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Begonia Maculata Care -Polka Dot Begonia Growing Guide

Begonia Maculata Care -Polka Dot Begonia Growing Guide

In this article, I am going to write about Begonia maculata care.

Begonia maculata goes by the botanical name Begonia maculata var. wightii and is a fiborous rooted upright Angel-Winged cane Begonia commonly referred to as the Polka Dot Begonia according to RHS. It derives its name from its unique silver spotted leaves and red undersides. The leaf blades have silver polka dots on the upper side.

In fact, it is rumored that Christian Louboutin created his trademark red-heeled shoe to mimic the red leaf undersides of the Begonia maculata. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that this plant requires specialized attention and care.



Begonia maculata Care Takeaways

Species Begonia maculata var. wightii
Synonyms Polka Dot Begonia, Polka Dot Plant, Angel Wing Begonia, Begonia maculata wightii, Trout begonia, Clown Begonia
Family Begoniaceae
Genus Begonia
Growth Bushy growth
Height 2 feet
Width 0.3 feet
Soil Well-draining sand, clay, and loamy soil
Watering Water every 5 to 7 days
Light Bright indirect
Temperature 65 to 86°F
Humidity 60-80%
Fertilizer Fertilize 2 times per month
Propagation Stem cuttings, seeds
Toxicity Toxic to pets such as cats and dogs as it contains soluble calcium oxalates. Ingestion can cause irritation and vomiting.

Begonia maculata Care

Grow Begonia maculata using sandy clay and loamy soil as potting mix. Provide bright indirect light between 10k – 20k lux or 2k – 5k foot candles from an east- or west-facing window. Keep the soil slightly damp and water once the top inch (2.5cm) is almost dry about once a week. The ideal temperatures range lies between 65 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 30 degrees Celsius). Keep humidity at 50% or higher. Fertilize by-weekly in spring and summer and every two months in Autumn and Winter.

Begonia Maculata Care
Begonia maculata Care

The Begonia family consists of more than 1300 species and hybrids according to the University of Florida.

Polka Dot Begonia Care Video

Soil For Polka Dot Begonia

Begonia maculata wightii does very well in a mixture of sand, clay, and loamy soil inside a pot with good drainage. This plant prefers slightly moist soil but never soggy soil.

This plant is highly susceptible to root rot. As such, it is always best to add a layer of pebbles or broken pieces of terracotta pots to the bottom for better drainage.

You should repot the plant in a bigger pot about twice its previous size once the current pot becomes root-bound.

Begonia maculata grows best in sandy clay and loamy soil
Begonia maculata grows best in sandy clay and loamy soil

Polka Dot Begonia Light Requirements

Begonia maculata wightii prefers bright indirect sunlight (filtered light) to thrive. Bright light is considered light between 10k – 20k lux or 2k – 5k foot candles. Avoid direct light as it might scorch the leaves.

If it isn’t getting enough light the color of the leaves will less intense. Your plant will become leggy and will not flower.

Higher light levels will promote the intense green coloring and the white dots.

The Polka dot Begonias prefer a bit more shade than most indoor plants.

Placing it in a bright, well-lit room away from direct sunlight is advisable to keep those silvery-white olive leaves vibrant.

You can use a light meter to measure the light your spotted Begonia gets.

Let me tell you one thing. I was absolutely shocked to find out how little light my plants receive indoors. Even the ones rather close to a window or a light source. Light falls off so quickly.

If you like to take your plant outside during summer, make sure to place it in the shade away from direct sunlight.

Do not put your grow light too close though and follow the guidelines in the instruction manual.

If the leaves start to appear scorched, you should move your Begonia to a less sunny part of the room or further away from the grow light.

Too much light will be indicated by a burgundy leaf color whereas a healthy plant with optimal light will have light green to dark green leaf uppersides.

Bright indirect light is best for Begonia maculata
Bright indirect light is best for Begonia maculata

Watering A Polka Dot Begonia

Keep the soil slightly damp at all times for Begonia maculata wightii and water about once a week when the soil is still slightly damp to the touch. Avoid soggy soils as this will lead to root rot.

Let this Begonia almost dry out between waterings as these plants to not tolerate soggy soil.

Consistent moisture is key for a happy maculata.

Striking the right balance when it comes to watering the Begonia maculata wightii is quite a challenge.

For starters, the soil should be a bit damp, but not overly wet. This is because it is highly susceptible to root rot.

Before watering, you should first test the soil for dampness by dipping a finger into the soil- the top portion should be dry to about an inch deep.

If you are unsure of whether to water it or not, it is actually better to err on the side of caution until the leaves start to show signs of wilting, an indication that there is little water left in the pot.

When watering it, pour water directly onto the soil, ensuring the leaves remain dry.

Begonia Maculata have beautifully white spotted green leaves
Begonia maculata has beautifully white-spotted green leaves

Best Temperature for Polka Dot Begonia

The Begonia maculata is a tropical plant, and, therefore, cannot thrive in cold conditions. Its ideal temperature is between 67 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 22 degrees Celsius). Begonia maculata is hardy until USDA Hardiness Zone 11.

This might be a tall order for anyone in temperate climates, such as Europe, but rest assured that temperature-related damage does not happen until temperatures drop to less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).

When kept indoors make sure that this Begonia is not too close to cold drafty windows and far away from radiators and air conditioners as these conditions will damage the foliage.

The underside of Begonia maculata leaves is completely red
The underside of Begonia maculata leaves is completely red

Humidity Needs of a Polka Dot Begonia

Begonia maculata requires high levels of humidity above 50%. Bathrooms given the right level of light are a great choice as well as a terrarium. Alternatively use a humidifier.

Alternatively, you can set it in your favorite room, but make sure to place a saucer of water near it to ensure it creates the required humidity as the water evaporates.

Caution: Do not place the pot inside the saucer of water because this could make the Begonia maculata roots overly wet. You should also ensure the leaves remain dry because the plant is susceptible to powdery mildew.

A great way to increase humidity and ensure constant high humidity levels for your plants is using a humidifier.

I have reviewed and listed the best humidifiers for houseplants in a blog post.

When and How Often to Fertilize the Polka Dot Begonia

It is advisable to fertilize a Polka Dot Begonia every two weeks in Spring and Summer using a balanced liquid fertilizer to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and more prominent blooms.

For best results, use half the required dosage of water-soluble fertilizer according to package instructions.

In this case, if the package says you should use one cup of water to dilute the solution, use two cups instead.

Fertilize about once every two months in Autumn and Winter.

Begonia maculata should be fertilized by-weekly in spring and summer
Begonia maculata should be fertilized by-weekly in spring and summer

How to Propagate a Polka Dot Begonia

The Begonia maculata is relatively easy to propagate through cuttings. Propagation is best done during the heat of winter when blooming is minimal.

All you have to do is cut off a stem with no flowers just below the bud. Remove the lower leaves and dip them in a jar of water.

Let it remain inside the jar until roots start to form. After that, plant it in a mix of sandy, loamy, and clay soil. Water it so that the soil is lightly moist but not overly soaked.

Read more about Begonia maculata propagation.

Begonia Maculata leaf and stem rooting in water.
Begonia maculata leaf and stem rooting in water.

Polka Dot Begonia Flowering

The Begonia maculata produces a cluster of white flowers with yellow centers and single stems. The Maculata flowers between Spring and Autumn.

You will be rewarded with beautiful white to pale pink Begonia maculata flowers late winter and throughout the spring season.

Begonia Maculata potted in a terracotta pot
Begonia maculata potted in a terracotta pot

Polka Dot Begonia Growth

Begonia maculata grows to about 4.9 feet tall (1.5 m). The leaves are usually asymmetric, extending to approximately 7.9 inches (20 cm) in length. This Begonia is a vigorous grower.

The upper surface of the leaf is dark green with silvery-white spots, while the reverse is red. Young leaves are pink to maroon in color.

Flowers usually form in single clusters and are white to pale pink. You should remove any wilted flowers on a regular basis to stimulate the growth of new ones.

Similarly, you should prune it regularly to create a beautiful bushy shape. Spring and summer are usually the best seasons to prune it.

Snip back the overgrown branches just above the bud by about half its length. New branches will form from the buds to create a pleasant thick appearance.

Begonia maculata has white dots on dark green leaves
Begonia maculata has white dots on dark green leaves

Potting A Polka Dot Begonia

A Polka Dot Begonia likes to be pot-bound, and thus requires smaller pots than most other houseplants. Regular repotting with fresh soil is also essential during the first years of its life to ensure it gets sufficient nutrients. Make sure the pot has drainage holes so excess water can escape.

Correct potting is an integral part of the growth cycle of the Polka Dot Begonia. The right pot size and type determines, to a large extent, whether the plant will thrive or not.

The best time to repot is during spring. When repotting it, choose a pot that is one size larger than the current one. An ideal container is one with good drainage and great moisture holding capability.

Red back side of Begonia Maculata leaves look stunning
The red backside of Begonia maculata leaves look stunning

Polka Dot Begonia Propagation

You can grow new plants from seeds, but the easiest and most rewarding way to grow them is to propagate from cuttings.

Propagation from leaf cuttings

To make new Polka dot Begonia plants from cuttings, all you have to do is snip a few fresh leaves from your plant.

Lay the leaves flat upside down and use a clean, sharp knife to slice them into neat wedges. (Be extra careful if you are using a razor blade).

Make sure you have a vein in each wedge piece. You can make a lot of baby Begonia plants using this method.

However, if you need just a few new plants, you do not have to slice the leaves up.

Simply snip out some leaves from the main plant leaving at least 1-inch of petiole still attached to each leaf (the petiole is the stalk that extends from the leaf and attaches it to the stem of the plant).

To make a nursery for your leaf cuttings, fill a small pot with well-draining soil. You can even use a mixture of vermiculite, peat, perlite, and moss.

Stick the leaf wedges or petiole stalks into the soil or moss, and store the pot in a plastic bag in a bright and warm place away from direct sunlight.

Make sure the soil in the pot has a little water to keep the cuttings moist, but do not overwater it as this could cause rot.

You should start seeing roots in about three to four weeks from the time you planted them.

After six weeks, you should have your baby plants ready to be moved to your favorite pot or garden.

Alternatively, you can make new Begonia plants by propagating your cuttings in a glass with fresh, clean water.

Food jars are the ideal size for this type of propagation. A single jar can accommodate several cuttings.

Once the roots are about half an inch long, your cuttings are ready to be transferred to new pots.

Propagation from stem cuttings

Begonia maculata will also grow from stem cuttings, commonly known as rhizomes. Rhizomes are long thick stems that can be grown under the soil.

Start by cutting a rhizome piece about 1 inch long and press it gently into a pot with a mix of well-draining soil or moss.

Just like their leaf counterparts, ensure they remain moist, but not wet.

Keep them in a warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight until the roots begin to form in about 5 to 7 weeks.

Begonia Maculata flowering
Begonia maculata flowering

Propagation from seeds

Growing the Polka dot Begonia from its seeds is harder and usually takes time.

Keep in mind that if the seeds are from hybrid plants, you will not get baby begonias that are a replica of their parents.

This is because hybrids are a mix of different varieties. In fact, you may not even get any baby plants if you use sterile hybrids.

All in all, propagating the Begonia maculata is exciting and enjoyable. Have fun with your new cute baby plants.

Polka Dot Begonia Care Tips Outdoors

You can always take your plant outdoors, especially during summer, to give it a boost in the sun. Alternatively, you can choose to keep it indoors all year round.

If you do decide to take it outside for a little sun, make sure to bring it indoors before it gets too cold.

It cannot withstand frost and will wilt and die as soon as they are exposed to frost.

It is advisable to bring it back indoors as soon as temperatures fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

They do not like cold temperatures, and the sudden shock after such a temperature change is definitely too much for them.

Ensure to take them indoors in time, and they will thrive and survive beautifully.

According to the University of Connecticut, Begonia maculata can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 10b-11.

How to Water Polka Dot Begonia in Pots

Taking care of the Begonia maculata can be a big challenge because they are extremely sensitive to water.

In fact, I can confidently say overwatering is the leading issue of Polka Dot Begonia houseplant care.

As a rule, only water them when they start to show signs of wilting. Allow the soil to actually dry out in between the waterings.

To check the moisture content, dip a finger into the soil about an inch deep before adding any water. Only water it if the soil feels almost dry.

If you are having a hard time when it comes to watering your plants, I recommend buying a soil moisture gauge for better accuracy.

On the same note, be careful about how you water your plant. The leaves and stems should never get wet.

While the maculata is not as sensitive as other indoor plants like the African Violets, it is highly susceptible to damage if it gets wet.

To avoid such problems, always water your plant from the bottom rather than from the top.

Fill a tray with water and allow the plant to soak it up through its porous base.

Do not let your plant sit in the water for too long, either. Just let it soak water up to the point where the soil is a little moist. You can then discard the remaining water.

What Does the Polka Dot Begonia Look Like?

Begonia maculata is a gorgeous perennial plant that blossoms with white to pale pink flowers up to three times a year.

The upper side of the leaf is green forming a drastic contrast with the red-Bordeaux reverse.

You’ll also notice that its evergreen leaves evolve from olive green to emerald green, and are beautifully speckled with bright spots along the veins of the leaf.

Every season is a show season for the Polka dot Begonia, though you can expect it to mainly flower during late winter up until the end of spring.

Its beautiful white flowers sprout in clusters from a single stem.

The Origin of the Polka Dot Begonia (Where does it come from)

The beautiful Polka Dot Begonia maculata belongs to the long line of Begonia species. It was first discovered in Brazil in 1982 by an Italian researcher.

However, it is originally native to Mexico, Asia, South Africa, and Central America. It grows best in moist subtropical and tropical climates, but indoor species do well in cooler environments.

This plant undoubtedly shines as an exquisite indoor treasure.

Its scientific name Maculata is derived from its whitish spots, while the other name Begonia is derived from the shape of its stem.

Where to buy Begonia maculata

You can buy Begonia maculata directly from Amazon, Logees, or Steves Leaves.

How much does a Polka Dot Begonia Cost?

The average price for a nice-sized Polka Dot Begonia is $20.

Toxicity of the Polka Dot Begonia

The Polka Dot Begonia is toxic to pets such as cats and dogs. it can still cause irritation and vomiting as it contains soluble calcium oxalates according to ASCPA. Therefore make sure to keep it away from small kids and pets.

Polka Dot Begonia Problems

Common Polka Dot Begonia problems are:

Brown Spots

Brown and black spots on leaves are caused by fungus or bacteria. The main reason is overwatering. Remove any leaf section or leaves with brown spots and check the roots.

If the roots are mushy remove the mushy parts and rinse the roots with water. Exchange the potting soil and disinfect the pot.

Dry Leaf Tips

Dry leaf tips are an indicator of underwatering or insufficient humidity. In addition, dry leaf tips can occur because of chlorinated tap water.

The best thing to avoid dry leaf tips is frequent watering, humidity above 50%, and rainwater or tap water that was allowed to sit for at least 12-24 hours.

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves can be a sign of over- or underwatering. Yellow leaves are also often caused by pest infestations.

To avoid yellow leaves stick to a consistent water regimen and neither over- nor underwater your Begonia.

Excess Water

Excess water will lead to root rot and root rot itself can affect the whole plant.

Make sure your Angel Wing plant has a pot with drainage holes and refrain from watering when the soil is still quite humid.

Bacterial Leaf Spot

Small, brown, or black water-soaked spots on leaf blades are an indicator of bacterial leaf spots. It is caused by bacteria and might lead to the collapse of a leaf if more spots occur.

Bacterial leaf spots usually start on older leaves according to the University of California.

Copper fungicides and sulfur can be sprayed weekly to prevent the disease.

Spider Mites

Spider Mites are a type of spider and are not insects according to Planet Natural. They are round and reddish-brown. Since they are really tiny they are hard to spot with bare eyes.

Spider mites have a soft body and can be squished and removed using cotton swaps with rubbing alcohol.

They damage plant tissue and are mostly found on the underside of leaves.

To get rid of spider mites use an insecticide.

Here is how to revive the plant.

Leaf Drop

A common sign of Begonia maculata being unhappy is leaf drop. The causes are either over- or underwatering, insufficient light or too much light as well as temperature fluctuations and extreme temperatures.

Types of Begonia maculata (Begonia maculata Varieties)

There are multiple types of Begonia macualta:

  • Begonia maculata Silver Spot
  • Cane Begonia Torch
  • Begonia maculata Flamingo Queen
  • Cane Begonia Albo-picta – rosea
  • Begonia maculata Raddi
  • Cane Begonia Coccinea
  • Cane Begonia Lucerna
  • Begonia maculata Medora
  • Begonia maculata Annan Grace
  • Cane Begonia maculata Mrs Hashimoto X Maculata
  • Cane Begonia Maculata Albo-picta
  • Cane Begonia Sinbad
  • Begonia The Wiz

How fast does Begonia maculata grow? This Begonia has a fast growth rate

Begonia maculata is a fast grower producing leaves almost weekly. It can grow up to 12 inches per growing season (30cm).

Frequently Asked Questions About The Polka Dot Begonia

How do you care for an Angel Wing Begonia?

To care for an Angel Wing Begonia provide well-draining soil. Keep the temperature between 67 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 22 degrees Celsius). Water once a week when the top 1 inch (2.5cm) of soil is almost dry and keep it slightly moist. Bright indirect light between 10k – 20k lux or 2k – 5k foot candles is best. Humidity should be above 50%.

Is Begonia maculata hard to care for?

Begonia maculata is not hard to care for but isn’t the easiest plant to care for either. There are fussy if they get too much sunlight or if you keep them too wet or too dry. If these aspects are in check it is not difficult.

Is the Begonia maculata rare?

Begonia maculata is not rare. Although you cannot buy it in every online shop or garden center it is readily available in most countries.

Should you mist an Angel Wing Begonia?

You should not mist your Angel Wing Begonia. Misting keeps leaves dry for too long if insufficient air circulation is provided. In addition, it does little for the overall humidity levels in the air. Put it close to other plants or provide a pebble tray filled with water underneath.

How do I get my Begonia maculata to flower?

Begonia maculata flowers in spring and summer. Providing sufficient fertilizer every two weeks in spring and summer. Keep the soil slightly moist and provide bright indirect sunlight to get your Begonia to flower.

Is angel wing begonia the same as Begonia maculata?

Angel wing begonia is used as a synonym for Begonia maculata. However, there are multiple Begonias with angel wing-shaped leaves that are called Angel Wing Begonia such as Begonia Splash Splash, Begonia Silver Wings, Begonia Esther Albertine, and many more.

Are there different types of Begonia maculata?

There are different types of Begonia maculata. They look all very similar and are hard to distinguish.

Conclusion About Begonia Maculata Care

To care for Begonia maculata provide:

  • Light: Bright indirect
  • Temperature: 65-86°F (18-30°C)
  • Humidity: 60-80%
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize bi-weekly in spring and summer

Author Bio

Daniel Iseli

Taking care of houseplants and gardening are my greatest passions. I am transforming my apartment into an urban jungle and am growing veggies in my indoor and outdoor garden year-round.

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