Written by Ivy
Nov 10 2022
In this article, we'll share how to keep a How to keep Begonia maculata in good health, as well as potential issues. For you to wow your guests with a plant they won't soon forget, we'll provide tips on how to keep them looking their best.
The gorgeous and well-liked polka dot begonia is a popular indoor plant that brings drama and style to rooms. It has striking rusty-red undersides on its bronze-green, wing-shaped leaves. The tops of the leaves are variegated with playful silver spots, giving the plant its common name.
When young, polka dot begonia makes a lovely desk or tabletop plant. With proper care, it matures into a lovely floor plant that can grow to be at least 4 feet tall.
Even though its variegated leaves are the main attraction, polka dot begonia can occasionally display clusters of tiny white flowers all year long if it receives enough light.
The head-turning Begonia maculata is trending now, but it's been around for a while. Other names for this cane begonia with angel wings include Wightii, Clown, Spotted, and Polka Dot.
The plant's exotic appearance is made up of a variety of different components, including sprays of open bell-shaped red or white flowers with bright yellow centers on stems that resemble knotted bamboo and silver polka dots that appear to have been painted on the leaves' olive undersides. This extravagant begonia is a fantastic option if you're looking for something unusual that draws attention.
It's called "easy" and can be—but it needs pretty specific conditions in the way of humidity, light, and watering. But once you've got it down, your plant will be the talk of the neighborhood.
Begonia maculata requires fertilized soil that dries out slightly between waterings, bright indirect light, and temperatures between 65°F (18°C) and 86°F (30°C). Although they are picky about humidity and require sporadically scheduled pruning, they are very simple to reproduce.
It should come as no surprise that these evergreen perennials require warmth, strong filtered light, and regular moisture since they are native to tropical forests of Brazil. Their cascading white flowers bloom all through the warm season, and they have a fairly quick growth rate that can reach three feet or more.
The plant, a cane begonia, dislikes wet conditions because of its thick stems, which can hold some water. They enjoy having their topsoil become dry in between waterings.
Although humidity plays a crucial role in begonia maculata care, light is also crucial. Steamy surroundings resemble its natural habitat. You don't have to build a greenhouse for it, but to keep your maculata healthy and happy, you'll need to allow for some humidity. A depressed clown begonia is not what anyone wants.
Another important factor is proper potting. It's important to walk a fine line here because they enjoy being somewhat rootbound but quickly deplete the soil when planted closely together. Even if you just put them back in the same container, yearly repotting is the best practice.
Grow polka dot begonia in a location with bright light (enough that it casts a medium to strong shadow for the majority of the day). It will develop tall, spindly growth with weak stems and no flowers if it does not receive enough light. The majority of the time, especially in the winter, it is possible to get some direct sunlight through a window in northern regions. If it receives a lot of afternoon direct sunlight in more southern regions, it could get sunburned.
Advice: The polka dot begonia doesn't care whether the light comes from natural or artificial sources, like most indoor plants. It can thrive under fluorescent or LED lights if you don't have a light-filled window to grow it near.
Although the plant can tolerate low light conditions if necessary, it won't thrive in extremely dark spaces. The polka-dot begonia is best suited for shade in the South, but cooler climates can grow them in bright windows with some morning or afternoon shade.
Your maculata's leaves will let you know if it doesn't get enough light: first, they start to lose some of their color, then they turn yellow, and finally they begin to shed. If they are too much, the leaves will exhibit scorched areas.
When the potting mix in the top few inches of your polka dot begonia starts to feel dry to the touch, water it. In particular if it receives insufficient light, it is prone to root rot if overwatered. Your polka-dot begonia could grow crispy, brown leaf tips or edges if the soil is kept excessively dry. As fresh leaves grow, it might even drop them.
Without the proper soil, which we'll explain shortly, watering this begonia can be challenging. But first, let's go over the guidelines.
The top half-inch of the soil should dry out before rewatering because maculatas prefer moist soil most of the time; never subject them to drought. Never water these plants when the soil is wet because too much moisture will cause root rot.
Additionally, fungus and bothersome pests like gnats are deterred by allowing the topsoil to dry out. Bottom watering is frequently advised because they dislike having their leaves wet; however, if that seems like a hassle, you can avoid it if you're careful because their leaves are large enough.
The idea is to keep an eye on their soil and water deeply as soon as the top has sufficiently dried. They enjoy a brief respite in between waterings, but real stress should never cause them to wilt.
Aim for a minimum of 45% humidity; more is preferable. Wintertime, when indoor heating dries out the air, is a crucial time to pay close attention to humidity.
The native of South America, the polka-dot begonia, prefers relative humidity levels above average but usually tolerates average indoor humidity. Combine your polka dot begonia with other houseplants if the air in your house or place of business is particularly dry. You could also put a small humidifier nearby or grow it in a pot that is set on a large tray of water-filled pebbles.
In low humidity, they might not die, but they won't really thrive either. Increasing ambient moisture is frequently effective in treating unexplained leaf loss and flower failure.
Even if they don't highlight their maculata, those who are most successful maintain a high level of humidity in it.
The simplest ways to increase humidity are to group them with other plants and use water trays, but if your home is extremely dry—which most are—a humidifier is the best option. Although it takes more work, maintaining humidity will improve the health of all of your tropical plants and people alike.
The Polka Dot begonia prefers well-draining soil that retains moisture without becoming soggy, like many other plants. They do well in light commercial mixes; but, to give them perfect conditions, it's a good idea to mix in these amendments:
• Perlite – Natural volcanic glass is what these tiny white balls of fluffy, almost Styrofoam-textured material are made of. They are excellent at maintaining a soil's aeration and lightness, as well as at assisting in insulating the soil from sudden changes in temperature. NOTE: Vermiculite, which retains excessive moisture, should not be confused with perlite.
• Wood chips – A light dusting of non-toxic wood chips promotes aeration because the angular chips open up the soil. The decomposition of the chips is unimportant because maculatas are regularly repotted and refreshed.
• A small amount of compost or inorganic fertilizer is a positive addition. A half-handful of the pot is adequate; do not add as much as is suggested by the bag. This just increases fertility since you'll be giving the plant some light fertilizer anyhow.
To create a fluffy, springy mixture, start with a light commercial potting soil and gradually add small amounts of perlite and wood chips. To prepare for future seasons, think about blending extra. It will stay clean and fresh if you store it in an airtight container.
These plants are moderate feeders and will thrive in high light conditions, making them simple to maintain. You don't want those fancy leaves' tips and edges to turn brown, so the most important thing is to not overdo it.
If you want your polka-dot begonia to grow more or more quickly, you can fertilize it in the spring and summer. Any all-purpose fertilizer with a houseplant use label will do. Don't forget to follow the instructions on the product's packaging, though.
Simple fertilizer with equal NPK numbers—not a special blend—is all that is required. When they are growing, dilute it by 50% and feed them every two to four weeks; during the winter, reduce the amount.
As they prefer the same temperatures as us, this one is simple if you keep them inside. Keep them away from drafts and stay above 59°F (15°C) in temperature.
They thrive between 65°F (18°C) and 86°F (30°C), though they can tolerate warmer temperatures during the day. They are hardy outdoors for USDA Zone 10. If you want to free up their pot for those who live in colder climates, bring them inside before the first frost.
Usually, pruning is not required. In order to encourage more bushiness and branching, pinch the plant back if it becomes too tall and lanky and loses its leaves at the base. This results in a plant that appears fuller.
The polka-dot begonia is an ornamental plant and is not meant for consumption by either people or animals.
A maculata that is fully developed is an impressive plant, but the bushy appearance requires some assistance. Because the plant prefers to focus its energy on growing up rather than out, the canes become sparse and leggy. The tendency is corrected by pruning.
The gentlest type of pruning is pinching out the tips. (This term in art refers to cutting rather than just pinching.) Removing the cane tips promotes bushier growth because they release a hormone that prevents branching.
Slice an inch above a leaf. Immediately below the cut, a new leaf will begin to grow. By using the same technique above any leaf, you can perform more significant plant remodeling.
From spring to fall, maculatas bloom, putting forth clusters of white flowers with cheerful yellow centers on a single stem. They are more of a nice accent than a feature.
Normal fertilization and adequate lighting should be sufficient to allow them to bloom without your assistance.
Try increasing the light if you're experiencing fewer blooms than you'd like. Try providing them with soft, direct morning or late-afternoon sun. They may also become flowering-minded as a result of being rootbound.
Only propagating a maculata is simpler than pruning one. There are two fundamental techniques: submerging them in water or planting them directly in soil.
Water Propagation – Simply submerge the cutting's tip in a container of water. The stem releases hormones that you don't want to diluted because they are released in small containers.
Soil Propagation – The one-step method involves dipping the end of a cutting in powdered root hormone and burying it in potting soil. The best tools to use to make a hole in the soil for the stem are a chopstick or pencil. After thoroughly watering, compact the soil around the cutting.
Regardless of the technique, once the cuttings are in the soil, you can encourage growth by placing the pot in a plastic enclosure or Ziploc bag, and misting it every few days. Give the cutting plenty of light and maintain a comfortable temperature, and in a few weeks your new plant will be established!
Repotting should be done once a year. Maculatas enjoy being somewhat root-bound in small pots, but their tightly packed roots wear out the soil. Even if you aren't potting up, giving them a yearly soil refresher is beneficial.
Choose a heavy pot like terracotta or stone because they tend to become top-heavy. Instead, put their lightweight pot inside a larger container.
To make room for new soil when replanting in the same size pot, gently loosen and remove soil from the area around the rootball's edges.
Limiting the size of the pot will prevent the plants from expending too much energy on their root systems. It's not what makes them unique.
If you take care of your Maculata and practice good plant hygiene, such as keeping the leaves clean and sterilizing your tools, it won't be vulnerable to pests or diseases. The main issues are infestations brought on by high moisture, including fungus.
One of their most typical illnesses is this fungus. Sadly, this risk is increased by normally safe humid conditions. It appears on the foliage in the form of circular, powdery-looking white spots that spread over time.
The best course of action is to avoid the problem altogether rather than trying to treat it. Remove the affected material and apply a fungicide. Always wait until the topsoil is completely dry before rewatering, and keep good air circulation.
Botrytis is a brown, soggy splotch-causing fungal illness. On lower leaves in contact with the soil, it frequently begins. A factor may be poor airflow. Trim impacted areas, remove any fallen foliage or blooms. Apply fungicide if it comes back after being sterilized with methylated spirits.
Leaf spots resembling acne are the result of this illness. Pruning away the affected areas will help limit damage; plants that have been severely infected should be safely disposed of.
The only remedy is prevention through carefully tended irrigation systems and well-drained soil. Infected stems develop a mushy, puffy, and black appearance.
Another disappointment is that this disease causes lower stems to turn black and the roots to turn yellow. It can be avoided with prudent watering (notice a pattern?), as does sterilized soil. Plants that have been contaminated should not be composted but rather safely disposed of. The illness is extremely contagious.
Begonia Maculata can suffer if exposed to air that is noticeably warmer or cooler than the surrounding environment because of its delicate leaves. "So keep it away from heating and cooling vents," says Hancock. "Additionally, keep it away from exterior doors, especially in colder climates during the winter."
Pesticides aren't very effective against these pests, so you'll kill beneficial bugs before you get any effect. When disturbed, whiteflies fly around, signaling the presence of these tiny vampires that live under leaves and stem joints.
Oils and sprays with insecticide properties can be applied. The use of a quick-acting organic pesticide followed by the release of helpful predators like ladybugs to consume the leftovers is an alternative method. In either case, get ready for a siege.
These angel wing begonias are considered toxic to dogs, cats and horses by the ASPCA. Although its stems and leaves can irritate the mouth, the roots contain the majority of the toxin.
Yellow leaves are typically caused by overwatering, but there are other potential causes. Possible causes include inadequate or excessive lighting, chills, illness, infestation, or underfertilization. Heat, direct sun, or overfertilization can all result in brown spots, edges, and leaf tips.
Check off our list of things to do for maculatas because they can be temperamental. Its humidity is frequently not high enough. The air might be stale or contaminated. Lingering ills may be brought on by heavy soil. If all else fails, move it to another well-lit area.
As a starting point, examine the soil. It ought to be loose and airy without too much bark. A lanky plant may be acceptable, but the leaves should be sound and unblemished.
Observe small specimens carefully as they might be recent cuttings with weak roots. To check the root ball, carefully remove the plant from its pot.
The most common issue with "saving" a maculata is optimizing its soil, which is often too heavy or exhausted. Here's what to do:
These plants gain from a small amount of support as they get taller. Finding a dark color that blends in is best for thin stakes and soft ties. Staking is best done during repotting, but you can do it at any time as long as you're careful.
Stake should be inserted with its angle away from the stem's leaning direction. Ties should not be placed near leaves or flower stems because they can easily fall off with a little rubbing.