Begonia Maculata Plant Care (#1 TOP tips + EASY care!)

small potted begonia maculata houseplant being held up

Begonia Maculata is a whimsical houseplant and is often referred to as the Polka Dot Begonia, Angelwing Begonia, Trout Begonia, or Spotted Begonia. πŸ™‚

We fell in love with the angel-wing shaped, spotted leaves… and the deep red-purple color on the undersides!

The Polka Dot Begonia is known to thrive indoors, preferably in pots or terrariums not placed in direct sunlight. East or West-facing windows are ideal. Aim for humidity between 60-70%, and keep your plant in warm, stable temperatures away from drafts.

Begonia Maculata is a pretty low-maintenance and easy-going houseplant, so is a good choice for busy plant parents.

Read on for more care details!

Origins

Begonia Maculata is native to Southeast Brazil and grows naturally in the Atlantic Rainforest. Begonia Maculata was named after Michel BΓ©gon, the Governor of the Dominican Republic when this beautiful plant was discovered there in the 1600s.

Where can I buy a Begonia Maculata?

If you can’t find them at a local nursery, you can buy them from Amazon or Esty. Here’s our favorite Amazon store for Begonia Maculatas. Expect to pay ~US$35 for a 6 inch potted plant.

Caring for your Begonia Maculata

Light

Begonia Maculata requires lots (8 hours at least) of indirect light. East or West-facing window sills are ideal.

Keeping an eye on your Spotted Begonia will tell you if it’s getting too much or too little sunlight. If the sunlight is insufficient, the plant will start losing its vibrancy, stop flowering, turn yellow, and the spots will start to fade.

On the other hand, if it’s getting too much sunlight, the edges of the leaves will appear scorched with brown spots.

begonia maculata houseplant, with white dots on green leaves, being held up

Watering

Giving Begonia the right amount of water can be a little tricky. While it likes to have the soil moist, it should not be waterlogged. Here’s how to water your plant properly:

  1. Determine how much water your plant needs by feeling the soil between your fingers. If the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water your Begonia. If not, resist the temptation to water your plant. Check this every few days!
  2. Plant your Begonia in a pot with drainage holes. These pots allow excess water to escape.
  3. As the leaves of Begonia Maculata are sensitive to moisture, use a watering can with a long spout to directly reach the base and roots. Some experts even recommend bottom-watering your Begonia occasionally to prevent the leaves from getting wet. If water gets on the leaves, you can dab it dry with a tissue.

Overwatering can lead to root rot and attract fungus. If in doubt, err on the side of underwatering. Here are more tips on how to water your plant properly… one of the most important skills to learn as a beginner gardener!

Humidity

Since Begonia Maculata is native to tropical regions, it is particular about having a high-humidity climate to grow well. Aim for 60-70% humidity for healthy growth. πŸ™‚

However, misting the plant is not a good idea as the angel-wing-shaped leaves are susceptible to powdery mildews…. which like to breed on wet leaves! There are several ways to increase humidity, including using a pebble tray or investing in a humidifier.

Low humidity typically causes duller-looking leaves, browning leaf tips and slower growth.

Temperature

The ideal temperature for Begonia is on the slightly warmer side, from 70 – 80 degrees F (21 – 27 degrees C). Also, keep this houseplant away from cold chills or air vents.

Temperatures below 59 degrees F (15 degrees C) can cause slowed growth and leaf drop. Over an extended period, persistent cold weather will cause plant death for this tropical Begonia.

Soil or Growing Medium

The Spotted Begonia requires a well-draining soil that can hold moisture without becoming soggy. Here are 2 good options:

Fertilizer

Since Begonia Maculatas are moderate feeders that benefit from occasional fertilizing.

A rule of thumb for Begonias is adding liquid fertilizer to its water every other time you water it, roughly once every 2 weeks. Any all-purpose, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer will do the job.

Fertilize only during summer and spring, when your plant is actively growing. Hold off fertilizing in fall and winter.

A word of caution – some potting mixes come pre-blended with fertilizer (including Noot’s!) so you don’t need to add more fertilizer in this case.

red undersides of a begonia maculata houseplant

Repotting

Repot your Begonia Maculata every time you notice roots peeking out of the drainage holes. This is a sign that your plant is pot-bound.

The best time for repotting of Begonia Maculata is in spring.

When selecting a new pot,

  • Choose one that is 2 inches (5cm) bigger than the original. Don’t upsize beyond that, as too-big pots lead to overwatered roots.
  • Choose a sturdy pot, like one made of terracotta or clay, as your Begonia can get top-heavy. You don’t want it to topple over! Terracotta and clay pots are also porous, which allow airflow to the roots. πŸ™‚

Here’s our step-by-step guide on repotting a root-bound plant.

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Toxicity

Unfortunately, according to ASPCA, Begonia Maculatas are toxic to cats, dogs and horses when ingested. This is due to soluble calcium oxalates which may lead to kidney failure if consumed in large quantities.

However, according to California Poison Control System, they are not toxic to humans.

Propagation

Begonia Maculata is relatively easy to propagate using stem cuttings. You can propagate your Begonia directly into soil, or root them in water before transferring over to soil afterwards.

Water Propagation

  1. Prepare sterile, sharp scissors.
  2. Identify a node with at least one leaf.
  3. Cut a healthy 4 inch (10cm) length of stem, just below the node. (The node is where new growth will form! So the stem cuttings should include the node.)
  4. Place the cutting in a jar of water at room temperature. Find a spot that has ample bright, filtered sunlight.
  5. Keep the leaves above the water level and refresh the water every couple of days.
  6. In about 2 weeks, you will see new roots growing. Once they’re 2-3 inches (5 – 7.5cm) long, you can transfer the cutting into potting mix in its permanent home.

Soil Propagation

Follow steps 1-3 above. Then, take the stem cutting and plant it directly in evenly-moist potting soil. In a couple of weeks, your Begonia Maculata will establish roots.

As an optional step, place a clear plastic bag loosely over the plant, or prop a humidifier at 80% next to your stem cuttings. A humid environment encourages quicker growth. If using a plastic bag, be sure to remove it once a day for an hour to give your plant some fresh air.

You can confirm the presence of roots by giving your plant a very gentle after 4 weeks. Slight resistance means the roots have established πŸ™‚

Diseases

Begonia Maculata is susceptible to several common plant conditions, including bacterial leaf spot, blight, botrytis blight, and powdery mildew. The main reason behind these diseases is excessive watering or waterlogged soils.

The key then is to:

  • water your Begonia when the topsoil is dry;
  • use a well-draining soil with plenty of chunky amendments like bark and perlite;
  • use a terracotta pot (for airflow to the roots) with drainge holes;
  • always empty the plant’s saucer after watering.

But if your plant is already infected,

  1. Cut off damaged leaves and dispose of these securely.
  2. Disinfect all your gardening tools with rubbing alcohol to prevent contamination.
  3. Apply a broad-based fungide to contain the spread.
  4. Quarantine your infected plants until they recover.

Pests

Pests are another issue that is commonly encountered with Begonia Maculata. Use a dilute neem oil solution to kill off spider mites, aphids, scale and mealybugs.

Troubleshooting

begonia maculata with slightly burnt leaves

How can I fix my leggy Begonia Maculata?

If you prefer a bushy look, use a pair of sterile, sharp scissors to cut off leggy growth. Giving your plant a trim during the spring or summer encourages your plant to focus on new growth.

Leggy Begonias may also be due to a lack of light. Consider if you need to relocate your plant to a sunnier spot, where it receives at leas 8 hours of bright, indirect light a day.

Why are the leaves drying?

Brown and crispy leaves typically mean insufficient water, or the air is too dry. Don’t be afraid to water deeply when the topsoil is dry – you should see water escaping from the drainage holes before you stop watering. If you live in an arid climate, use a humidifier.

Why are the leaves yellowing and getting droopy?

The most common cause of yellow, soft leaves is overwatering. Checking the soil moisture to confirm. Yellowing or pale leaves could also be due to a lack of sunlight.

Under-fertilization may also cause yellowing leaves.

How do I encourage my Begonia Maculata to flower?

Begonia Maculata bloom between spring and autumn, and generally don’t need any specific help to bloom. However, if you notice fewer flowers than usual, try increasing light exposure. Also ensure you are fertilizing your plant regularly.

Lastly, slightly root-bound plants bloom better, so don’t be overzealous in your repotting!

How do I revive my dying Begonia Maculata?

There are several potential reasons why your Begonia Meculata is dying. Here are the most common:

  • Check that you are not overwatering your Begonia. In addition, always use a terracotta pot to promote beathability.
  • Ensure your plant is getting >60% humidity. If not, invest a humidifier.
  • Ensure your Begonia is getting at least 8 hours of indirect light.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Begonia Maculata rare?

Native to the tropical regions of Brazil and the Dominican Republic, the Polka dot Begonia used to be a rare plant variety that was not readily available. However, with advancements propagation techniques, you can find it easily in most regions.

How do you prune a Begonia Maculata?

If you want to keep your Spotted Begonia looking tidy, prune your plant by making cuts about 1/4 an inch above the leaf node. Your Spotted Begonia can tolerate aggressive pruning (it can handle up to half of its size being reduced!), so don’t worry about overdoing it.

Given that your plant is a fast-grower, pruning may become a regular occurrence for you!

How fast can a Begonia Maculata grow?

Begonia Maculata is a rapidly growing species and can even grow up to a foot (30 cm) during a single season under optimum conditions. They are also known to grow up to 5 feet (1.5 metres) tall!

You can prune your Begonia if you prefer a bushy look, or to keep this fast-grower looking tidy.

Do Begonia Maculata go dormant?

Spotted Begonias do not generally go dormant. However, they do naturally show signs of slow growth and decreased activity during the winter and fall.

How do you stake a Begonia Maculata?

Most Spotted Begonias tend to lean over once they’re tall enough. At this point, simply add a bamboo stick to the soil and loosely clip the stem of your Spotted Begonia to the post for support.

Why is my Begonia Maculata leaves turning pink?

Pigments called anthocyanins are responsible for the pink, red, or purple colours of the Begonia Maculata. An excessive amount of these pigments may cause your Begonia leaves to turn pink. 

Deborah

Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.

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