The Ultimate Care Guide for the Begonia Maculata

The Ultimate Care Guide for the Begonia Maculata

The begonia maculata plant is such a beautiful and unique plant. The first time I saw one of these I honestly thought someone had literally painted silver polka dots on the leaves as a decoration. I soon realized this was not paint and this was the unique natural look. I created this care guide for the begonia maculata to help you grow these beauties with ease!

What does the begonia maculata look like?

The begonia maculata can also be referred to as the angel wing begonia because it has beautiful long leaves, that are slightly thin and shaped similar to that of angels wings, wide at the top and tapering down to a point at the bottom. It is also a part of the cane begonia family which all have the distinctive angel wing shaped leaves. Another unique factor about this plant is the leaves have red undersides which just adds another wow factor to this already beautiful plant. 

As with all plants, two begonia maculates can look different depending on how they’ve been cared for. A well cared for plant will be tall, bushy and eventually produce beautiful little white flowers but some also produce pink flowers or just pink tinted flowers. Each stem produces multiple leaves if given ideal care which makes it look full and lush. Overall the begonia maculata is an average plant to care for. It does not require overly specialized care or environments but is also not a plant of steel that can survive anything thrown it’s way.

Where did the begonia maculata plant originate from?

The begonia maculata plant is originally from the South American country of Brazil. They grow naturally in the rainforest, receiving lots of rain, indirect sunlight and fertile soil.

How big does the begonia maculata plant grow?

The begonia maculata can range in size from 6 inches to upwards of 10 feet tall with proper care. As with most houseplants the begonia maculata will grow to meet its environment, meaning if its in a small plant it will remain relatively small and if its in a larger pot it will continue to grow and expand if given the proper care. 

Most people grow their begonia maculates to around 24 inches or 2 feet all. On average you’ll need an approximately 10 inch pot to grow your begonia to a healthy 24 inches.

How much water does the begonia maculata plant need?

The begonia maculata needs to be watered approximately once a week. It is recommended to let the top 1-1.5 inches of soil dry out before watering it again. For me this is typically every 5-7 days I am giving this begonia maculata about a 2 cups of water. Since this polka dot beauty comes from the rainforest it’s safe to say it likes water but that doesn’t mean it does well with overly wet soil. Watering this plant will be a lot like your other houseplants which means you’ll have to figure out what works best for it.

So will your begonia maculata need this length of time and amount of water too? Unfortunately no, you really do have to figure out what your plant needs which I know is a really annoying answer but I promise the best one. My plant could be smaller than yours, in a hotter climate, I could have different potting soil that retains moisture better than yours as well. It really is hard to give a straight this many cups for this many days answer because of how different our plants are. 

I can tell you what I do but again unless you live where I live, use the soil I do and your plant is the same size, in the same size pot as mine, then it might not work perfectly for you. So teaching you how to identify when your plant needs water and how much is a better method, I promise! So go by 1-1.5 inches of top soil drying out before watering it again. You may need to test it every other day to make sure it doesn’t go from a little wet to complete dried out.

I personally like to use a little tracker that gives me data (yes kinda nerdy but what can I say) on each of my plants which then allows me to create a more consistent watering system for each plant. If you want to grab what I use I made it myself (yes again nerdy I know) and you can get it right here! Its pretty self explanatory in terms of tracking and after just a few short months of use you’ll probably not need to use it as much since you’ll have a good idea of what that plant needs.

Do I need to use distilled water?

No you do not need to use distilled water for your begonia maculata. I do not personally use distilled water but I do use my fridge filtered water instead. This can be another annoying answer in that it really depends on your water. 

I recommend using the water you have available and if you’re not having an issues with your begonia maculata then you have your answer. If you are following all the recommendations and running into some common problems like browning leaves, dropping leaves, overall bad growth then it might be worth looking at your water to see if its a problem. 

If you live in an area with very hard or very soft water then distilled water might be the best option. It also could be a good option if your tap water is heavy chlorinated as that can cause issues with plants. The begonia maculata can do well with regular tap water and I would first try using your regular tap water before running out and purchasing distilled. 

It is unlikely that whatever water you have in your home will instantly kill your plant but it is something to keep an eye on if you start developing problems but are unsure of the cause.

What soil should I use for the begonia maculata?

The begonia maculata, like many other houseplants, does well with a light potting mixture soil that has amendments to help it retain moisture. You may think whatever soil you have is fine but I promise you want something designed to drain water easily and quickly or you’ll end up with soggy soil that leads to root rot, among other problems. 

Really any indoor potting mix should be good and provide a lightweight, well draining soil for your plants. I personally really like the burpee organic potting mix because it uses coconut coir as its amendment which is earth friendly, and great for water retention and drainage.

How much light does the begonia maculata plant need?

The begonia maculata plant will flourish with bright indirect sunlight, like it would receive in its natural habitat, the rainforest! However the begonia maculata will tolerate varying light conditions so you can experiment with different areas of your home that work best for you. 

Direct sunlight will almost always be to harsh for the begonia and potentially cause damage to the beautiful leaves. It is possible that you also place it where there is not enough light which will cause it to slowly start declining in appearance and health. It will need some kind of light to survive but could do ok on indirect sunlight vs. bright indirect light.

What kind of fertilizer does the begonia maculata plant need?

The Begonia Maculata needs a balanced fertilizer like a 10-10-10 to keep it health, growing and producing it’s beautiful flowers. Begonia Maculata plants are pretty heavy feeders and require more fertilizer than typical houseplants. 

It is recommended to feed your plant every 2-4 weeks but for optimal growth and health, 2 weeks is the standard recommendation during the warmer summer months. There are some mixed reviews on the type of fertilizer the begonia maculata needs but what this tells me is that people try different things with their plants and they work! 

A common misconception is that you can pour the powdered fertilizer into the soil and water but that really isn’t the best way to deliver it to your plants. The correct method is to dilute the fertilizer in water, per the directions, and feed your plant with that water. This method allows for even distribution throughout your plant and optimal absorption. 

Be aware that you can over fertilize your plants which will result in leaf burn, leaf dropping and potentially death! So be sure to stick to a consistent feeding schedule and if you’re ever in doubt skip the fertilizer and just do it on the next scheduled feed.

Begonia maculata care does change slightly in the winter months. It is recommended to reduce the amount of times your fertilize in the winter months to not stress the plant because this is a naturally restful time for the plant. Winter months of course differ depending on your location but once it gets consistently cold you can move from fertilizing your begonia maculata every 2 weeks to every 4-6 weeks. 

It is completely natural for this tropical plant to slow growth in the winter and enter a more dormant period until it warms back up.

What kinds of problems does the begonia maculata plant often have?

Powdery Mildew

Begonia plants can develop a host of common issues that are typically directly related to the care and environment. There are a few fungal diseases to look out for with the begonia maculates but the most common on is powdery mildew. 

Powdery mildew can appear on leaves and stems of the plants but is most common on the leaves. It’ll look like a thin white/grey film growing on whatever part of the plant it is spotted on. It will spread naturally all over the plant but wind and water can help it spread faster so be mindful of that. 

The best course of action is to inspect your plants closely every time you feed and remove any leaves/stems that appear to be infected. This will stop the spread but now you need to treat the actual issue that caused the powdery mildew. Start by thinking about the ideal plant needs and what your plant could be lacking. 

Low humidity is a huge risk factor for the begonia maculata since they thrive in a high humidity level environment, hello remember rainforest! 

It could also be a lack of circulation in the air. If you have no indoor AC, no fans and do not frequently open windows, how are you alive? Just kidding but if the air inside your home is fairly stagnant and not often moving then that could be an issue for your plant. Begonia Maculate, like many houseplants, like freshly circulated air whether that be from a fan, breezy window or central heating/air.

Leaf tips browning

This is a common issue with the begonia maculata and typically means one of two things. You are under-watering your plant or you do not have enough humidity around your plant. 

Think about how you are watering your plant and consider upping that amount some. The best bet for your begonia maculata is to water when the top inch of soil has dried out but it should never be dry all the way through the pot, as that is an indication of under-watering. I know this answer can be annoying because people are like just tell me how many days and how much water but it varies so much depending on your plant size, what potting soil you used, the humidity in your home, the temperature in your home, and the composition of your water.

To address the humidity situation in your home the best and easy method is to get yourself a little plant humidifier. This will solve your problem and add humidity into the air for you. I live in an incredibly humid place for the large majority of the year so I don’t have to many humidity issues but I do like to occasionally spray around my plants to up the moisturize level in the air a little bit. 

The next best solution to the low humidity situation in your home is a pebble tray. This is a cute low-cost solution to add humidity to individual plants in your home. It is essentially a tray with rocks or pebbles that you fill with water. You place your plant on the tray and as the water evaporates it releases humidity in the air around your plants. 

The next best method that I mentioned a moment ago would be the spray method which is lower cost but not a long term solution as you have to continue doing it frequently and then to much excess water on the leaves can lead to other issues so the humidifier really is the best solution here. 

I have seen the recommendation to place your plants near each other in the hopes they create a little humid habitat like place in their own area and I don’t know the science behind it or if it works but it would make plant care easier to have them all in one place.

Dropping leaves

Dropping leaves is a another sign that your little polka dot friend is stressed out. This is again typically a result of under-watering. Your plant cannot thrive and produce beautifully if it’s not receiving enough water. 

This can also be a result of not enough fertilization. A plant puts its energy into surviving and if its not receiving food and water then it has to shed any excess items and focus on core survival.

Bacterial Leaf Spot or Blight

So this is a bit more rare that your begonia maculata will develop this but it is possible because it affects all begonias, but again more often the outdoor flower bush variety. 

If you see yellow, tan or brown like spots or lesions on your begonia leaves then it could have the bacterial leaf spot disease or blight which can be fairly serious for your plant. This disease is caused by the xanthamonas campestris pv. begoniae which the University of Illinois discusses in more detail here.

The University of Illinois (UOI) gives some great insight in how to handle this disease so visit the article linked here for detailed information. The basics are to remove any infected parts from your plant, sanitize the shears, scissors or knife used so you don’t spread the disease and water carefully to avoid splashing the infected leaves and again spreading the disease. You’re plant can infect other plants so consider moving it away from others until it is healed. The exact healing time isn’t known but the UOI mentions the disease cycle is at lease 3 months long.

Root Rot

This is a common houseplant problem and one that many people are familiar with. It typically results from overwatering or not having drainage holes in your planter. While the begonia maculata prefers more moist soil that does not mean it should be consistently overly wet. 

Water your soil and let the top 1-1.5 inches dry out before watering again. This is best measured by very official stick and feel method, sticking your finger directly in the soil and determining approximately how much of the soil is still moist.

Pest Problems

Spider mites are the most common pest you’ll potentially encounter with your plant. Spider mites create tiny white webs on the underside of leaves and can typically be easily remedied by wiping them off with a wet cloth. I also like to use neem oil spray on my indoor plants from time to time to support overall health and reduce the likelihood of pest problems.

Thrips are another common pest that can affect your begonia maculata. These require a bit more work to get under control but as you’ll need to really shower your plant down to get them off and then treat consistently with neem oil until they are no longer present. You’ll know you have a thrip problem because your leaves can develop brown blotchy patches and you could see these little light yellow colored insects in the plant.

How can I propagate the begonia maculata plant?

The begonia maculata is very easy to propagate which means you could easily have yourself a bunch of little polka dot babies or gifts for friends and family!

Step 1: Use a clean sharp knife or shear to cut a leaf and stem off. You will want to do these stem cuttings at the point where the cutting meets the main thick stem. You’ll cut only the smaller stem off and not disrupt the main stem of the plant. The best time to do this is in the late winter as the plant is dormant but will soon be kicking into growing gear as the warm temperatures begin to return.

Step 2: Place your stem cutting in a small jar of water to preserve it and give it some time to recover from the cutting. Remember to place it in a bright spot where it will receive bright indirect sunlight.

Step 3: After 1 week move your stem cutting to a small pot with lightweight potting soil. You’ll want to place it at least 1.5 inches into the soil to give the stem a chance to begin to grow roots.

Step 4: Water and fertilize regularly allowing just the top of the soil to dry slightly but not the entire pot.

Step 5: After about 5-7 weeks you can test your new plant but gently pulling on it to see if it remains in the soil. If it does not slide right out then you have successfully propagated your new plant, and it has developed roots.

Step 6: Continue to care for your begonia maculata as recommended in this article and watch it glow new leaves, stems and flourish.

Step 7: Move to a new pot in a a few months as it continues to grow if you want your plant to get larger.

Is the Begonia Maculata Toxic?

Yes, the Begonia Maculata can cause issues for both pets and people if ingested. Be sure to keep out of reach of your children and pets to ensure that you do not have any issues. It is stated the most toxic part is underground but I always recommend airing on the side of caution and protecting your loved ones!

What other information do I need to grow a begonia maculata?

This is truly an intermediate level houseplant to grow. It isn’t the hardest and the information in this article will totally have you growing a beautiful bushy polka dot beauty in no time but also don’t be fooled into thinking this is one you can forget about for a while and it’ll still look like a rock star cause that is not true.

It’s also very possible you struggle to get your begonia maculata to flower. Plants typically flower when they are not just surviving but thriving in their environments.

Where can I buy a begonia maculata?

There are lots of online plant stores. I personally typically shop at two online locations. Etsy is a great to buy from and you can get clippings to propagate, which really reduces the amount you spend. I linked the shop I have personally used to buy plant clippings, they’ve arrived in great condition which is critical for propagating successfully. 

You can also get really great quality plants on Amazon. This is because small businesses open their own little Amazon shops. You get the speed and guarantee that Amazon offers but still get to support small businesses. I linked my favorite shop here because the reviews are great, and their business website is so informative which I love!

Let me know if you already have a Begonia Maculata or if you are planning on grabbing on soon. If you are looking for some great products for your Begonia Maculata be sure to check out my post of indoor plant humidifiers which are loved not just by the Begonia Maculata but plants and people alike! 

If you’re wanting to add some more plant babies to your collection be sure to check out my other guides to determine what ones would be the best fit for you!