Begonia Care: Beginner’s Plant Guide + 4 Common Problems to Avoid

When looking at exotic foliage plants, the Begonia rex ranks at the top of the list; the upper sides of its leaves can have a variety of color combinations, while the undersides are primarily reddish brown. Although fully grown plants may occasionally form clusters of solitary pink flowers, the rex-type begonias are mainly grown for their leaves. 

The leaves can be used as part of vibrant flower arrangements because they retain their health for a reasonable time after being cut from the plant.

Always search for a clean, undamaged plant when purchasing a begonia, regardless of the variety—floral, cane (with their woody, trailing stems), or foliage—and make sure there are no signs of pests. 

Now, let’s go over proper begonia care so your plant will stay alive and healthy (remember to read the four problems to avoid)!

Varieties

Begonias come in a wide range of creeping, and climbing varieties, and almost all of them have attractive foliage and vibrant, long-lasting flowers. While some can reach heights of 6 to 8 feet (2 to 2.5 meters), others are shrubby or trailing plants.

Few plants can yield flowers as stunning as the tuberous or cane-type begonias when cultivated as pot plants, provided they receive the correct care. Unfortunately, the greatest of these is almost always produced from tubers, and branded, high-quality cultivars can be pretty pricey. 

Early in the spring, tubers are given the green light to begin growing in wet peat-filled boxes at a temperature of about 65°F (18°C).

Young plants are moved to 5-in (12.5-cm) pots filled with a peaty mixture when clusters on the stems and a few leaves have appeared. When well-rooted, more robust plants can be advanced to pots with a diameter of 7 in (18 cm).

Begonia rex

begonia rex plants ready for planting

Rex begonias have beautiful leaf varieties that come in far too many variations to list them all.

rex begonia amazing leaf pattern
Amazing leaf patterns
Painted leaf rex begonias in pots

B. haageana

This is a cane variety with hairy brownish leaves and delicate pink blossoms. The plants are simple to take care of, growing quite bushy and as tall as 6 feet (2 m).

B. ‘President Carnot’

Large clusters of pink flowers are produced together with brownish-green foliage. It can reach 6 to 8 feet tall (2–2.5 m).

B. maculata

Under the right circumstances, this cultivar grows extremely quickly and has distinctive leaves with green and white spots and a crimson underside. Pinch out the growing tips in the middle of the summer to prevent them from becoming leggy, and they will become bushier.

Rieger / Schwabenland

A more recent variety of begonia is also known as Rieger or Schwabenland. It came from Europe, as the names imply. They mainly were red at first, with single blooms, but now come in various hues, with both single and double flowers. 

Numerous branching stems with flower clusters provide an exceptional variety of colors because the foliage is glossy green and highly dense.

In addition, they make excellent indoor plants because they bloom all year round, although the winter months see fewer flowers.

begonia semperflorens plant
Begonia semperflorens

Begonia Julau

The begonia julau variety is extremely rare. It features pink spots on its leaves and has a shape similar to a butterfly.

Begonia Care Tips & Ideal Conditions

Light & Location (Avoid Too Much Direct Sun)

Begonias with fibrous roots and rhizomes, which are generally planted for their foliage, need bright filtered light but not direct full sun. As these plants prefer partial shade. 

An ideal location is on the east side of a home where the plant can get some morning sun, afternoon shade, and in the evening full shade.

All year long, cane begonias require bright, indirect light with part shade.

Water Needs

Dry air is not suitable to grow begonias. The plants should be constantly misted with water if they are in hanging baskets. They can also be stood in their pots on moist pebbles. When the plant is actively growing, water moderately and let the top 1 in. of soil dry out. Then, cut back on water as growth slows.

When in doubt, water your begonias less rather than more. Avoiding soggy soil.

Preferred Temperature Ranges

Begonias with fibrous roots, rhizomatous roots, and tuberous roots (all begonia types) thrive in standard room temperatures of about 59°F (15°C). 

Dormant cane varieties should be stored at 55°F (13°C) in the winter. B. hiemalis rieger should be kept at about 59°F (15°C), B. rex should be kept at 59-70°F (15-21°C), and B. tuberhybrida should be kept at 55-60°F (13-18°C) in normal conditions.

Soil

Begonias grow best in welldrained soil. Although, different begonia varieties may need slightly different conditions.

Use peaty mixtures that retains moisture for B. rex, and keep the plants in containers big enough for new growth. Avoid repotting B. hiemalis rieger into overly big pots, as it is best in combinations without soil. 

Use a soil-based potting mix for cane types.

Fertilizer

Give plants that are actively growing every two weeks a regular liquid fertilizer. Cane varieties should be fed liquids, erring on the side of overfeeding. With each watering, B. hiemalis, B. rex, and B. tuberhybrida should all be fed a diluted mixture of watersouble fertilizer.

Seasonal Care Tips

Wintertime watering needs for B. rex are minimal. To prevent fungus, dead petals and leaves must be removed from cane varieties year-round. Be careful not to overwater B. hiemalis rieger. 

After blooming in the late summer, B. tuberhybrida should have the foliage cut off and the corm preserved in dry peat until early spring in a frost-free location.

Propagating Begonia

For the cane varieties, cuttings are used to grow new plants. These should be taken from the top of the stem, with two or three leaves still in place and no flowers. A temperature of about 70°F (21°C) and a mixture of peat and sand are required.

There are two ways for propagating begonias using leaf cuttings so they can be grown into foliage begonias. The simplest and easiest method is to take a firm, spotless leaf and use a razor, scalpel, or sharp knife to make multiple cuts in the veins on the back of the leaf. 

The leaf should then be positioned on the plain side down on a bed of moist peat and sand in a shallow box or pan, and a few small pebbles should be placed on the leaf to secure it in place. The knife cuttings will sprout new plants.

The other approach entails slicing the mature leaf into postage stamp-sized pieces and spacing them out on a similar bed of peat and sand, about one inch (2.5 cm) apart. 

From then on, the atmosphere must be moist but not overly saturated, and the temperature must not drop below 70°F (21°C).

4 Common Problems to Avoid

The Begonia plant is relatively simple and low maintenance, but there are some things to keep in mind. Beware fungal attacks on cane begonias because of their thick, sappy stems. Also, keep an eye on their ventilation and temperature needs.

1.) Mildew

Poor ventilation can lead to the growth of white, fuzzy mildew. Although unsightly, the mildew is not harmful; in severe cases, remove damaged plant portions and increase ventilation.

2.) Overwatering

The leaves will wilt and turn brown if there is too much water and it is too cold. Overwatering can also cause root rot.

3.) Leaf Discoloration

Check your feeding schedules if flower petals prematurely wilt and leaf tips turn yellow or brown. Since they are vigorous growers, begonias require frequent feeding and watering during the growing season.

4.) Botrytis

This particular fungus harms plants kept in cold, wet environments. Move the plant to a warmer location, remove and kill any infected leaves, and treat with a fungicide if necessary.

Avoiding these items will help make growing begonias a breeze. No need to stress about plant care.