce instructions.
There’s no need to feed the plant in fall and winter as its growth will significantly slow during the cold months with much less sunlight.
The only exception here is if you live in a tropical or subtropical climate where the sun is out and weather stays warm.
If that’s the case, you can keep fertilizing the plant as long as it keeps growing.
The Scarlet Begonia will grow 3 feet or more with proper care. It is a moderate grower.
But for the most part, its flowers are what dominate the plant.
While it does have leaves, they play a supporting role behind the beautiful red blooms.
As such, pruning the Begonia Coccinea really comes down to a few situations.
One is pinching it to encourage growth. This will encourage more stems to branch and leaves to develop. In doing so, it helps make the plant bushier which is when it looks amazing.
On the other hand, pruning can also be used to shape the plant.
You can trim any excess growth, outliers or if it gets too bushy for your liking.
Of course, don’t forget to remove old, dead, discolored or diseased leaves. The same is true for spend flowers which will promote more growth.
How to Propagate Scarlet Begonia
The Scarlet Begonia can be propagated from stem cuttings as well as from seed.
Although, for home gardeners, stem propagation is more practical since seed propagation takes much longer. It also requires more care on your part.
The best time to propagate Scarlet Begonia is during early spring.
This will give the new plant an entire growing season to develop before the cold weather slows its growth in winter.
Here’s how to propagate Scarlet Begonia from Stem Cuttings.
Select one or a few healthy stems. How many depends on the number of new plants you want to grow or how many you want to plant per pot.
You can plant more than one cutting there to make the mature plant become more bushy faster.
Make sure to choose cuttings with at least 1-2 nodes and 2 or more leaves on it.
- Sterilize a pair or scissors or pruning shears. Then cut the stem just below a node.
- Remove the lower leaves and apply rooting hormone to the end of the stem you made the cut.
- Prepare a small pot and fill it will well-draining soil.
- Plant the stem cuttings into the pot with the nodes buried in the soil.
- Water the soil and keep it moist. Then place the pot in bright, indirect light with good humidity.
It usually takes 4 to 6 weeks for the cuttings to root. The roots will then start grabbing hold of the soil to establish the plant.
Similarly, you can propagate the cuttings in water.
Water propagation takes an extra step from soil propagation.
Here, place the cuttings in a glass filled with water. The nodes should be submerged as this will allow them root.
Then, leave the glass in bright, indirect light.
In about a week, you should see little bits coming out from the cuttings. But it will take 3 to 4 weeks for them to root.
Once the roots reach about 1-2 inches or longer, you can move them to a pot filled with well-draining soil mix.
How to Repot or Transplant Scarlet Begonia
The Scarlet Begonia will need repotting once it outgrows its container. However, don’t do so unless necessary.
That’s because the plant likes being slightly root bound. Therefore, there’s no hurry to repot.
More importantly, moving the plant when not needed can increase the risk of transplant stress or shock.
Instead, wait until the plant gets tight against the pot. You’ll also notice the soil dry up much faster even if watering as you normally would.
The best time to repot is spring to early summer.
Make sure to change the soil as well. With will ensure that the plant as porous, well-draining soil mix that has nutrients. The old soil will lose texture over time. And its nutrients will get depleted.
When choosing a pot, pick one that is one size larger. Don’t jump sizes just so you don’t have to repot for a longer time.
Also, choose a container with drainage holes.
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
Yes, the plant is toxic. And it is poisonous to people and pets when ingested.
This means that chewing or consuming any part of the plant including the leaves and flowers will result in side effects. These include inflammation, swelling, pain and vomiting just to name a few.
Scarlet Begonia Problems & Troubleshooting
The Scarlet Begonia is not very prone to pests. But it can still experience them so you need to keep an eye out.
These bugs grow in number fairly quickly because they have short lifespans and lay many eggs at a time. Plus, the eggs only take a few days to hatch.
So, it does not take long before a few pests turn into an infestation.
Mealybugs and aphids are among the most common pest problems the Begonia Coccinea has.
And you can get rid of them by using neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Stem and root rot are serious problems you want to avoid at all costs. These can be difficult to spot and if you don’t get to them in time, there’s no saving your plant past a certain point.
Therefore, prevention is the best recourse here.
Excess moisture in the form of overwatering as well as very high humidity are usually the main causes.
So, you want to be careful with both.
Additionally bacterial and fungal diseases do hound the plant as well.
Bacterial leaf spot will damage the leaves. And they are very easy to spot because of the spots with yellow halos on foliage.
On the other hand, fungal infections like powdery mildew and botrytis also give the plant problems.
These are caused by excess moisture as well.
But this time, it has more to do with wet leaves. Wetting the leaves too much when you water the plant and not having enough light or ventilation to let the moisture dry fast enough are the main causes here.
Watering late in the day can also cause this.