Begonia Plant FamilyScientific name: Begonia sp.
Begonia is a highly attractive plant family with many having outstanding foliage that adds colour and contrast either to the garden or your indoor living space, their versatility adding to their popularity. They are often also highly prized for their blooms and considered by many a collectors plant.
This gorgeous species of plant was first thought to be discovered in Brazil, however, some earlier records have been discovered in Mexico and also been used in China during the 14th Century, besides that there are a few native species found here in South Africa, making them fabulous for a range of growing conditions as long as they are provided with some filtered bright light and high humidity they will thrive.
Top tip: knowing the type of Begonia you have will make finding specific care instructions easier as there are a wide variety of types available tuberous, fibrous and rhizomatous as this can affect care.
Toxicity: Begonia cause mouth irritation and stomach upset if consumed, best kept out of reach of pets and children.
- Bleached leaves or Stunted growth: This may be due to your houseplant receiving the incorrect amount of light. Begonia thrives in bright filtered light and outdoors in dappled shade, if your plant is receiving too much light the leaves will either yellow or look washed out, too little light and the plant will look sparse and stretched out, relocate your Begonia to a more optimal position but avoid low light or direct sun. Other causes of stunted growth include being pot bound. Even though the Begonia does not mind a snug fit, it may need to be repotted if it stops producing new growth.
- Yellowing mushy leaves/leaf drop or wilt: Overwatering is the leading cause of improper houseplant care. Yellowing leaves are a sign of your Begonia being overwatered, another indication of over-saturated soil is if the leaves are mushy to the touch or turning brown. This means rot has set in, causing excessive leaf drop or wilt even though the soil is moist. Amend this by allowing your soil to dry, expert Begonia growers often say to wait until the plant shows signs of droop and dry soil before watering again. Be sure that your planter is draining correctly and use the guide of watering weekly during summer months and less often in winter. When watering avoid wetting the leaves as this can lead to fungal infections on the leaves.
- Crispy leaf edges or leaves: If you are experiencing brown crisp leaf patches or full leaves that are crispy then you may either not be watering sufficiently or your humidity is low. Begonia does not do well with prolonged periods of dryness and should be watered once at least 50% of the soil has dried, this is when the plant should be showing signs of dehydration. If the potting medium is moist yet you are still experiencing crisp leaf edges, then your humidity should be adjusted, this can be achieved by placing your plants on a pebble tray and avoid putting them in an airconditioned room.
- Powdery grey mould on leaves: This is known as Powdery Mildew. Begonia are highly susceptible to this kind of fungal infection as with their relatives the gourd family. This is often caused b excessive moisture on the foliage. Even though Begonia loves high humidity avoid spritzing foliage and when watering be sure to water only the soil and not the leaves. If you suspect a fungal infection such as Powdery Mildew, remove infected foliage and spray with a fungicide such as Copper Soap.
- Pests: Begonia are pretty hardy and not often susceptible to pests but if care is not taken to keep your plant in its optimal conditions stress can occur. This will lead to pest infestations causing excessive yellowing fronds and leaf drop. Mealybug, scale and spider mites are common indoor plant pests and can weaken your plant relatively quickly if left untreated. Adjust environmental stressors for your house plant and treat infestations with an organic pesticide.
- Origin: Commonly Brazil
- Height: Average 20cm - 2m dependant on the species, a type to fit all spaces.
- Light: Bright filtered light is ideal, dappled shade if in a protected outdoor area.
- Water: Allow the soil to dry out two-thirds between watering.
- Humidity: Medium to high humidity is ideal.
- Temperature: Ideal temperatures range from 18°C - 26°C.
- Soil: A well draining organic potting mix is sufficient.
- Fertilizer: Use a well balanced organic fertilizer once every 2 weeks during Spring through Summer.
- Repotting: Your Begonia will only need to be repotted once it has become pot-bound and is not producing any new growth. It is best to use a well-draining moisture-retentive potting mix that contains some perlite and vermiculite. Approximately a 60% Potting mix and 40% split of perlite and vermiculite. When repotting avoid disturbing the roots, with Begonia it is best to choose a pot 3cm larger than the previous pot and to transfer without removing the old medium (unless diseased or root rot has set in) and fill with fresh potting mix.
- Propagation: There are a few ways to propagating Begonia, if it is a rhizome variety, you can split the plant by gentle separating rhizomes out and repotting. Other easy options are to use leaf and stem cuttings. Choose a few healthy big leaves and remove them from your plant with a sterile cutting implement making sure to leave at least 1.5cm of stem on each. Press into a well-draining moist potting mix ( same as for repotting) and slip into a plastic bag. Place in a bright warm spot. Periodically mist the soil to keep the potting mix moist but avoid keeping it soggy, and your cuttings will be ready to remove from the bag once new growth has formed.
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