Successfully Growing Begonia Maculata – Polka Dot Begonia

by | Jan 5, 2021 | Growing Guides, Tips

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The Begonia Macalata is a photogenic houseplant that will give any home a pop of color. Commonly called the Polka Dot Begonia, this beauty is a bit challenging to grow – but boy oh boy, is it worth it. The small white dots on the green leaves create this perfect contrast of color, and it’s all the more heightened by the small white flowers, the red underside, and the yellow stems. It’s a delight for the eyes. Let’s dive into the ins and outs of raising this indoor plant – from its origins in Brazil to its required maintenance and care. This houseplant will be the envy of any indoor grower.

Where To Buy Begonia Maculata

You can purchase the Begonia Maculata Wightii from any of these Etsy or Amazon partners:

  • BLOOMR
  • The Rootz Market
  • Send Dirty Nodes
  • The Plant Chica
  • Joy Of Plants

How To Care For Begonia Maculata

Level of Care Required: Medium to High

The Begonia Maculata is a houseplant that requires some regular care and maintenance, such as well-draining soil, fertilizer every 2-3 weeks, proper temperature, high humidity, bright indirect light, pruning, and more. While a green thumb isn’t required to grow this indoor plant, growers should expect to spend some quality time tending to the needs of their Begonia Maculata.

We’ll provide complete plant care details for the Polka Dot Begonia below, but many of our readers just want some quick info before they get started. So we’ll begin with cliff notes on care and maintenance. If you need more than what’s here, feel free to scroll down to the designated area. 

Begonia Maculata Care

Requirements Details Notes
Light Bright indirect light Direct sunlight can scorch your plants, so keep them away from a south-facing window in the summer. Consider placing near a west or east-facing window.
Humidity High (minimum of 45% but aim for 50% or more) Consider using a humidifier to increase the humidity in your home.
Water Be careful not to overwater your Begonia Maculata. Overwatering can cause root rot and kill your plant. Only water when the top of the soil is dry. Use your finger to judge. The soil should be dry up to the first knuckle.
Temperature 67-70 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal growth Begonia Maculata thrives in temperate, tropical conditions. Make sure you don’t expose them to conditions under 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soil Begonia Maculata grows best in light potting soil or sandy loam soil. Make sure your soil promotes proper drainage. If it doesn’t, add extra perlite.
Fertilizer Apply a  general-purpose slow release liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks A 10-10-10 fertilizer will work fine. This will promote healthy leaves and flowers.
Propagation Cut off a stem with no flowers and place in a container with water. It’s easiest to propagate when there are few flowers – such as in the wintertime.
Prune Prune in the late autumn. Prune above the bud; Prune the branches so that they are relatively uniform in size.

 

Begonia Maculata Details

  • Scientific Name:  Begonia Maculata
  • Genus: Begonia
  • Scientific Family: Begoniaceae Family
  • Common Name: Polka Dot Begonia, Polka Dot Plant (this one is actually a misnomer that’s confused with the Hypoestes Phyllostachys), Trout Begonia, Spotted Begonia, Begonia Maculata Wightii 
  • Begonia Category: Fibrous-rooted – This begonia category is known for its small flowers, glossy green leaves, and fibrous root systems.
  • Classification: Begonia Maculata falls under the Cane-like Begonia or Angel Wing Begonia classification, meaning it has long leaves and stems with bamboo-like joints. Leaves and flowers grow from the joints.
  • Origin: This cane-like plant is a Brazil native, although it has also been found in living in Central America, Mexico, and Asia.
  • Mature Height: 1-1.5 meters. A word of caution – just because a Begonia Maculata can grow to this height, doesn’t mean it should. If you don’t correctly prune this houseplant, it could look long, leggy, and unattractive. Consider keeping the growth height uniform. 
  • Distinguishing Features:  The Begonia Maculata has dark green leaves with white spots, while it sports a deep purple-red on the leaf’s bottom side. The leaves are angel wing-shaped. The Polka Dot Begonia also produces small white flowers.
  • Home Placement: You can place the Begonia Maculata anywhere in the home with bright indirect light. The other main requirement for healthy Polka Dot Begonia is high humidity. Because of this, a restroom or kitchen is often considered a good place for this houseplant to grow.
  • Growth Speed: Moderate (the Begonia Maculata has a growing season in the spring and summer.)
  • Flowering: With the right indirect light conditions, a Begonia Maculata will flower in late winter and spring, producing beautiful clusters of white flowers. It can blossom up to three times in a single year.
  • Repotting: You will likely need to repot a few times during the first few years of life. Wait until the container is filled with roots before repotting. You’ll know it’s time when the soil around the begonia is no longer loose. Spring is typically the best time for repotting. You won’t always need a bigger pot. If the roots still have room, you can shake out the old soil and replace it. If you need a larger pot, consider increasing it by one size.
  • Diseases and Pests: High humidity and overwatering can cause issues with fungus and infestations, including powdery mildew, botrytis, stem rot, root rot, bacterial leaf spot, whiteflies, and mealybugs. Keep your leaves free from these issues by removing areas with signs of fungus or infestation. Also, be sure that you sterilize your tools before each use.
  • Toxicity: Begonia Maculata plants are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. It can cause kidney failure in grazing animals and vomiting and salivation in dogs and cats. The roots are more toxic than the leaves or stems. If your pet has ingested part of the Polka Dot Begonia, call your vet or the APCC at 888-426-4435 for the next steps.

Other Popular Begonias

If you decide that the Begonia Maculata isn’t right for you – or you just want to expand your collection, take a look at these other Begonias.

  • Rhizomatous Begonias – A large group of begonias that often have colorful leaves growing from thick rhizomes along the soil’s surface. Clusters of white flowers or pink flowers appear in the winter and spring.
    • Rex Begonias: Rex Begonias are a subcategory of Rhizomatous Begonias, and they are known for their extremely flashy foliage. Most have a pinkish-red hue and variegation or spots. They’re the perfect begonia if you’re looking to make a statement.
  • Tuberous Begonias – This group has a flesh tuberous root (like a potato), and they usually flower in the mid-summer through autumn. They are known for their large blooms with a variety of bright colors.
  • Solenia ‘Dusty Rose’ Begonia
  • Nonstop ‘Mocca Yellow’ Begonia
  • Nonstop Rose Begonia
  • Hardy Begonias – This group belongs to the species called Begonia Grandis. Its foliage is very similar to the Tuberous Begonia, except that it produces smaller clusters of flowers.
    • Alba
    • Torsa
  • Fibrous-rooted Begonias: The Begonia Maculata belongs to this group and includes other subcategories described as wax begonias, dragon wing or angel-wing begonias, cane begonias, and more. They have a root ball with thin roots, as well as small glossy leaves. The fibrous-rooted Begonias make excellent houseplants and are also known for having small flowers.
    • Charm Begonia
    • ‘Richmond’ Begonia 
    • Ambassador Series Begonias 
    • Cocktail Series Begonias
    • Doublet White Begonias
    • Torch Pink Begonias

Begonia Maculata Soil Mix

The Polka Dot Begonia requires a soil or other growing medium with good aeration that drains well and holds moisture without becoming overly soggy. According to the University of Vermont, you should use a soil-less potting mix for this indoor plant that includes peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite. Here are some potting mixes that would work well.

Begonia Maculata Wightii Soil

If you do not see the results you’d like – specifically with drainage – you should consider mixing in amendments of wood chips and perlite. Perlite can help with aeration and insulation, while wood chips aid aeration. You can also add a bit of compost to the pot – but not much. This, along with regular fertilizer, will help boost your houseplant’s fertility.

Potting and Repotting

When growing Begonia Maculata, it’s important to keep drainage in mind. This houseplant is prone to various issues related to overwatering, such as root rot, fungal diseases on lower leaves, and powdery mildew. Along with a good soil or soil-less mix, you need to have a pot with drainage holes.

Begonia Maculata can also be a large and top-heavy plant when it’s full-grown, so consider using a heavier pot made of terracotta or stone. 

You should repot your Begonia Maculata about once a year. The main reason for this is that this indoor plant’s roots become packed, and new soil can help with fertility. You likely don’t need to increase the size of the pot each time you’re repotting. Instead, remove the plant, loosen and remove the dirt, and add fresh soil back into the pot.

Temperature for Begonia Maculata

Begonia Maculata thrives in temperatures between 65°F and 86°F (18°C and 30°C, respectively). While they can tolerate temperatures slightly below 65°F, you shouldn’t expose them to anything lower than 60°F (15.56°C). Also, keep them away from drafty areas. These temperate plants don’t want to be too hot or too cold. They want to be comfy below a tropical canopy. So you’ll need to make your home accommodating.

In the late spring and summertime, you may be able to let your Polka Dot Begonia go on holiday in an outdoor garden. Some time outside can do them wonders as long as they don’t become too hot.

Begonia Maculata Wightii Humidity

To grow a Begonia Maculata successfully, you’ll need to raise it in high humidity. Unfortunately, most of our homes are too dry, which is one reason you may see houseplants with brown or black leaf tips. A Begonia Maculata needs at least 45% humidity, but more is better. There are a few ways to improve the humidity in your home, such as placing multiple houseplants together to create a biosphere. 

It’s usually best to use a humidifier to increase the humidity. Here are some of our favorite humidifiers for houseplants.

Should You Mist Begonia Maculata?

In most cases, avoid misting your Begonia Maculata, which is prone to fungus and powdery mildew. Instead, a humidifier is a good alternative to improve the humidity around this indoor plant. See our options above.

Begonia Maculata Fertilizer

The Polka Dot Plant is a moderate feeder, so you should fertilize it every two weeks to promote leaf and bloom growth.  If you see brown tipped leaves, it may be a sign that you’re fertilizing too much. And since the leaves are the best feature of this fantastic plant, you need to be careful not to overdo it. 

A balanced, water-soluble NPK fertilizer (like a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20) will do just fine for this houseplant. No need for anything fancy. However, we recommend that you halve the recommended dose and fertilize your indoor plant every 2-4 weeks. Fertilizing it more than that can cause problems.

Here’s the best fertilizer for Begonia Maculata:

Begonia Maculata Light

Begonia Maculata prefers bright indirect light. You’re trying to simulate how it grows beneath the canopy in a tropical forest, meaning it’s not meant to grow in direct sunlight. A south-facing window works well in the winter months, but during spring and summer (when the sun’s rays are more intense), move it to an east or west-facing window.

If its leaves start to develop brown leaf tips, this may mean the Maculata is receiving too much light, and you need to adjust its location. On the other side of the spectrum, low light can interrupt leaf and flower development. Drooping and yellowing leaves can be a sign that your houseplant is not receiving enough sunlight.

Much like with water and fertilizer, balance is key when it comes to the Begonia Maculata. Low light’s not enough and direct sunlight is too much. Keep your plant in the sweet spot that is bright indirect light.

If windows aren’t an option – or you live in a place up north with too much cloud coverage – consider using a grow light to assist with development.

Watering Begonia Maculata

Begonia Maculata likes a balanced moisture level, and overwatering can be disastrous. A good rule of thumb is to have the top 1.5″ of soil (about one finger knuckle length) dry before watering. If it’s watered any more than that, a nasty host of issues can happen, such as root rot. Overwatering can also cause problems at the surface, creating fungus opportunities in the plant’s lower leaves. Also, be sure that you don’t water the stems or the leaves. This can attract fungus. Instead, water the soil directly. 

Assuming you have soil with good drainage, you can simply stick your finger in the soil to determine if it needs more water or not.

How To Propagate Begonia Maculata

If you’re interested in propagating a new plant, you have a few options, but propagating in water is a good route for beginners. Luckily, the Begonia Maculata is pretty easy to propagate. If you go the route of water propagation, cut off a stem – just below the bud of the mother plant- that doesn’t have any flowers growing on it. Place this cutting in a small mason jar. Once roots develop, you can remove the plant from the water and plant it in loamy and sandy soil.

To help the plant grow in the mason jar, cover the bag’s top in a plastic baggy. Every one to two days, open the bag and mist it. Do this until the baby Begonia Maculata is established. 

Troubleshooting Your Begonia Maculata

Balance is vital when it comes to this houseplant. You want to try and find a sweet spot when it comes to things like sunlight, humidity, and water. Because of the amount of humidity required by this indoor plant, it could develop a fungus or pests. You should regularly clean your leaves to keep away pests, fungus, or diseases that appear, and you should always sterilize your tools.

Botrytis

Botrytis, often called Gray Mold, is a fungal disease that causes soggy brown and gray splotches along the leaves. It typically affects the lower leaves that touch the soil and climbs upwards. If you see Botrytis blight, remove any of the infected leaves (including any that fall in the soil) and spray the infected area with a fungicide. You can help prevent Botrytis with better air circulation. A clip-on fan or proper pruning can improve how your air circulates.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungus that is common in many houseplants, including the Polka Dot Begonia. It thrives in conditions where the temperature is warm, and there are dry conditions. It doesn’t usually kill your plant, but it can stress them. Much like the name suggests, it leaves a white powder-like substance on your leaves that’s pretty unattractive. To treat powdery mildew, you can remove the infected leaves, spray a fungicide, prune to improve the air circulation, and refrain from watering or misting the leaves.

Final Thoughts On The Polka Dot Begonia

The Polka Dot Begonia is a vibrant and interesting houseplant, but it’s not for everyone. This indoor plant needs a lot of TLC between the strict watering and light conditions and the high humidity requirements. But if you love houseplants and have a greener thumb than most, this is absolutely that choice for you. If nothing else, it is the perfect accent piece for a home. 

Have you had success with the Begonia Maculata plant? We’d love to see it! Email Devri@twopeasinacondo.com with your pictures. If we like the vibes you’re throwing down, we’ll include your photo in this article. 

By Patrick Chism

By Patrick Chism

Patrick likes to pretend that urban gardening is just a hobby, but he’s actually prepping for the apocalypse. He’s a practical grower, specializing in hydroponics systems and grow lights. His dream is to one day feed his family with just the food he grows in his Chicago-based condo.

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