Begonia maculata is a species of flowering plant in the begonia family, Begoniaceae, native to the tropical Americas.
It's also known as Polka dot Begonia due to large, vibrant dots on its broad leaves. The upfront of leave is green with dots and has red undersides.
It produces clusters of flowers with a red throat and yellow petals that look beautiful indoor houseplant.
There is no doubt that it's one of the most popular ornamental indoor plants for gardeners.
It's an easy plant to grow that looks great in containers, hanging baskets, or in the garden. The plant has glossy, dark green leaves with a red blush that are smooth and leathery.
Growing and caring for maculata plant is a beautiful challenge for anyone who loves gardening.
Before you start growing begonia maculata, you must make sure you have picked the right place for your plant.
Whether you want to plant polka dots Begonia indoor or you're interested in growing outdoor, this guide will help you get started.
What are varieties of begonia maculata?
Begonia maculata is from the Begoniaceae family, which is a very diverse genus of a flowering plant.
More than 1,400 different varieties in this family are native to tropical and subtropical areas of South Africa and Central America, such as Mexico and Brazil.
Here are some popular Begonia varieties:
Angel Wing Begonia (Begonia coccinea)
Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis)
Bolivian Begonia “Bonfire” (Begonia boliviensis)
Dragon Wing Red Begonia
Elatior Begonia (Begonia hiemalis)
Hybrid Tuberous Begonia
Bulbs, Tropical Perennial
Begonia maculatas is also known by other names such as Spotted Begonia, Begonia Maculata Widgtii, and Trout Begonia.
What is the best time to plant begonias?
The best time to plant begonias is during late spring. Begonias don't like frigid temperatures, and in late spring, the ground is warm enough for it to start propagating.
You can start early planting if you live in a warm climate area. But if you're in a colder climate zone (USDA zones 3 - 7), make sure you plant it when the risk of frost has passed.
Some begonia varieties such as Tuberous Begonia are planted as annuals for the flower, usually blooms from midsummer to fall.
Plant growing summary:
well-draining soil with perlite
2–3 times a week to keep the soil moist
Bright indirect light (6 - 8 hours a day)
65 °F and 86 °F (16° C - 30 °C)
50% diluted liquid fertilizer, Plant food for bloom
Stem cutting, leaf-cutting, and through seeds
10 - 11
How to propagate begonia maculata
There are three ways you can propagate Begonia, leaf/stem cuttings, tubers, and seed propagation.
Propagating Begonia through begonia tubers
Step 1: You can order polka dot begonia tubers from garden plant suppliers to get started.
After you've received the tubers package, remove it from the bag and prepare the ground where you want to plant.
Step 2: Gently loosen the soil and dig a shallow hole around 1″ deep. Place the tubers in the hole and cover the ground with loose soil.
If you're planting it in a container, use a moist potting mix filled in individual pots. Mix 20% organic compost to provide necessary nutrients to the plant.
Step 3: Lightly moisten the soil but hold off watering the plant until you see the first sprouts emerge.
These sprouts will appear in 2 - 4 weeks and keep the top half-inch of soil dry between each watering schedule.
If you're planting multiple tubers, keep the evenly spaced around 3 or 4 inches apart.
You can also propagate Begonia through seeds, but it usually takes a long to start the propagation.
Propagating Begonia through Leaf-cutting
Step 1: Leaf-cutting is an easy way to get started with the new Begonia. You need to choose a few fresh leaves from the plant.
Cut the leaf with around 1 or 2 inches long petiole using sterilized trimming scissors. The petiole is the part of the stalk that joins the leaf to the stem.
Step 2: use a small glass or plastic container and fill it with one-inch-deep potting soil.
Place the leave on dirt with the red bottom part of the leave facing downward and the green part upward.
Step 3: Lightly moisten the soil with water and growth hormone and place the leave on top of it.
You can set the container in the plastic bag to maintain humid growth conditions.
Step 4: In 2 - 3 weeks, you will see the roots starting to grow from the petiole, and the plant is ready to move to a new pot.
Propagating Begonia through stem cutting
Step 1: Cut a single stem a few inches below the node to prepare rhizomes that you can grow under the soil.
You can identify nodes as solid joint lines below the branch.
Step 2: For the best chance of growing, take the stem cutting of at least two nodes.
If the plant has too many leaves, remove some while leaving two or three leaves on the stem.
If you went too many leaves on the stem, lots of plant energy would get wasted maintaining those leaves.
Step 3: Dip the cutting into the rooting hormone to expedite the growth.
Bring a clear jar of water with a narrow neck to allow the stem bottom to be immersed in water.
If you're using home water, we recommend that you boil and cool water to remove chlorine and other chemicals added to in-home water.
The other option is to harvest the rainwater using rain barrel and use it to water your plants.
Step 4: Ensure you have at least 2 nodes immersed in water so new roots can begin to grow.
Place the container where it can get bright indirect sunlight. It will start forming roots in about 6 - 7 weeks.
Step 5: You can repot the rooted begonia plant into an indoor or outdoor plant.
You can propagate white polka dots Begonia in a small double cup container. Make a hole in the first container to drain excess water from the soil into the second cup.
How to care for Begonia maculata
Caring for Begonia is straightforward as long as you understand the few maintenance fundamentals and pay attention to the plant's overall health. Here are the right ways to care for begonia maculata.
Begonia grows best in slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH between 6 and 7. An organically rich high moisture soil with a mixture of compost, sand, clay, and perlite gives the plant's best growth environment.
Polka maculata prefers well-drained soil moisture. Many people make the mistake of overwatering their plant that causes root rot.
To retain the moisture inside the soil, you can add 15% perlite to the ground.
Perlite is a styrofoam-like material that helps absorb the moisture and keep the soil light and aerated.
You shouldn't use vermiculite as it oversaturates the soil with water, which polka dot begonia doesn't like.
A fair amount of compost or fertilizer can help amend the soil and provide necessary nutrients for strong growth.
To maintain a healthy growing environment, keep the ground in a pot that has holes inside it. The holes prevent the soil from getting soggy that harms the plant.
The watering schedule for Begonia depends on the overall condition of the soil. The soil should be damp but not overly wet to limit the risk of creating root rot.
The watering frequency depends on the area you live in. In a hot and dry climate condition, you have to water it once or twice a week.
You can check the soil if it needs water by pressing your finger a few inches in the ground and check if it's dry. Only water if the soil is dry.
When you're ready to water the plant, water it directly near the roots at the bottom of the plant.
Don't get its leaves and stem to get wet. Moisture on the leaves causes the risk of generating fungus on it.
You can also fill a water tray and place it below the container. The container's dry soil soaks up the water from the planter hole and gets the soil moist.
In this way, the ground itself takes the required water without getting the risk of overwatering.
As a rule of thumb, check the soil every 2 - 3 days and only water if the topsoil looks dry. Dry topsoil prevents fungus and pest growth.
You should aim to not let the soil get too dry or too moist. When you're watering the plant, do a deep watering, so the excess water drains from the container's bottom hole.
Caution: After watering, wait till the water has drained before putting the plant back into a sunny location.
Should you mist Begonia maculata?
Begonia maculata isn't required to be mist. It needs moist soil that you can create by watering it near the roots.
If you want to mist, do it lightly, so the leaves aren't dripping with water.
Remember, the excess moisture on the leaves increases the risk of generating fungus that causes the leaves to turn yellow and brown.
Do begonias need lots of water?
Begonias don't need lots of water. They like the moist soil that you can maintain by watering it when it needs.
Begonia is a tropical plant, and you should allow the soil to dry one inch down in small pots and two inches down from the surface of the large pot.
If you're placing Begonia where it gets excess sunlight, you should water it in the early morning to prevent leaf scorch.
Begonia benefits from regular fertilization as it encourages flowering and keeps leaves healthy. You can fertilize it every two to three weeks with a half dose of water-soluble fertilizer to boost the growth.
You can increase the fertilization schedule during the summer and flowering period with balanced NPK fertilizer but cut back during the dormant period of all and winter.
Make sure you don't over-fertilize; otherwise, the leaf tips start to turn brown. Diluting it to 50% concentration is sufficient to provide the required nutrients to the plant.
You should also flush the soil every 3 - 4 months to remove the soil and mineral buildup that hampers the plant growth.
The easiest way to fertilize begonia maculata is to add the water-soluble fertilizer in the watering can so the plant gets fertilized while you water it.
Begonia maculata grows in USDA zones of 10 and 11. The temperature range between the 65 °F and 86 °F (16° C - 30 °C) is optimal for growing begonia polka dot.
It likes mildly warm temperature, so if you're planting it outdoor in a container, bring it inside when the temperature falls below 60 °F (15.5 °C).
Also, place it at a location where the temperature doesn't fluctuate much, and the plant gets adequate warmth.
If you're using the indoor heater, keep it away from the direct heat exposure that could wilt leaves or cause some other trouble.
As begonias are tropical plants, they love growing in a humid environment.
You should place it where it can get at least a 45% humidity level. For most people, placing it around the kitchen or bathroom is ideal for providing it with the required humidity.
But if you have an overly dry room, you can also use a room humidifier, such as Levoit Ultrasonic Humidifier, to supplement the moisture level inside the house.
If you don't want a humidifier, you can use a wide pot size humidifying water tray. Place small pebbles in a shallow tray and place them underneath the pot.
It provides natural moisture as water evaporates, gradually providing the necessary humidity to leaves.
You should ensure that water doesn't get inside the pot. Otherwise, you risk rotting root.
Begonia maculata prefers partial sunlight. If you're placing it around windows, ensure that it's not getting exposed to direct sunlight.
You shouldn't place it in a corner where it won't get enough sunlight either. It's a tropical plant that grows under the shade of large trees.
You should mimic the same environment to encourage it to grow healthy.
If you're growing it in a basement or area where you can't provide it with 6–8 hours of partial sunlight, you can grow it under growth light.
When setting up growing light, make sure the bulb doesn't touch leaves and keep it 2 - 3 inches above the plant.
The best spot to place Begonia indoor is at the east or west-facing wall. The sunlight impacts how bright the spotted green leaves will appear.
Too much light causes the leaves to get scorched and lose their vibrancy. Too little light causes the leaves to fade color and wilt.
Can Begonias Be in Direct Sunlight?
No, begonias shouldn't be placed in partial sunlight. It causes the leaves to scorch or generate brown, perched leave tips, especially for begonia maculata wightii plants.
You can prune the begonia polka dot plant twice a year to keep the plant's nice trimmed appearance.
If you don't prune, the canes become sparse and leggy as they tend to grow upward rather than sideways. You can also pinch out the tips to stimulate denser growth.
So, when should you prune Begonia?
The best time to prune Begonia is during late winter to early fall, helping with the new summer growth.
You should always prune old woody canes, especially those that don't have many healthy leaves or leaves with brown tips, to maintain a good appearance.
For any overgrown stem, you can prune it but don't over prune. Always have a couple of leaves left on the branch to continue to support the plant.
The pinching is less invasive to the plant growth you can do during the active growing season of spring and summer.
Use your thumb or finger to remove the small branch from the main stem, which encourages multiple branches and gives a denser appearance to the Begonia.
If you want to grow a taller begonia variety, such as cane begonias, which has angled wing leaves growing on long stems, you can provide additional support by staking.
You can use slim stakes and soft ties to hold the plant. You should install the stake so it's in the opposite direction of where the plant leans.
Tie it away from flower leaves and stems to prevent any damage to plants.
You can pinch about a quarter an inch from the top to stimulate the growth of begonia maculata.
How do you keep begonias blooming all summer?
Begonias bloom with white flowers and cheery yellow centers on a stem from spring to late summer.
These are short-lived flowers, but a new batch of flowers keeps popping up with some Begonia bloom pink flowers.
You can use flowering plant foods to encourage new and healthier blooms. The best is to use the diluted liquid plant fertilizer every two weeks.
This supports the generation of more giant leaves and lovely flowers.
You can prune any old and wilted flowers. It encourages new flowers to bloom again.
You must provide a proper environment for the plant to bloom. Sunlight, water, and fertilizer are an essential part of keeping begonias bloom all summer long.
Place the plant where it gets 6 - 8 hours of partial sunlight. If you're placing it near the window, put it east or west-facing windows where it can get shaded sunlight. Use a shade if you see it getting exposed to direct sunlight.
The older begonia flowers fall off themselves after bloom, and you don't need to deadhead them.
But if you don't want to wait, you can always trim old worn-out flowers to stimulate new growth.
Fact: Begonia flowers are monoecious, which means it has unisexual male and female flowers.
Common Plant Problems and Solutions
Why won't my angel wing begonias bloom?
A flowering angel wing begonia requires more nutrients to bloom during spring and autumn.
If the soil lacks the essential nutrients, the plant will conserve energy and focus on diverting nutrients to foliage and leaves rather than flowers.
You can use blooming plant food such as Jacks Classic Blossom Booster that contains essential NPK fertilization to help with the bloom.
Why are my begonia leaves turning yellow and falling off?
The likely reason for Begonia leaves to turn yellow and fall off is due to overwatering and low-light conditions.
You should check the pot to make sure it has a drainage hole to allow excess water to pass. Place the plant to get sufficient indirect sunlight for 6 - 8 hours a day.
The humidity is another factor that impacts the plant's leaves. Ensure there is sufficient humidity inside the home and proper air circulation around it.
You can also fertilize it lightly, so the plant gets all the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Look underside of plant leaves for any sign of powdery mildew pests and treat them right away.
Is Begonia maculata Toxic to pets and humans?
Begonia is toxic to pets and humans. As per recommendation from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), animals consuming Begonia may cause serious health effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive drooling.
You should consult a veterinarian if you see a pet experience such symptoms.
Where to buy Begonia maculata?
You can buy Begonia from your local garden center or order it online from several retailers such as Amazon.
If you're buying it locally, check the overall condition of the plant. Pay attention to the soil condition and make sure it's lightweight and well aerated.
Also, choose a plant that has several healthy leaves with well-defined spots. If possible, look at the plant roots and check there is no root rot or fungus.
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