The begonia brigade – how to care for your begonias!

Begonias are beautiful. Don’t you agree? They’re so unique and pretty to look at! We love them so much that we decided to feature a selection of begonia cuttings in our May subscription plant box!

Propagating and caring for begonias can feel quite daunting, so we thought it would be a good idea to put together a little Begonia care guide to help you.

First things first, let’s run through some general information about begonias, including general characteristics and care tips. Then we will cover the common pests and problems that you might experience when caring for them followed by the different ways to propagate these lovelies!

propagate begonias

General Characteristics

There are well over a 1000 different species of Begonia out there! So, how do you know if a plant is a Begonia? Many of them boast colourful flowers and oval-shaped leaves which definitely helps when trying to identify them…

Begonias are native to moist tropical and subtropical climates and they tend to enjoy the company of other Begonias.

An important note for pet owners! Begonias are toxic to pets if consumed. If your pet has been poisoned, he or she may exhibit symptoms like vomiting, excessive salivating and lack of appetite. Take your pet to the vet for treatment ASAP if you notice any of the above symptoms, but don’t stress, the poisoning is usually mild and your furry friend should recover in no time.

Begonias are not toxic to humans, but can cause allergic reactions (like swelling and itching) if you get any of the sap on your skin. 

Begonias love humidity, light, moist soil and a balanced fertilizer! Now, let’s dig a little deeper into these requirements below.

General Care

As mentioned in the previous section, begonias need high humidity and warm temperatures in order to thrive. They are happiest when grouped together with other plants, as it offers them increased humidity. Humidity drops in Winter, so a tip to boost your plant’s humidity during this season would be to place your pot plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water.

As for the lighting requirements of Begonias, they’re similar to other indoor plants in that they thrive in bright, indirect light – avoid placing them in direct sunlight!

Begonias are happiest in a moist, well-draining soil that contains some organic matter. Ensure regular watering at the base of the plant, but be careful not to overwater the plant as this can lead to root rot. Overwatering and root rot will be the two most common problems you are likely to face when caring for Begonias. You can avoid this by giving the soil some time to dry out a bit between waterings.

Begonias are not heavy feeders but a water-soluble fertilizer can be applied on a monthly basis. For the Angel-Wing Begonia in particular, a nitrogen-rich fertilizer is preferred.

Unfortunately we cannot escape pests, but we can learn how to prevent and destroy them. The common pests that you are likely to experience with Begonias follows in the next section.

Common pests

The most common pests you’ll find on your Begonias are Mealy Bugs, Whiteflies, Spider Mites, Scales and Aphids.

  1. Mealy Bugs
    Mealy bugs are scale insects that are mostly found in warm and moist environments.
    If your plant is infected with mealy bug, you’ll notice some leaf damage as well as stunted growth. You can get rid of them by spraying your plant with a weak hydrogen/water mix. Prevent them from taking over your plant by trimming and removing any dead leaves from the surface of the soil.
  2. Whiteflies
    Whiteflies have white wings andleave a white powder residue on the plant. They generally cause the leaves to have a patterned yellow foliage and can be removed by applying a general insecticide to the leaves.
  3. Spider Mites
    These pests are very tiny and often hard to recognise. A good tip to see if the plant is infected by them is to place a white paper under the leaf of the plant and to gently tap on the leaf. If you notice tiny dark dots dropping on the paper, you are probably dealing with spider mites! These spiders cause stunted growth and yellowing leaves. Get rid of them by spraying the whole plant down and applying a general insecticide.
  4. Scale
    Scale appear as crusty brown bumps or white cotton-like bumps on the leaves of your plant. They cause the leaves to turn yellow, wilt and drop. Remove them using a toothbrush dipped in soapy water, followed by a general insecticide.
  5. Aphids
    Aphids are small sap-sucking insects that appear in various colours, from brown to light green. They often cause the leaves to curl, distort and turn yellow. Remove these pests by running your plant under the tap and applying a general insecticide.

Other problems

Begonias are mostly affected by mildew and various fungal diseases. The common fungal diseases that affect the Begonia plants are: Botrytis fungal disease, Pythium fungus and Rhizoctonia fungus.

Let’s look at how to detect and treat these issues.

– Botrytis fungal disease enters your plant through white powdery spots, its appears as soft brown rot in the stem of the plant and as grey fuzzy spores on the stem tissue.
– Pythium fungus causes stem rot as well and stunts your plant’s growth. You will notice this fungus by they way it discolours the roots of the plant and blackens the stems.
– Rhioctonia fungus appears as fine webbing on the leaves of the plant.

When it comes to fungal diseases, prevention is better than cure. You can prevent mildew and fungal infections by: removing any dead leaves from the top soil to provide better circulation for the plant, providing your plant with adequate soil drainage and leaving some space between your Begonias to reduce mildew disease (social distancing)!

However, if you start to notice the mildew or fungi, you can treat and cure your plant by applying a systemic fungicide. I’d also suggest you wipe/spray the plant down with a diluted mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide.

Propagating begonias

Okay, so now that that’s covered, let’s look at begonia propagation. It’s quite easy (yay!) to propagate Begonias using leaf and stem cuttings that are either placed into water containers or planted into soil. There are three different techniques you can use:

The first is the water propagation technique:

  1. (I’ve done this for you) Cut the leaf 10cm away the stem just below the node if possible.
  2. Place the stem in any clear water container (or one of our propagation vases) with a third of water.
  3. Place the container on a windowsill, but ensure that it is not exposed to direct sunlight as
    this may burn the cutting and/or cause root rot.
  4. Wait for roots to form! (+_ a month, but can be slower in Winter).
  5. Plant the rooted cutting in soil.

Then, there’s the soil propagation method:

  1. Prepare a container of pot with moist soil that allows for sufficient drainage.
  2. Cut the leaf 10cm away the stem. (cut just below the node)
  3. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem.
  4. Dip the ends of the stem into a rooting hormone.
  5. Use a stick to make a hole into your planting medium and insert your stem.
  6. Provide adequate humidity and light for your cutting to grow.
  7. Mist daily and water once a week.

Lastly, there’s the single split leaf method (which works well when you have large leaves)

  1. Prepare a pot with moist soil that allows for sufficient drainage.
  2. Cut a mature leaf where the leaf meets the stem.
  3. Cut the leaf from the stem and discard the stem.
  4. On the inside of the leaf, make approximately 1cm cuts on the largest veins of the leaf with
    a knife.
  5. Once the cuttings have been made, turn the leaf over and place the leaf on top of the soil.
  6. Pin the leaf down, using fine hair pins. It may also be necessary to place stones on top of the leaf
    to ensure that it is kept in place.
  7. Place the pot in a ziplock bag, mist daily and water once a week.
    If successful, a new plant will form from this leaf!

I hope that you will be able to grow a lovely jungle of Begonias. I’m always free should you have any questions about your plants.

Yours in green fingers,