(image credit: greenghent IG)
Begonia Conchifolia, commonly known as Zip Begonia make lovely windowsill plants adding a splash of glossy green in the room.
The most eye-catching thing about Begonia Conchifolia is the single red dot at the centre of its round peltate leaves where the petiole joins the leaf at the bottom. Like a dimple blush on its chubby cheeks.
It’s a home gardeners’ favorite due to its compact grower and generous flowering. The flowers are fragrant, white to pink in color blooming in big loose bunches throughout the year in warm conditions. I grow Begonia Conchifolia amongst my collection of kitchen window plants.
The plant bears a strong resemblance to Pilea Peperomioides until it starts flowering. Begonia Conchifolia care requirements are also quite similar.
Zip Begonia is a perennial, rhizomatous begonia plant characterized by leaves arising from thick rhizomes (fleshy stems that resemble roots) that grow along the soil surface. As per the University of Connecticut, the plant has its origins in Costa Rica. It’s often used to hybridize with other species in the genus to create unique varieties.
Begonia Conchifolia care broadly involves warm temperatures, moist soil, boggy air and bright light. Let’s go through these in detail.
- 1 BEGONIA CONCHIFOLIA CARE GUIDE
- 2 STEP BY STEP ZIP BEGONIA PROPAGATION METHODS
- 3 COMMON PROBLEMS SEEN IN BEGONIA CONCHIFOLIA CARE
- 4 TIPS TO KEEP BEGONIA CONCHIFOLIA PROBLEM-FREE
- 5 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BEGONIA CONCHIFOLIA
- 6 CONCLUSION
BEGONIA CONCHIFOLIA CARE GUIDE
The ideal soil condition for Begonia Conchifolia care is a porous, well-draining, loose and airy with plenty of organic content.
You can grow Begonia Conchifolia very reliably in a soilless substrate. In fact garden soil often gets quite wet inducing diseases particularly in the warm environs indoors.
A good substrate mix that you can use to grow Begonia Conchifolia is half part a mix peat moss, and sterile compost thrown together along with half part sand, perlite or vermiculte.
Pine bark, wood shavings or any other easily available organic substance that can add to soil looseness, makes it into the mix.
Cover the surface with leaf much to trap moisture. Grown in such a loose soil mix, the rhizomes spread nicely into a lush compact form.
In order to grow Begonia Conchifolia the soil should ideally be mildly acidic to neutral, with a pH range of 6.1 to 6.5 but don’t go crazy over it.
All your mulch, peat, bark etc. improve acidity but the levels change over time. Coffee grounds are a popular choice. I’ve shared my thoughts about this below.
One easy Begonia Conchifolia care hack is to use African Violet potting mix which has the right nutrient mix for these plants.
Do coffee grounds help in Begonia Conchifolia care?
There’s a popular idea making the rounds these days that coffee grounds help improve soil acidity and suppress soil diseases.
Well, this is a largely debatable idea yet to be tested scientifically. Prof. Linda Chalker-Scott of WSU, based on her research advises that a small amount of coffee ground on the top of the soil may indeed have some benefits which you can read about here.
In any case, I’ve been throwing coffee grounds from my kitchen into my compost mix and they have indeed proven to be beneficial for airing the soil and improving moisture retention, both useful properties for Begonia Conchifolia care.
So you have my vote on coffee grounds, one way or the other.
In my experience, direct sun burns the leaves very quickly damaging the look of the plant. So you must grow Begonia Conchifolia in no more than dappled sunlight.
If it’s by your windowsill with a lot of sun exposure, sheer drapes are a good idea. However, a little direct sun (such as an east window) is good for the plant in the winter months.
Begonia Conchifolia care requires several hours of the described lighting conditions throughout the growing season i.e. spring-autumn to encourage lush growth and good flowering.
You can also get great results using artificial growlights, particularly if you live in the northern zones.
A consistent 10-12 hour exposure works well for Begonia Conchifolia care. Make sure you place your plant a few inches away from the grow lights.
The rhizomes of this plant contain food and water reserves. This feature makes it possible to survive irregular watering and temperature variation.
That said, only regular Begonia Conchifolia care can result in an aesthetically pleasing specimen. So I give it an evenly moist soil environment.
As long as the potting mix is course and the planter drains excellently well, you can water regularly during summer – but never overwater.
There are many who recommend drying out between watering to induce flowering. In my experience, the flowering aspect is more a function of light than watering.
Water the plant when the mulch and topsoil are dry to touch. The peat, mulch, compost, etc. used in the soil have very good water retention properties and help in moisture management.
One Begonia Conchifolia care hack is to use lukewarm water during winters and very sparingly. These plants are susceptible to fungal problems. Grow Begonia Conchifolia away from sprinklers and sprays. Water only at the roots.
Zip Begonias are warm temperature epiphytic plants appearing at altitudes of 1000ft above sea level.
They thrive in temperatures of 60°F – 85°F (15°C to 30°C) with the ideal being around 20°C (65°F). They cannot withstand the slightest chill and die very swiftly. Bring them indoors for outwintering as soon as the temperature touches 15°C (60°F).
According to University of Florida, temperatures below freezing can damage or kill leaves, but these plants usually produce new leaves from the rhizomes once warmer temperatures return in spring. The rhizomes have to be protected under heavy mulch through the winter months.
I grow Begonia Conchifolia indoors all year through like evergreens rather than perennials.
Although Begonias like humidity, in my experience you can relax a bit when it comes to Begonia Conchifolia care. These species belong to climes with moderate to high humidity but they can thrive in levels of around 50%.
In the summer months, humidity can be managed using leaf mulch as the top layer of the soil. Washing the leaves down once or twice a month helps too.
In winters, if you grow Begonia Conchifolia indoors in a dry aircon environment, you can carefully wipe the delicate leaves with a wet sponge about once a week. This practice is also an effective tool against pest attacks.
Feel free to use a humidifier, but don’t mist the plant. It is super susceptible to mildew.
Include fertilization in your Begonia Conchifolia care routine because this plant responds well to feeding, particularly the mature ones.
You can use a rich organic manure right at the beginning, in the soil mix used to grow Begonia Conchifolia.
Subsequently, a fertilizer rich in phosphorous can be applied to keep up the blooms. Stop feeding in winters when the plant is in dormancy.
I’d recommend a good liquid oragnic fertilizer administered once to twice a month diluted to half its prescribed concentration. Fish emulsion is a great Begonia Conchifolia care hack.
There are two main ways to propagate a Begonia Conchifolia – root division and leaf cutting. For the best results, you’ll want to use the root division process, because it’s almost fail-safe.
But you can also propagate Begonia Conchifolia through leaf cuttings, which is honestly a natural wonder to behold.
We’ll walk you through both methods step-by-step down below.
Zip Begonias are small rhizomatous plants with a horizontal growth habit. The rhizomes are thick, fleshy stems that look like roots and spread horizontally just at the soil surface. You can grow Begonia Conchifolia to about 8″ to 12” tall and about the same in width. They have max 4″ leaves.
For well-rounded growth keep rotating your pot, so that the sun reaches all sides of the plant. With age the oldest part of the rhizome will stop producing leaves and eventually die.
Pruning usually consists of thinning down an overcrowded pot to prevent mildew problems from a lack of ventilation.
In my opinion, unless you find the plant unattractive, you needn’t prune. Pruning yields cuttings that can be propagated.
For Begonia Conchifolia care, use a shallow wide pot, preferably clay or terracotta. Line the bottom of the pot with gravel or brick bits to allow for easy repotting. This plant is delicate and can get easily damaged in repotting. A bonsai pot works nicely. A juvenile plant in a small pot often grows out of the edge of the pot quite quickly.
There are a variety of ways to grow Begonia Conchifolia – hanging baskets, cute ceramic table top pots, terracotta planters for the. You can even explore some innovative planters to take advantage of the rhizomatic structures.
Hanging moss balls is a great idea for the small rhizomes to wrap themselves around. Once you grow Begonia Conchifolia to a decent size I would recommend shifting it to a hanging basket.
Not only is it easy to drain, the growth is quite gorgeous, after the rhizomes grow over the edge and leaves envelop the sides.
Once you see the roots of the plant coming through the pot’s drainage holes, it’s time to re-pot it.
STEP BY STEP ZIP BEGONIA PROPAGATION METHODS
You can propagate Begonia Conchifolia using cuttings taken from any part of the plant – stem, leaf, part of a leaf, root, rhizome.
If you’re looking propagate in order to overwinter the young plants, choose late summer to early autumn. Otherwise early spring is always a perfect choice.
Propagate Begonia Conchifolia with rhizome cuttings
The rhizome is the thick stems of the plant running along the soil surface often confused for the plant’s roots.
- You case use rhizome tip cuttings or 2 – 3-inch stem cuttings
- Make sure they have a couple of leaves and let them callous for a few hours
- In a small pot place, a layer of gravel followed by a coarse mix of perlite and peat about 4 inches thick.
- Place the rhizomes horizontally on the surface slightly pressing them under the soil leaving the top exposed (not burying them).
- Keep the pot in bright shade or under a grow light
- Keep the soil just about moist but not wet and maintain 70°-75°F (21 – 24°C)
- Don’t disturb the cutting until established. Keep out of strong breezes.
- They should take root in 2 to 3 weeks.
- Pro-tip: Make several cuttings in separate pots and group them together to improve the chances of success
Propagating Begonia Conchifolia with Leaf Cuttings
The most fun technique to propagate Zip Begonia is with leaf cuttings stuck in a mixture of moist peat moss and perlite.
- Cut a few mature leaves with about an inch of the petiole (stalk).
- Take potting mix with 50/50 sterile peat and perlite evenly moistened, in a germination tray.
- Make slightly angled holes and insert the petioles such that the leaf is flat on moist the soil surface.
- Insert hairpins through the leaf into the soil so that the leaf veins are firmly in contact with the soil. Flat, like coasters on a table.
- Place the tray in 70°-75°F (21 – 24°C) under a growlight, misting the soil occasionally.
- You should have new plantlets all over the leaf in about eight weeks.
- Let them grow to about 3 inches before transplanting.
COMMON PROBLEMS SEEN IN BEGONIA CONCHIFOLIA CARE
I often get asked, “what’s wrong with my Begonia?”. I’ve listed a few common problems below.
Begonia Conchifolia or Zip Begonia are fairly low maintenance but can get sap-sucking pest attacks due to their fleshy leaves.
Powdery white patches on the leaves: This is a clear sign of mildew, a fungus that causes these patches on leaves, stems, and buds. There are a couple of things you can do.
Curative: If it’s just one or two leaves, pinch them off and dispose of them far away in a dry spot where they can’t grow or spread.
Restrict watering to the roots of the plant and only in the mornings so that excess water on the leaves will quickly evaporate.
Improve air circulation around the plants. Severe cases will need fungicide treatment but honestly, don’t let it go that far.
Preventive: Spray a solution made of 1 tablespoon baking soda to one-quart water and two drops of dishwashing soap.
Crippling of leaves or stem terminals: This usually happens due to spider mites. Look for webs at the midribs and nodes on the underside of leaves and at the terminals.
Spider mites grow due to excessive dryness which makes the leaf surface suitable for these insects.
Curative: Pinch of the affected terminals and wash the whole plant with a water jet. You can do a miticide spray treatment at a frequency prescribed on the cover. But these are usually not effective in the long run.
Preventive: You need to manage a tricky balance between wetness and dryness when you grow Begonia Conchifolia.
Wash down the leaves thoroughly once or twice a month in the morning so that the moisture dries up during the day.
Keep the surroundings weed-free – you can use leaf much soil cover for this. Regular neem oil and insecticidal soap treatment are also advisable.
Leaflet margins and tips drying: This could be the cause of direct sun exposure. You have to grow Begonia Conchifolia in bright shade.
If you’re growing them outdoors make sure they are kept in dappled sunlight or better still, bright shade.
Sudden collapse: This could be caused due to root rot or stem rot often caused by a fungus called Pythium.
Curative: If your plant is mature with several stems you may be able to save your plant by salvaging the heathy roots and stems.
Completely cut out the rotted portion of the root and repot your plant. Simultaneously propagate Begonia Conchifolia using the tip/stem rhizome cutting method.
Preventive: Never over water this plant and always let the soil dry out partially between waterings. During winters drastically reduce watering.
TIPS TO KEEP BEGONIA CONCHIFOLIA PROBLEM-FREE
The single most important aspect of Begonia Conchifolia care is ensuring the right amount of water because root and crown rot is the most common reason for death. Here are a few handy tips to keep Begonia Conchifolia problem-free:
- Water only when the soil dries out 20-40%.
- Water only at the roots.
- Only dappled light or bright shade. No direct sun.
- These are pretty compact growers. So don’t pruning the stems but deadhead the flowers.
- They are susceptible rot due to excessive salts. Water deeply using RO water if your regular water is heavy on mineral salts.
- This plant look good in hanging pots
- Terracotta pots dry out the moisture from the bottom. Placing bits of terracotta fragments at the base of the planter helps too.
- Use shallow planters to limit water to the roots
- Limit winter Begonia Conchifolia care to just minimum watering and absolutely no fertilizers.
- Use lukewarm water during winters.
- Apply organic insectidal soaps to avoid spider mites from dryness.
- The leaves can’t withstand frost. So keep them indoors during winters.
- A best practice to follow with regards to Begonia Conchifolia care is to keep propagating during the growing season. This is you best hedge against any losses.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BEGONIA CONCHIFOLIA
How long can you grow Begonia Conchifolia?
No begonia grows forever. The main rhizome dies after a few years. If you follow proper Begonia Conchifolia care guidelines they will live up to 5 years. It is recommended to propagate Begonia Conchifolia every year.
How do you keep begonias blooming?
Begonia Conchifolia care needs some light during the day to induce blooms, but they burn in direct sun exposure. Place the plant where they will get prolonged filtered sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon. The other thing you could do, although this wouldn’t be my first advice, is to go for a flowering fertilizer. Organic orchid manure or African Violet fertilizers work well, but make sure you really dilute the concentration to a third.
Should I mist my Zip Begonia?
Avoid misting. This is strange advice considering the tropical rainforest origins of this plant. But misting causes more problems than help grow Begonia Conchifolia. We have given you other humidity management methods in the section above which you can go through.
Do coffee grounds help in Begonia Conchifolia care?
This is known to have some advantages for improving soil properties. Please read the section on ideal soil for Begonia Conchifolia to learn about coffee grounds. I recommend its use only if the plant is grown outdoors like ground cover.
What’s the best method to propagate Begonia Conchifolia?
My vote goes for rhizome tip cuttings in the soil given the success rate. But, do try out the leaf-cutting method. If you succeed, there is no greater joy.
Begonia Conchifolia or the Zip Begonia is a classic in the genus of Begoniacea and makes for a great specimen to have even for small home gardens or indoor gardens.
From personal experience, the only tricky part about Begonia Conchifolia care is watering and humidity. If you master that you’re safe.
If you’re just getting introduced to the world of begonias then this species is a good one to start off with.
Hope you have great fun growing your Begonia!