How To Care For Spotted Begonia Maculata Indoors

The genus of Begonia includes thousands of different species that are all varied in appearance. One of my favorites in this genus is the spotted Begonia maculata (also known as the Polka Dot Begonia). This beautiful and unique flowering plant can be found in warm climates around the world, but it is also a popular choice as an indoor houseplant. With good reason, isn’t it beautiful?

Begonia maculata in window

Lighting: Bright, indirect light.
Watering: Allow the first inch of soil to dry out between watering. Do not wait too long after this point! This plant does not like to be underwatered.
Soil: Well-draining. Use a chunky mix or a homemade formula of indoor soil with perlite added for drainage. (See recipes below).
Temperature: 65–85°F (18°C to 30°C). Avoid temperatures below 60°F and drafty doorways, windows, and heating units.

The Begonia maculata is a fibrous-rooted cane begonia that is grown for both it’s decorative angel wing foliage, and it’s beautiful flowers. The green bamboo-like stems can grow to be quite tall, requiring you to support the plant with sticks or a trellis or avoid toppling over.

Eventually, you may notice the stems turning browned and hardened (a normal occurrence called lignification). Overall, this Begonia is a lot less finicky than some other varieties. So, if you’re new to houseplants, it’s a fine choice for a “statement piece plant”.

Caring For Begonia Maculata (Video)

Begonia maculata leaves are green and splashed with distinctive silver polka dots, with the underside of the leaves boasting a deep crimson color. The leaves look beautiful when the sunlight is cascading through (see above photo). These houseplants are a true conversation piece, especially when the sun is shining through the leaves and showing off their beauty.

Begonia maculata red leaves underside

Flowers are typically 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide and pale pink in color. While this houseplant may bloom at any time of the year, it is more common during the summer months. Your plant may not bloom at all – and this is okay! The foliage alone is enough reason to keep this beauty as a houseplant.

Spotted foliage of Begonia maculata

Begonia maculata light requirements

As with any houseplant, determining the right spot in the home requires balance and often some trial and error. This houseplant does best in bright, indirect light. Don’t they all? Too much direct sunlight will cause the leaves to scorch or turn pale.

Therefore, an East or West-facing window is a great spot for this plant. In addition, this begonia should also be placed away from drafts. If you notice the tips of the leaves burning or turning brown, you may have placed your plant in too much sunlight, or too close to a radiator or draft.

If your Begonia maculata appears lanky or leggy (large spaces between new leaf growth), you’ll want to provide it with more light.

Adequate sunlight is required if you would like your Begonia maculata to bloom. Again, it is okay if your plant does not bloom. This plant will tolerate lower light conditions, but it will not grow as lush or produce flowers.

Begonia maculata in window

What kind of soil to use for spotted Begonia maculata

Begonia maculata thrives in a well-draining soil. Their roots are very sensitive and fragile, so you’ll want to use a mix that is on the airy side to allow them to breathe. Heavy soil will hold too much water, weigh down the roots, and cause root rot.

The key with this plant is to ensure it retains enough moisture while still allowing it to drain thoroughly. So, keep this in mind when preparing your soil mixtures. When repotting this plant, give it a bit of extra room but not too much. One size bigger will suffice.

There are different kinds of soil mixtures you can use for your plant, depending what you have on hand.

Tip: If you are looking for the perfect ready-made soil for your houseplants, keep it simple and check out our favorite Chunky Houseplant Mix from Sol Soils. And, use code “GEEKY” for 10% off!

Soil recipes for Begonia maculata:

  • Indoor potting mix (50%) with perlite (50%) for drainage and aeration
  • 50% African violet mix, along with equal parts perlite (25%) and orchid bark (25%)
  • Equal parts peat moss (50%) and perlite (50%)
  • Equal parts perlite and coco coir, plus worm castings for nutrients

How often to water Begonia maculata

It’s important to keep the soil of your Begonia maculata moist, but not soggy. This plant needs consistent moisture, but be careful not to overwater it. It’s not one of those easy houseplants that you can let dry out completely before watering.

Allow the top half inch of soil to dry out between waterings. When it is time to water, give it a good thorough soaking in the sink and allow the water to drain out completely. As with most houseplants, avoid giving it itty-bitty drinks of water without root saturation. During periods of growth or blooming, increase the water frequency but keep an eye on your plant for signs of overwatering.

Signs you may be overwatering your begonia maculata:

  • Mold growing on soil (you may need to increase air circulation as well)
  • Wilting leaves
  • Brown spots on leaves
  • Yellow, dropping leaves

It’s impossible to say exactly how much water your plant will need. There are many factors that contribute to this. The best thing to do is to write down the date you watered your plant, and then the date the plant needed water again. You can begin to determine a good watering frequency after a few cycles. Things like home temperature, humidity, location, and the size of the pot will all play a role in your watering habits.

Tip: This plant is susceptible to mildew. When watering, be careful of any splash-back on the leaves. I would also avoid misting for this reason.

Fertilizing begonia maculata

Fertilize once or twice a month during the active growing or warmest months. In summer, your plant will likely need more nutrients to grow at a faster rate. In winter, the plants get less light and usually don’t need as much fertilizer.

Ideal temperature and humidity for Begonia maculata

The Begonia maculata is a tropical plant that prefers temperatures of 65–85°F (18–30°C). Temperatures below 60°F can cause wilting, leaf drop, and stress. You’ll want to be mindful and keep this plant away from drafty windows, air conditioners, or radiators. They don’t do well with temperature fluctuations.

Some people like to bring their Begonia maculata outdoors for the summer in an area that receives good sunlight along with some shade. Then, you can bring the plant inside to rest in the cooler months. However, always be mindful of pests and avoid bringing insects indoors with your plants.

The Begonia maculata does best with average to high humidity. They are tropical plants that will thrive in high humidity, but they will acclimate quite well to their environment in your home. You can increase the moisture by placing it near a humidifier, or setting it on a pebble tray filled with water. Or, keep it in a warm bathroom that gets plenty of light and humidity.

If you notice yellow leaves, this could be an indication that the environment is too dry. On the flip side, if you see brown spots on the leaves (not the same as brown tips), this could indicate that there is too much moisture sitting on the leaves.

Begonia maculata flowers
Given the right conditions, your Begonia maculata may reward you with flowers!

Repotting Begonia maculata

When you’re ready to repot your Begonia maculata, choose a new container that is one size bigger (1-2 inch larger diameter) than the one it’s in. This will provide room for new growth and roots.

Even if your plant is getting quite large and tall, it may not need to be repotted. You can prune and propagate the plant before jumping to repotting, which can be quite traumatic.

Pruning and Propagating Begonia maculata

The Begonia maculata can be pruned to promote bushier growth and shape the plant. When you prune your plant, always make sure that you’re using sterilized shears (alcohol will do just fine). Pruning is best done in early spring or summer when new growth appears. This is a great time to take cuttings for propagating.

Propagating begonia maculata is easy and rewarding. You can do this by stem cuttings in water or soil.

Stem Cuttings: Take a stem cutting from an existing plant, about a half inch above the leaf line. Pop it in water and let the magic happen. You can also use rooting hormone to help the process, but this step is optional. When the roots become substantial (at least 2-3 inches long), the cutting is ready for soil.

Brown leaf tips on Begonia maculata

If you notice the leaf tips of your Begonia maculata turning dry and brown, you’re not alone. This is a very common occurrence in this plant. When this happens, you’ll want to check two things first.

  1. Drafts/Heat: Is your plant situated next to a heater, air conditioner, or drafty window or door? If so, move it to another location. When I had this plant temporarily next to a heater (blowing hot air), it quickly developed crispy leaf tips. I moved it to a new spot without drafts and the crispy brown leaves were no more.
  2. Watering: Are you allowing the soil to dry out too much between waterings? This plant likes consistent watering. Inconsistent watering can lead to brown leaf tips, so be sure the soil is always a bit moist.
Begonia maculata with brown dried leaf tip
Begonia maculata with brown dried leaf tip.

Overall, I think the Begonina maculata is a wonderful houseplant to keep indoors. It’s quite a conversation starter, and the unique foliage makes it stand apart from other Begonias.

If you haven’t added this plant to your wishlist yet, be sure to do so soon! And, if you see one in your local nursery, be sure to scoop it up as they can sell out quickly when spring comes around.

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