Begonia Maculata, also known as Polka Dot Begonia, is a glamorous species of the Begoniaceae family. It has exquisite olive-green colored leaves that resemble bat’s wings. These leaves are beautifully splotched by silver-white dots. The leaves have crimson-colored undersides. The beauty of this plant is increased tenfolds when gorgeous whitish-pink flowers bloom in its foliage in late winter and spring. This breathtaking species is grown as an ornamental houseplant throughout the world. Let’s learn more about its appealing features and care tips.
- Polka Dot Begonia
- Trout Begonia
- Dotted Begonia
- Begonia Maculata Wightii
- Order: Cucurbitales
- Family: Begoniaceae
- Genus: Begonia
About the Genus Begonia
Begonia is one of the largest genera of flowering plants. Almost 1800 species have been included in this genus. Most of these species are epiphytes, while others are terrestrial plants. These species are famous as ornamental plants, and they are widely grown as houseplants throughout the world. These species are native to South and Central America, Africa, and many parts of Asia.
Origin and Distribution
An Italian researcher first discovered this mesmerizing species of the Begoniaceae family in the rainforests of Brazil in 1982. This species is native to Southern and Central America, South Africa, Mexico, and Asia. It is grown as indoor plants in subtropical and tropical regions.
Begonia Maculata Features
Foliage and Stem
The leaves of this plant are the real beauty and eye-catchers. The leaves are olive green in color. These leaves grow in pairs, and they look like bat’s wings on branches. These have red undersides. Each leaf has numerous white dots on it, which contrast with the olive-green background. Each leaf is 20 cm long.
Begonia Maculata flowers bloom on this plant from spring to fall to late winter. These flowers are pale pink and have yellow centers. These flowers grow in clusters on the numerous branches of the Begonia plant.
It is an evergreen tropical plant that stays fresh and green throughout the year. It does not shed all of its leaves at once in autumn. Instead, it loses its leaves one by one with time. This only happens when a leaf is old and dry enough.
This plant attains a maximum height of 1.5 meters. This medium-sized plant looks great in every corner of a home. You can maintain or decrease its height by pruning it. Keep reading the article to learn some amazing pruning tips for this Polka Dot Begonia.
Temperature extremes are not loved by this plant. It loves warmer surroundings. As soon as the temperature starts to drop, this plant starts to move closer to death. Never let the temperature fall below 15°C because this plant cannot survive below this temperature. It is not frost-hardy either. If you live in colder climates, you cannot grow this plant outdoors; you will have to grow it in a greenhouse or terrarium.
This plant cannot tolerate low levels of humidity. It is habitual of living in a rainforest where the humidity levels are way higher. This is why it wants its owner to mimic the surroundings in its new home just like its natural home. The least level of humidity that it can survive is 45%. If the moisture level falls below this, this plant starts to lose its pretty colors.
This gorgeo is a drought-resistant plant. Its roots, stems, and leaves have to ability to retain water. So, if you forget to water it and go on a long vacation, do not worry about it. This plant can live on its own by using its stored water. You will return to a healthy, surviving (a little dull) but a healthy surviving plant.
You are going to love this characteristic of Dotted Begonia! It is a fast-grower. Yay! It reaches its maximum height in no time; new blooms and leaves keep growing all the time. It stays in its active growth period throughout spring and for most of the summer. In winters, it continues to bloom still. This is why it is loved by the gardeners.
The USDA plant hardiness growth zones recommended for this plant are 10b to 11.
This plant happens to be toxic to humans and animals. It is sad to say, but you cannot leave your toddlers or pets in a room alone with this plant. The roots of this plant are quite poisonous, while ingestion of the leaves can cause oral irritation.
This lovely plant is quite durable. It can also withstand a fair amount of neglect and negligence. You can grow this plant inside your home, and it will stay with you for quite years. So if you are planning for buying a plant for long-term gardening, Begonia Maculata would be a great choice.
This Dotted Begonia is a fairly low-maintenance plant. One could never imagine that such an exotic-looking plant would be so easy to grow. It does not matter you have ever grown a plant or not; you do not want any specific practice in growing plants to grow this beautiful one. If you know the basics, go for it. This plant will never ask you to be on your toes to care for it and give it attention all the time. This gorgeo will grow pretty much on its own.
Another amazing feature of this beautiful Begonia Maculata Wightii is that it does not go dormant, even in winters. Although it does slow down its growth rate as the temperature and light levels decrease in cooler months. But it does not go into hibernation.
This lovely plant has been hybridized and cultivated many times. Begonia Maculata is known to have 10 enchanting varieties. These are
- Cane Begonia ‘Maculata wightii’
- Cane Begonia ‘Albo-picta – rosea’
- Cane Begonia Maculata hybrid
- Cane Begonia ‘Aya’
- Cane Begonia ‘Albo-picta’
- Cane Begonia Sinbad
- Cane Begonia ‘Torch’
- Cane Begonia Hybrid ‘ Mrs. Hashimoto X Maculata wightii
- Cane Begonia Lucerna
- Cane Begonia ‘Coccinea’
Begonia Maculata Care
Begonia Maculata care involves watering it three times a week. It needs to be grown in slightly acidic soil, having a pH around 6.0-7.0. The optimum temperature for its proper growth is 18-30°C. It prefers to be grown in bright, indirect sunlight.
The exotic Begonia Maculata prefers to stay wet but not too moist. It must be allowed to dry a little between waterings. Check the dampness of the soil by inserting your finger in it. If the top half-inch of the soil is dry, water the plant; otherwise, let it be.
In summers, when the days are hotter, its soil gets dry fast. You must water it about thrice a week. In winters, its soil takes more time to dry. This is why you must cut down its watering. Never overwater this plant. It is more susceptible to root rot. If you allow it to dry between waterings, it will be safe from many fungal diseases and pests like gnats.
Another thing that you should keep in mind while watering is never water directly on its leaves. Its leaves do not prefer to be kept moist. Always pour the water into its soil only.
Begonia Maculata prefers partly acidic soil. The pH of its soil must be kept around 6.0-7.0. You can add a small amount of sphagnum peat to acidify the soil. As for the potting mix, you can use well-draining, organic soil for this plant. You can either get a regular potting mix from the nearest store or make a potting mix on your own.
Add a little sand, clay, and loamy soil to the potting mix to make it more draining. Good drainage ensures the plant does not sit in standing water. With good draining soil, your plant will be free of root rot. You can also add a layer of pebbles to its soil to increase drainage.
Add one part perlite and one part wood chips to the soil. These two ingredients increase soil’s aeration. Better aeration ensures the healthy growth of the roots. Do not add vermiculite instead of perlite. This is because vermiculite holds moisture, which is not good for Polka Dot Begonia.
Correct light exposure is an important part of Polka Dot Begonia’s indoor care. This plant grows best in bright, indirect sunlight. You can place it near a window to provide Begonia Maculata with the correct light exposure. But make sure to cover the window with blinds if you’re going to place it way too near the window because direct sunlight can scorch its leaves.
If you live in the southern part of the world, you will have to grow this Begonia in a shaded corner of your room. Because in the southern zones, the direct sun rays are way hotter than other parts.
If you live in a cold climate, you can grow this plant near a south-facing window. In a south-facing window, this plant will not only receive the morning and evening sunlight, but it will also be safe from the scorching afternoon sun.
In case your plant is not getting the necessary light exposure, it will tell you through some signs. If its leave starts to turn yellow, then turn brown and then start to shed, it means the plant is not getting enough light exposure. Burnt leaves of this plant mean it is getting more light than necessary. You will have to move the plant according to the signs, so to pay notice to any.
Begonia Maculata is a tropical plant that stays happy in warmer temperatures. You will not have to regulate the temperature of your rooms much for this plant, as it stays happy in the same temperature range as we normally live. It prefers a temperature between 18°C (65°F) and 30°C (86°F). This is the average room temperature of houses.
If you live in a colder climate, but you want to grow this Begonia Wightii inside your home, you can try growing it in a greenhouse or terrarium. Home temperatures are way colder for this lovely species. This is why you will have to make special arrangements for it. In a greenhouse or terrarium, the temperature stays warmer and will be warm enough to grow a healthy Begonia plant.
The Dotted Begonia plant is native to the rainforests of Brazil, where it grows on the forest floor under the canopy of trees. With trees everywhere, the humidity levels are quite high. This is why this lovely Begonia Maculata prefers highly humid surroundings when grown indoors. It needs 70% humidity in the day and about 90% humidity at night.
Our houses are roughly at 10% humidity. It is pretty low than the needs of Polka Dot Begonia. You have to regulate it for the plant. You can do so in a number of ways. Misting is not a way here because misting the plant will mean wet leaves that Begonia Maculata does not appreciate much. You can place a saucer of water near this plant. Whenever water will evaporate, it will increase the humidity. You can also grow this plant in a terrarium, where the humidity always stays high.
This beautiful species needs to be fertilized to promote blooms and healthy growth. Once every two weeks, you should add an appropriate fertilizer to its soil to replenish the necessary nutrients in its soil. It needs the macronutrients for proper growth, such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium.
You can use a water-soluble fertilizer to feed this plant. But, never use the recommended quantity as mentioned on the package. The recommended quantity is way too much than the plant’s needs. Also, dilute the fertilizer before adding it to the soil. If the package says to add one cup of water to dilute the solution, use two cups.
Another tip for Polka Dot Begonia care is to water the plant before fertilizing it. You will burn the roots if you add the fertilizer to its dry soil. Never over-fertilize the plant. It will do more harm than good. So how will you know if you are over-feeding your plant? Brown tips and brown edges of the leaves of this plant indicate that it is being over-fed.
Grooming and Pruning
Dotted Begonia needs pruning twice a year. Normally, it grows straight and has fewer branches. But if you want to give your Begonia a fuller and bushy look, you have to prune it. Removing the tips of the stems enables more branches. This is because the tips of its stem have a certain hormone that suppresses branching. When you cut those tips, with no hormone to suppress branching, the plant grows more branches outwards.
You can try pinching the plant to grow more stems and leaves. Gently pinch the stem just above a leaf, and two new stems will emerge from that point. The best time to prune this plant is spring and summer. You can also prune your plant in late winters when its growth has slowed down to cut back its size. Another important thing to keep in mind is to always sterilize the shears before going for pruning. This practice will keep your lovely Begonia safe from any infectious diseases.
Begonia Wightii likes to stay root-bound. You have to re-pot it only once a year. It is best if you re-pot it at the beginning of spring. This is because spring is a month of active growth. If you re-pot the plant in spring, it will come out of stress quickly and start growing again.
You must change the soil of your plant every time you re-pot it. This replenishes the nutrients of the soil. Also, add a little fertilizer too at the time of re-potting to keep it going. When you move it to a new pot, do not use a much bigger pot. The bigger the pot, the more time it will take to adjust to its new home.
Propagation of Begonia Maculata is as easy as a cake. You can increase your collection of this plant by propagating it through different methods. Propagating it through Begonia Maculata seeds is one the easiest ones. Other methods are by putting its stem cuttings in water directly into the soil. The best time to propagate a Dotted Begonia is in mid-winter. This is because, during these days, it is not blooming at all.
- Water Propagation: This does not require much effort. All you have to do is take a stem cutting with no flowers or leaves on it and place this cutting in a jar of water. This jar of water must be small in size. The stem cutting releases hormones itself, which help it grow at a faster rate. After a few days, new roots and shoots will form. You can then remove the cutting from the jar and plant it into the soil.
- Soil Propagation: You will have to prepare a separate pot for this method. Take a jar and fill it with potting mix. Dig a small hole in the center by poking a chopstick or pencil in it. Take the stem cutting and place it in powdered root hormone. After that, move it to the new pot. Keep watering the cutting. It will grow new roots and shoot in just some weeks.
Diseases and Pests
This plant can be protected from diseases and pests if you take a few precautions, such as always sterilizing the tool and never keeping its leaves moist. However, if you have a bit of bad luck, your plant can still catch some problems even with all the care and preventions.
This disease is most common among this species. This plant catches this disease if the humidity is way too high (high humidity is necessary evil here). If this plant catches this disease, it shows symptoms through the appearance of white, powdery circular spots on its foliage. These symptoms continue to spread on all of the plant’s body. You will have to remove the infected parts to prevent this plant from dying. Also, use a fungicide to eradicate this disease.
It is also a fungal disease. It affects the plant when there is poor air circulation around it. The symptoms appear in the form of brown splotches on the leaves. These splotches appear on the bottom leaves first, which are near the soil. These then spread to the upper ones. Here, again, fungicide will help you get rid of this disease. Also, sterilize the plant with methylated spirit and prune the affected parts.
Bacterial Leaf Spot
This disease is due to (as the name suggests) bacterial infection. The symptoms are pimple-like spots on the plant’s leaves. You will have to prune the affected leaves as soon as possible to save the other parts from being infected.
In this disease, the stem of the plant turns black and puffy. This disease must be prevented from the start. You can prevent it by correctly watering the plant and by maintaining well-draining soil.
Pythium Root Rot
This disease affects the stem as well as the roots. The roots turn yellow, and the lower stem turns black if the plant catches this disease. You must discard the infected plant immediately to save your other plants from getting this disease, as this disease is highly contagious.
Mealybugs and Whiteflies
Unfortunately, you cannot get rid of these pests by applying pesticides because there is a chance you will kill beneficial bugs alongside these. There is another trick that you can apply to keep these sap-sucking pests at bay. Take a cotton ball and dip it in neem oil or insecticidal soap. Rub the whole plant’s foliage with this cotton ball. It will draw the pests away.