Begonia Maculata, popularly known as Polka Dot Begonia, is a show-stopper indoor plant because of its unique aesthetics. Its angel-like leaves and white polka dots that appear combine perfectly with the red bottom, giving the plant a prehistoric feel. It is a head-turner making anyone who looks upon its way take their time.
While the plant is so spectacular, you are about to find out that it is one of the convenient indoor plants to have in your premises.
Here is a comprehensive summary of how to care for begonia maculata:
Watering: polka dot begonia loves water. However, the water must not cause the soil to be soggy. Thus, water the plant once a week but ensure that the pot has adequate drainage.
Soil: provide well-draining soil that is aerated but still holds moisture without being soggy.
Temperature: the plant needs warm room temperatures between 65oF and 85oF but away from direct wind.
Because polka dot begonia looks fresh and grows fast, it is quickly becoming a staple indoor household plant. Even with its apparent delicate nature, it remains one of the most convenient plants to care for indoors. With its bamboo looking knotty stem, it produces sprays of bell-like white or red flowers with bright yellow in the middle. It forms a spectacle that captures the attention of everyone entering the room.
Begonia Maculata is for home or office owners looking to create an out-of-the-ordinary space indoors. Its playful color combination means that you will be having magnificent flowers at your corner even if it is not a flowering season.
Let us now go into detail on how to care for this spectacular plant. We will also learn how to maintain its flamboyant nature round the clock.
Begonia Maculata Basic Caring Guidelines
Let’s look into the details of specific and essential elements regarding care for begonia, including:
This article will also address other care issues that rarely receive proper attention. They include pests prevention, repotting, fertilization, and pruning, among others that will transform your polka dot begonia into a magnificent showpiece around your room.
Let’s get right into the discussion, shall we?
Begonia Maculata is a fast-growing indoor plant that needs a lot of water. Hence, you need to keep the soil moist, often. You will also need to water the plant once every week, ensuring your soil drains well before the next watering session. If you live in a place with higher humidity and wind, you will need to water the plant more often.
Watering polka dot begonia could cause root rot especially if the soil gets soggy. Therefore, limit the amount of water each week, ensuring that the pot drains entirely before adding more water. The top layer should also be dry before watering a second time.
Polka dot begonia thrives during spring and summer. It requires a lot of water to generate the leaves, flowers, and grow new buds. You will thus have to adjust your watering schedule to cater for this increase in demand. High temperatures during these seasons also result in an increased need for water.
Winter is a hibernation season for polka dot begonia, reducing the amount of water needed on a daily basis. Though the flower does not go completely dormant, it requires less water than usual. Winter is one of the seasons when the soil gets soggy, leading to root rot.
Begonia maculata is an intelligent plant that will send a signal if it needs water. The leaves begin to drop and may eventually wilt. Do not wait for such an indicator because it might be too late to revive the plant. It can even result in stunted growth.
The fresh-looking leaves of begonia maculata and the smooth bamboo-like stalk love a humid environment. Humidity is one of the crucial elements that define the success of begonia maculata in any indoor setting. Without the right moisture, the entire plant will not flourish; leaves fall off, and the flowers fail to bloom.
Plant clustering is an excellent trick used to improve the humidity of polka dot begonia. Place the pot alongside other flowers to create a forest atmosphere where moisture will be high enough. If the room is too dry, a tray of water around the plant will help maintain the right humidity.
Misting is also a common practice to maintain the right humidity indoors. However, the begonia maculata is prone to powdery mildew that would compromise the beauty of the plant. A humidifier would be the ideal way to maintain the right humidity levels around the plant.
A humidity level of 45% is recommended for the polka dot begonia. However, the plant will still thrive with higher humidity levels. It is especially important to watch the humidity around the plant during winter because most indoor spaces are heated using AC systems.
A hygrometer can also help you to maintain the right humidity levels.
The safest soil combination is a light houseplant potting mix, ensuring it drains properly. While the plant sounds delicate so far, it is not too picky on its ideal type of soil. The addition of perlite is an excellent way to improve drainage regardless of the soil type you are using.
You can prepare your potting mix using locally available soils. A balanced mixture of loamy, clay, and sand soil will guarantee proper drainage while at the same time, retaining the necessary nutrients for growth.
A lot of emphasis goes to drainage because the plant is highly susceptible to root rot. Improve drainage by adding pieces of broken terracotta pots or a layer of pebbles.
Let’s look at soil composition in detail because it holds the key to success in the care for polka dot begonia.
Perlite: these are tiny and fluffy white balls from natural volcanic glass. Perlite will keep your soil aerated, light, and protected from stiff temperature fluctuations. They also help in drainage, unlike vermiculite that holds excess moisture.
Wood chips: wooden chips help to improve soil aeration. Because they are angular, they create the perfect space to encourage aeration. The chips also decompose easily giving you not only manure but are also replaceable during repotting.
Compost or organic fertilizer is a welcome addition. Nevertheless, it should be used sparing to complement fertilizer. It also boasters fertility of your soil, increases aeration and enhances drainage.
Use repotting processes to improve the quality of your soil.
Begonia maculata is a typical tropical plant that prefers a shaded area. It is one of the characteristics that make it suitable for indoor use. However, do not choose the corner that is always dark. The plant prefers occasional sunshine but not direct.
Lighting needs for the begonia maculata will depend on the season of the year. Spring and summer days provide the adequate lighting necessary for flowering and the robust growth of leaves as well as branches. High quality and bright light give you a bushy polka dot begonia, having more branches.
The vibrant leaves of this plant depend on lighting to maintain their shine. However, direct sunlight will cause the tips of your leaves to appear scorched. During summer, you can only take the plant outside if you have a shade to cover it from direct sunlight. The plant can also tolerate a degree of dim light but does not go to the extreme.
Some of the signs of poor lighting include stunted growth and the loss of leaf color that eventually turn yellow and fall off. The branches will also get leggy, stopping your plant from getting off the ground.
While begonia maculata comes from the tropical region, it will survive in your ordinary room temperature. Any temperature between 65oF and 86oF is sufficient for the plant to thrive. Drafts will chill your plant and dry spots on the leaves.
If you have taken your plant outside during summer, monitor the temperature so that it does not go below 60oF. The leaves begin to scorch at the tips, and the entire plant will stunt at low temperatures. It will lose its vibrancy, denying you the chance to enjoy its spectacular bloom in summer.
Winter is a sensitive season for the polka dot begonia because temperatures outside will drop while heaters will be used indoors. Indoor heating means that humidity will be compromised alongside the possibility of drafts. Monitor these essentials when taking the plant indoors and do not wait until the plant frost to bring it indoors.
Begonia Maculata Advanced Caring Guidelines
There is no doubt that begonia maculata is a selective and sensitive plant. It means that you have to watch out for minor issues that would impact a huge difference in the care of it.
Allow us to share with you some of the delicate issues you should consider when hosting your polka dot begonia.
Begonia maculata is a robust plant that requires soil with balanced nutrients. Your fertilizer should, therefore, include adequate phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. The use of quick-draining soil also means that a lot of the nutrients could be lost in the water.
The first point towards ensuring adequate nutrient supply is during planting. Beyond the addition of fertilizer in the soil, include compost manure because it takes time to decompose in the soil while being absorbed slowly. Further, follow the following fertilization tips to guarantee a vibrant begonia maculata.
- Flush your soil regularly using pure water to remove excess chemicals that could have built-up in the pot. The process can be repeated every two to three months.
- Stop or reduce fertilization during fall and winter. The plant grows slowly and does not require the level of nutrients present in fertilizers.
- A balance between fertilizer and compost mix will regulate the nutrients as well as improve aeration.
Overfeeding the plant with rich fertilizer will result in blight. The leaves also begin to turn brown and will eventually fall off.
Use pruning to shape your bush, prevent diseases, and rejuvenate the plant. The maintenance exercise is best conducted during early spring or late winter to take advantage of its robust natural growth. Pruning is also used to regulate the size of your Begonia while providing direction of its growth.
If you want a short begonia maculata, trim the tip of the branches to stop vertical growth. The resulting plant will spread around the top of your pot. Cutting the tip of a branch also stimulates new cane shoots to emerge, especially on the surface of the soil.
A tall plant will come from removing leaves at the base and allowing the central cane to continue growing upwards. It will also limit the new canes that emerge at the bottom of the plant from growing.
Remember, the tall canes could require support to keep them growing upwards and avoid breaking under the weight of branches.
Repotting and Propagating
Robust growth means that polka dot begonia will exhaust nutrients in the soil fast, quickly requiring repotting to be done. The use of chemical fertilizer and water also damages the soil calling for repotting. The roots of your plant will quickly outgrow the pot and require more space.
Experts recommend repotting every year or two depending on how well you control the size of your plant. Increase the size of the pot to accommodate the growing roots and sustain robust growth for another year or two. Use a fresh mix of soil that is still easy to drain and well aerated.
Polka dot begonia is one of the laid-back plants to propagate. Once you cut the canes during pruning, you should put it in water or directly into the soil for a while. The propagated cane will thus grow without any hormonal support.
Pest Prevention and Hygiene
You will avoid most pests and diseases by getting soil moisture as well as humidity right. The primary care tips include keeping the leaves dry and using clean tools when handling the soil. Adequate soil drainage will also protect the plant from root-related diseases and pests.
Some of the fungal and bacterial diseases to look out for are pythium root rot, botrytis, leaf spot, and powdery mildew. Keep the leaves dry and avoid excessive watering that leaves your soil soggy. Whiteflies and mealybugs should be controlled naturally to prevent the use of chemicals that may affect leaves or roots.
Frequently Asked Questions about Begonia Maculata
How fast do begonia maculata plants grow?
Polka dot begonia is considered a fast-growing flower. However, the rate of growth will depend on the nutrients available in the soil, pruning approach taken, and availability of light. It explains why the plant grows fast during fall and summer while it stagnates during winter.
How tall do begonia maculata plants get?
Without pruning the tip of the main canes, the polka dot begonia will grow to a height of 1.5 meters. However, several other factors intervene to determine the height of your begonia maculata plant including the strength of fertilizer used, quality of soil, and availability of adequate lighting. If you prune by reducing the number of shoots at the bottom and culling old leaves, the plant will turn into a tall but thin bush.
How to make begonia maculata flower
Polka dot begonia flowers between spring and fall. The white flowers with a cherry yellow center can be stimulated with the addition of adequate quantities of fertilizer and water just before they emerge. The flower will be even more brilliant when you provide sufficient bright light during the flowering season.
How long do begonia flowers last?
Proper care can help your begonia plant to last 4-5 productive years. However, on average, the plant will last 2-3 years. Flowers on a begonia plant can last up to six months based on how well you have fed your plant as well as the availability of adequate lighting and water.
Are begonia plants safe for cats?
Begonia plants are toxic to cats and most other domestic pets. They cause a burning experience that ends up in vomiting once ingested. Sap and juice from the plant will also irritate the skin because of poisonous microscopic needle-like crystals.
Should you mist begonia maculata?
Because begonia loves humidity, the natural reaction is to mist the leaves. However, misting can expose the plant to powdery mildew that is encouraged by damp leaves. It is therefore recommended that you use fine spray and dry the leaves after a while.
Do begonias like coffee grounds?
No. Begonias love peat moss based soil. Coffee grounds inside or outside will, therefore, work against your intentions. However, you can mix the coffee with compost to provide more balanced food for your plant.
Should I deadhead begonias?
No. Begonias will thrive without deadheading. They have a self-cleaning mechanism that gets rid of spent flowers. Deadheading is only necessary if you want to speed up the cleaning process or are pruning to encourage more branches.
Can you grow begonias from seeds?
Begonias are easy to grow from seeds because they do not require any particular environment. Spread them on top of your potting mix and push them slightly into the soil. Within two to three weeks, begonia seeds will germinate.
What is the difference between a Begonia Maculata Wightii and a Angel Wing Begonia?
The Begonia Maculata Wightii is a tall plant that can reach 5 feet with large, asymmetrical leaves covered in distinct polka dots of silvery white. The Angel Wing Begonia is smaller overall at no more than 2.5 feet and has restrained foliage dusted with small freckles of silver or white.