This one goes out to all you rare plant lovers and tropical plant enthusiasts. We are talking about none other than the head-turning Begonia amphioxus.
Small but extremely eye-catching with its butterfly wing-like leaves, this plant will feel most at home in a terrarium or greenhouse with high humidity. It is not easy to take care of in the least so an in-depth care guide is in order.
Begonia amphioxus ”Butterfly” originally grows in Borneo, Indonesia according to KEWScience. Although it was first discovered in Borneo in 1984, it wasn’t until 1990 that it was first described by Martin Sands from the New England Botanical Garden.
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Hands up for begonia 🖐 So begonia always feel tricky somehow… I think I have mastered the regular dotted varieties like #begoniasnowcap and #begoniamaculata . This #begoniaamphioxus seemed a bit more tricky at first aaand so I killed my first one and the second one is now out of rehab 🙈 the plant pictured is my third amphioxus which is doing very well!! So what happened that I am now keeping these alive? ☀️ it’s light people! Begonia love to be in good lighting. They like to be moist but if they don’t have enough energy to grow they just rot because of the excess of sitting moisture. I also keep this in slightly higher humidity, but I’ve done that before with the one that died, so that’s not necessarily what makes them thrive. I hope you enjoyed that lil history lesson about me killing plants we just went on 😉 do you have any stories about plants you’ve killed but got the next ones to thrive? Or maybe plants you keep on killing 😅 🌱 🌱 🌱 #begonia #begoniabrigade #begoniakiller #plantkiller #terrariumplants #stippenbegonia #cute #plantparenthood #plantcommunity #plantsofinstagram #begoniaceae #foliageplant #wickedwednesday @thebegoniabrigade #iloveplants #itsaprocess #plantgrowth #growingplants #ihavethisthingwithplants #letstalkplantsatthetinyjungle #talkplantytome
This truly speaks to it’s (nonexistent) popularity and how it never became part of mainstream houseplant collections.
It belongs to the bushy part of the Begonia family, though you might have some doubts it’s even a terrestrial plant, to begin with.
Its scientific name comes from ‘amphi’ ‘oxys’ which means pointy on both ends, and they are elongated with serrated edges.
The butterfly nickname comes from the beautiful, crimson markings on the vivid green leaves resembling butterfly wings, and how they move in the wind as if they were to fly off of the ground.
Furthermore, this plant will bloom with stunning flowers a couple of times a year. The male flowers have Aren’t you in love already? Let’s see if you have what it takes to cultivate one in your home.
- 1 Begonia amphioxus Plant Care Guide
- 2 What’s the deal with terrariums?
- 3 Common issues with Begonia amphioxus
- 4 Begonia amphioxus Frequently Asked Questions
- 5 Conclusion
Begonia amphioxus Plant Care Guide
Begonia amphioxus needs a good draining but rich soil. A high-quality peat mix or ordinary houseplant mix will do but I recommend adding limestone chips, oyster shells, or eggshells.
This will make sure the soil is not too acidic and will result in brighter red colors on the leaves.
I strongly recommend growing this plant in a terrarium though, as I will explain further in the article. Catching the happy medium of this plant is nearly impossible in a pot. When planting into a terrarium choose a spot in the middle layer for your Begonia amphioxus, as it likes a fair amount of light but hates having wet feet.
That being said, wherever planted, it is of paramount importance that the roots don’t sit in water. Mildly acidic soil with a pH level between 6.1 and 7.5 is optimal.
Begonia amphioxus loves bright indirect light and occasional partial sun. Sounds ambiguous?
That’s because it is. If you don’t live in a tropical climate, your best shot at success will be fluorescent lights in a terrarium or above a humidity dome, at least 8 – 12 inch (20 to 30 cm) away from the light source, so it doesn’t get burnt.
A north-facing window will be good enough until it starts flowering, then it would need to be moved to a brighter place but if you grow it under artificial lights you don’t have to worry about this.
Direct sun will cause sun damage, too little light will cause your Begonia amphioxus to wilt and die.
Like most other Begonias, your amphioxus needs a little bit more water than a regular houseplant. Water it up to three times a week during the summer and once a week during the winter.
Let the soil get slightly dry between waterings and try to avoid waterlogging and root rot. This will be easy with a fast-draining soil mixture.
Another thing to be mindful of is not letting water stagnate on the leaves of the plant, as this will soon lead to rotting of the leaf and various fungal infestations.
This is easily avoided by watering with a narrow spout, concentrating the water only on the soil. Another important thing to note is that the quality of water is vital for a Begonia amphioxus. Hard, mineral heavy water will not be good enough.
You should water it with aquarium water, or at the very least distilled water, while at the same time being mindful of the temperature.
Begonia amphioxus, as I already mentioned, doesn’t do well with sudden changes in air temperature, and the same goes for water.
Water it with tepid to slightly warm water not to shock the roots.
Another important reason why you should provide a closed growing environment for your Begonia amphioxus is that it needs relatively high and constant temperatures.
It loves warmth, optimally up to 85°F (30°C), never letting it get to below 50°F (15°C) and never allowing great temperature fluctuations.They are frost sensitive and will drop all their leaves to let you know they are unhappy.
Make no mistake, the Begonia amphioxus is a humidity dependant plant and will not tolerate dry environments. This is one of the reasons why I preach terrariums and closed containers.
There is no other way to ensure it has 60-80% humidity during the day and 80 to 100% humidity at night. Yes, you read that well. In all honesty, a humidity dome might not be enough.
Your Begonia might stay alive but it will most definitely not thrive in any other conditions.
Occasional misting is recommended, but make sure you do it in the morning so the droplets have time to dry and don’t sit on the surface of the leaves for too long.
Begonia amphioxus is a hungry little plant. They will not be their best self if you are not regular with fertilizing.
This does not mean you should drench it once a month though, but feeding with a liquid fertilizer diluted to a quarter of its strength once a week or once every two weeks will be perfect.
Once a month will be enough during the winter season but if you are keeping your Begonia in a terrarium with a heater the season doesn’t matter.
One of the rare things that are easy with this plant is propagation. You can choose to do this by seed, leaf cuttings, or herbaceous cuttings.
Propagating by seed is just what you would suppose it to be, you let the flower heads dry and collect the seeds, then store the seeds through the winter and plant them in the spring.If you don’t want to go through this long-winded procedure then stem cuttings are your next best bet.
You could get lucky because when Begonia amphioxus drops it’s leaves for whatever reason, these tend to root where they fell, especially if in a terrarium or a surface that is evenly and constantly moist.
I am going to outline a more intentional process below.
Propagation by stem cuttings
The best season to do this as with many other plants is in spring and early summer. Follow the steps below for a successful Begonia amphioxus propagation.
Chose a healthy stem that is at least a couple of inches long.
Remove the bottom leaves of the cutting.
Dip the base of the cutting in rooting hormone to ensure rooting.
Carefully plant this cutting three inches deep, ideally in moist sphagnum moss or a rich airy soil with lots of perlite.
Keep this new plant in a warm, humid place with partial sunlight exposure.
This can be a propagation container or in a terrarium/under a humidity dome.
Water these cuttings regularly and never let the soil dry out.
After three to four weeks you should notice root development.
Propagation by water
Propagating your Begonia amphioxus by water is similar to the process I described above, just replacing the sphagnum moss or soil with water.
Remember that if you propagate by water this will mean the roots could not take well to the soil once potted.
A way to ease this transition is by adding soil to the water of your cutting, a spoonful a day until it replaces the water completely.
This gives your Begonias roots some time to get used to a darker environment poorer in oxygen and maybe spare you the sadness of having a newly potted begonia drop all of its leaves in its signature dramatic fashion.
If grown in a pot, Begonia amphioxus can be repotted once a year. I wouldn’t rush and would check the bottom before doing this.
As mentioned before, they don’t like change, any change, including pot changes and spoil changes. If you can avoid touching it, do. This is in its best interest.
Begonia amphioxus has a normal growth rhythm if cultivated in its ideal conditions and will push out new leaves regularly.
You can prune away any dry or rotting leaves when needed.They also might flower up to three times every season.
What’s the deal with terrariums?
Ok, so I’ve been tooting the terrariums horn for this whole article and you might be thinking this plant is not for you.
A terrarium seems like a big financial investment and commitment, is it really not possible to still have a Begonia amphioxus without it?
Well, it is. As long as you can give it the conditions it needs, this plant is perfectly feasible without a terrarium.A greenhouse could also do the trick, and maybe you might want to experiment with some DIY humidity domes. If you live in a warmer climate it is an option.
As long as you can make an enclosed container that will be airtight, it is appropriate for a Begonia amphioxus.
If you can afford a terrarium or maybe already have one, this should not be an issue.
You will not have to constantly watch the soil and keep it moist, you will not have to mist all the time and you won’t need to worry about temperature swings.An airtight terrarium will become its own ecosystem where the water will evaporate, condensate, and fall down on the soil again and cycle like this constantly.
You can go without watering for weeks!
If you are still getting to know your humidity dome or terrarium, keep an eye on the soil.
When you can see it is dry, add some water. This can happen more often if your Begonia amphioxus is planted in a small container, as it will drink the water up sooner.
Common issues with Begonia amphioxus
The issues you may encounter with these plants vary according to where you grow it. If it is grown in a pot in the open air you might encounter Thrips.
Thrips have a sweet tooth for Begonias and are the most common pests we find on them.
If you are keeping the humidity up, your Begonia is always susceptible to powdery mildew and anthracnose (a disease caused by fungi).
An obvious way Begonias let us know they are in trouble is by leaf curling. I will explain all of these and how to deal with them below.
If you are looking at small, black, elongated pointy bugs, these are most likely Thrips. They feed on the juice of your plant and can take down a begonia easily.
They grow and multiply very fast, and even have wings so they can spread on other plants easily.The first thing you should do is isolate the plant from others, so they don’t spread. Then remove all of the visible bugs with a strong water stream.
Shower it thoroughly if you need it. Then you can wash it one more time with insecticidal soap. Lather all the leaves and stems well, to kill any remaining bugs, larvae, and eggs.
After that you should spray your plant with neem oil making sure you cover every inch of the plant, to deter any future visitors. During this process try and not wet the roots or the soil of the plant.
You can enclose this part of it in a plastic bag. This will prevent overwatering or damage to the roots.
This process might need to be repeated a couple of times since thrips are very resilient and often come back in even greater numbers so be patient and keep at it.
If you notice leaves curling and distinctive white patches on your Begonia amphioxus leaves, this is most likely powdery mildew. Mildew likes warm and humid environments so this is not a surprise.
Powdery mildew is fortunately seldom fatal for a plant, but since you are probably cultivating your begonia for the looks, this is a pretty huge aesthetic issue.
You can try and wash the leaves with a mixture of one tbsp baking soda, one gallon of water, and half a tsp liquid non-detergent soap, but this is usually used as more of a preventative measure.
Your best bet is a store-bought organic fungicide, just follow the directions on the bottle and you are good.
Anthracnose is a common fungal issue with Begonias. It will manifest as curling leaves with yellowing and brown spotting.
If you notice these symptoms the first thing you should try is removing all infected and dead plant material and being very careful not to get the leaves wet the next time you water.
Use a store-bought fungicide according to its instructions and be very careful not to spread it to other plants.
With all fungal, bacterial, and viral infections of plants, it is of paramount importance that you wash and disinfect your hands and tools before handling another plant.
Begonia amphioxus Frequently Asked Questions
Do Begonias like direct sunlight?
Provide your Begonia amphioxus with bright indirect light. Partial morning sun for an hour or two is fine was well. However be careful as the fragile leaves of the Begonia amphioxus get burnt easily.
Is Begonia amphioxus easy to care for?
Begonia amphioxus care is not simple due to the increased humidity and temperature needs. The best is to grow Begonia amphioxus in a terrarium.
What is the best soil for a Begonia amphioxus?
Begonia amphioxus needs rich well draining soil. A peat mix with added limestone or egg shells is a great choice.
All in all, Begonia amphioxus will be a vibrant addition to anyone’s home or terrarium, but it will make you work for it.
It likes a well-draining soil with a slightly higher pH, generous watering but not too much, ample humidity, and high temperatures.
It will let you know when something is not going according to their plan by curling and dramatically dropping their leaves, sometimes all of them at once.
It is prone to several fungal issues also, so working preventatively will be the best course of action.
If you decide to take on the challenge, let us know in our Facebook group, and leave a like on our page while you are at it.