Strawberry begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera) is called by a few names including strawberry geranium and roving sailor.
Interestingly, while it take both the begonia and geranium names, it is neither of these two plants. But, it bears a close resemblance to them. This is something you’ll notice with many common names. That is, they’ll be called a certain name based on their looks or a feature they have similar with another plant.
In any case, this is a low growing, beautiful colorful plant with lots of foliage. Its leaves are heart-shaped and hairy in texture. While the green and white variegated ones will catch your attention immediately, you’ll also find variations of this plant with solid green leaves with silver veins, which happens to be the most common.
Strawberry Begonia Plant Care
Strawberry Begonia Light
The strawberry begonia thrives under bright, indirect light. But, you want to keep it away from direct sunlight. Too much exposure will cause its beautiful colors to fade. Long periods under the sun’s rays can likewise give it sunburn.
Similarly, this keeps them away from the hot sun. They cannot stand too much heat as you’ll see in the next section.
Indoors, you want to be careful with too low light. While dark corners won’t kill it, the plant will struggle. Its growth with get stunted and likewise negatively affect its foliage.
This makes both an east and west facing window good options as long as you keep it away from direct sun. You can likewise place it in the south if you live in a cooler region. But, it is always good to provide it with some king of protection like sheer curtains to filer the sunlight.
The north also works if you live in a brighter areas. North facing windows have less light. But, as long as the light isn’t too dim, it will be find.
Outdoors it does best under partial shade as long as the area is still bright.
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Strawberry Begonia Temperature & Humidity
Strawberry begonia like cool to moderate temperatures. The do best when it stays between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes them perfect for USDA zones 7 to 10 if you want to keep them outdoors all year round.
However, lower regions as well as those above zone 10 get ether too cold in the winter or too hot during the warmer months. Both of which is doesn’t tolerate well.
Similarly, the plant doesn’t like temperature fluctuations. Thus, it is a good idea to keep it somewhere in your home where it can suddenly get colder or hotter. This can include areas near air conditioning, heaters or vents. In also includes cold spots or open doors and windows where the breeze can come in.
Outdoors, the best place is a bright area with partial shade. Ideally, you want one that’s cool as well. This means planting it beside an object or your home works because it will get the benefit of a shade at some point in the day.
While trees will also work as shade and provide dappled light, you want to keep most plants away from them. That’s because trees have deep, extensive root systems. This means smaller plants near them will need to compete with larger, more efficient water and nutrient absorbers. This will make them lose out on both counts.
Additionally, your strawberry begonia likes humidity. As such, I highly suggest getting a digital hygrometer. It is inexpensive and will instantly tell you the air moisture level in any room.
This way you can avoid shriveled, dry leaves that get crispy on the edges, which occurs when humidity isn’t high enough.
If you do find that your home’s humidity isn’t high enough, you have a few options.
- Keep the plant in the bathroom. Bathrooms are the most humid areas in the home The challenge here is that if there’s enough light to keep your strawberry begonia happy.
- Group it with other plants. This works because plants transpire like you and I perspire. As the moisture from their leaves evaporate it increases the humidity. Individually, small plants don’t transpire enough to add enough moisture to the air. But together, they can.
- Water tray. Placing a water tray with pebbles under the plant also works. Make sure to keep the pot and plant above and out of the reach of the water. As the water evaporates, it increases moisture in the air.
- This is the best way if you need to increase humidity by a bigger amount. It also allows you to be more precise since you can control the machine to regulate the air to a certain humidity. But, it costs more and involves more hassle.
Noticeably missing from the list is misting. The reason for this is that strawberry begonias are susceptible to fungal leaf infections and rotting. As such, misting only increases this risk since you wet it leaves. So, it’s a good idea to use the other safer methods instead.
Strawberry Begonia Watering
Strawberry begonia likes soil that’s evenly moist but not wet. Because it is susceptible to overwatering, you do not want to let it sit in water for long periods of growth.
This can become a problem because the plant is a fast grower. As such, during the spring and summer when it is actively growing, it will need a lot of water to sustain this growth.
So, you want to make sure you don’t add too much water or water it too often. The best way to do this is to allow the top 1 to 2 inches of soil to dry between waterings.
To check, stick your finger down to the knuckle closest to your palm. If the soil in that depth feels moist, wait a little longer before checking again. If it feels dry, water.
Also, how you water the plant is important. Here, you want to keep two things in mind.
- Water the soil not over the plant. The strawberry begonia is prone to fungal problems. Wetting the leaves when you water increases the odds of this happening.
- Deep watering. Water the soil slowly until the liquid begins to drip from the pot’s holes ensures that the moisture reaches it roots. Then, allow the excess water to drain before returning the plant to its spot. This will prevent waterlogging, and the risk of root rot.
Similarly, cut back on watering once fall and winter come. Around fall, the plant will begin to slow down until it reaches it rest phase. During this time it will recover from all the growing. And, prepare itself for next spring again.
As such, you don’t need to water as often since growth will slow considerably or stop. As you’ll see in the following sections, you’ll also cut back of fertilizer because it won’t need it during this period.
A good houseplant potting mix will make your strawberry begonia happy provided that it is well draining. Because the plant likes moist soil, you also want the soil to be able to retain moisture. Although, noting too heavy.
A light, well-draining potting mix is essential because the plant is prone to root rot. As such, this kind of mix will help water to esapce faster.
For best growth, rich, slightly alkaline soil is best.
If you find that the soil you’re using isn’t draining moisture well enough, add perlite. But, only do so a handful at a time and see how the plant responds. Adding too much will prevent the soil from retaining enough water to keep the plant hydrated.
Another option is peat, which is more versatile. This is a better amendment if you need to improve both water retention and drainage. Although, it won’t increase the latter by as much as perlite does.
Peat is a very useful soil amendment because it has dual properties. That is for heavier soils, it helps make them looser and improves drainage. For light soils like sand, it increases moisture retention.
Feed your strawberry begonia with balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month during the spring and summer (which is its growing period).
As with other houseplants, don’t overdo it. Many people add more (rather than less) fertilizer believing it will help the plant grow bigger and faster. But, that’s often the opposite because you get tempted to add too much.
Unfortunately, when this happens in increases the risk of root burn because of the buildup of fertilizer salts in the soil.
You can likewise use a slow release fertilizer if you prefer. This will allow it to be dispersed over a longer period of time. Thus, making feeding more even.
Once fall and winter come around, you can stop feeding the plant. It will use this time to rest and recover. And, if you allow it to rest well you’ll be rewarded with blooms come springtime.
Granted the strawberry begonia’s flowers are small and not as eye catching as its foliage. Nevertheless, it increases the plant’s beauty.
Strawberry Begonia Pruning
Pruning is one of the lower maintenance tasks when caring for your strawberry begonia. However, you still want to make sure to trim it every now and then to keep it looking neat and tidy. Similarly, this lets you control its size and shape.
The most important thing to do when it comes to pruning this plant is to remove yellow, dead, dying or damaged leaves. This will allow the plant to stop expending energy on these parts and focus on new growth.
Strawberry Begonia Propagation
Strawberry begonia only live for 3 years. Fortunately, they are very easy to propagate because the plant does most of the work for you. As such, you’ll always have a new strawberry begonia before the current one reaches the end of its lifespan.
How to Propagate Strawberry Begonia
Over its lifetime, the plant will send out several runners. At the end are offsets or plantlets which are basically clones of the mother plant. You only need to plant the.
- Pick out the healthiest runners to propagate.
- While leaving them attached to the mother plant, place the plantlets into small containers with moist soil. If you have a wide pot, you can move them to the side and use the same pot.
- After about 3 to 4 weeks, the plantlets will begin to root.
- Once this happens, you can cut the runners connecting the plantlets to the mother plant. This gives you individual plants.
- When they establish themselves, you can move them to larger pots where they’ll stay for their entire lives.
Strawberry Begonia Transplanting & Repotting
Strawberry begonia only live for 3 years of so. As such, there’s no need to worry about repotting it during this periods.
But, from above, you known that that they’re easy to propagate. So, you can replace it after it passed. This lets you reuse the same pots over and over.
That said, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when it comes to potting your strawberry begonia.
- Drainage holes. Makes sure the container you get has drainage holes that will allow excess water to escape. This prevents the liquid from pooling at the bottom of the container.
- Wide pot. Strawberry begonia are fairly short plants rarely growing taller than a foot. But, it does sends out runners which grow plantlets at the ends. A wide pot, less dept pot will let the runners extend out to the side so the offsets grow alongside the mother plant.
- Rootbound. It doesn’t mind being rootbound. This makes it okay to leave the plant in one container during its lifespan. Doing so also limits the amount of soil in the pot. As such, it reduces the risk of overwatering because there’s only so much soil to hold the liquid.
The plant is not toxic to people or animals. Thus, it is safe to keep anywhere in your home or garden even if you have young kids, dogs and cats running around.
Just so you know, the plant is used in herbal medicine. Some people also eat it raw or cooked.
Pests and Diseases
Strawberry begonia is susceptible to pests and diseases.
Spider mites, aphid and whiteflies are the most common. Although the infestations are often minor and treatable. However, once you see any signs of pests or the damage they do, you want to immediately take action.
In most cases, an insecticidal soap spray works well. You can likewise use neem oil.
As mentioned earlier, root rot is always a threat with this plant. So, you always want to be vigilant when watering so as not to give it too much or water too often.
Rotting roots happen when the plant is allowed to sit in water for long periods of time. Often, this happens because of pouring too much water, soil that doesn’t drain well or no holes (or lack of holes) at the bottom of the container.
Thus, by fixing any or all these issues you can prevent it from happening.