(image credit, IG: nottodayrootrot)
Tuberous begonias are typically grown for the attractive blooms. Begonia pearcei, however, is unusual in the sense that it has very attractive foliage as well as flowers whilst being a tuberous Begonia.
The leaves are velvety and dark, with prominent white venation. The flowers are showy yellow that makes a great contrast against the foliage.
In fact, I’ve rarely found yellow flowers on begonias, so this plant is novel in that sense too.
Begonia pearcei has a compact and shrubby growth habit and branches really well. It makes a great potted plant for indoor growing. Although perennial, it’s often grown like an annual.
Begonia pearcei is an Andean species native to Bolivia and loves cool weather, and filtered sunlight to light shade.
In these higher altitudes, they are found cascading rocky surfaces and trees. It likes moderate moisture and humidity and soil that is mildly acidic.
Begonias are fairly easy to grow once you know the tricks of the trade. So, let’s dive right in to the detailed Begonia pearcei care guide.
- 1 BEGONIA PEARCEI CARE GUIDE
- 2 STEP BY STEP GUIDE ON BEGONIA PEARCEI PROPAGATION
- 3 COMMON PROBLEMS WITH BEGONIA PEARCEI
- 4 TIPS TO KEEP BEGONIA PEARCEI PROBLEM-FREE
- 5 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BEGONIA PEARCEI
- 6 CONCLUSION
BEGONIA PEARCEI CARE GUIDE
You should grow Begonia pearcei in moisture-retentive soil that’s very loose and porous. There are tested ways to achieve this. Peat-based compost mixed with perlite mixed in 50-50 is a failsafe combo for Begonia pearcei care.
You can funk up this mixture a bit more with soil additives to pamper the plant. Good quality organic nutrient pellets, garden compost, and mulch are all great to improve the health quotient of the soil.
Heavy clay soil that becomes waterlogged is unsuitable as it can cause root and stem rot. So draining components like coco-chips, brick bits, or sand could also be added to your mix.
A soil acidity level in the range of pH 6.1 to 6.5 would be great for Begonia pearcei care. All your mulch, moss, bark, and other organic components induce soil acidity but the levels change over time. Even rainwater is good for soil acidity.
As long as the potting medium is sterile you can skirt any fungus induced root rot problems.
A highly effective Begonia pearcei care hack is to add coffee grounds to the soil. They are great for soil porosity as well as soil nitrogen that these plants need a constant dose of.
Begonia pearcei care requires that you provide it adequate filtered sunlight. In fact, you can grow this Begonia under prolonged exposure to the sun as long as it’s filtered, about 14 hours a day.
The leaf colors come to life under bright light levels.
That forgotten spot in your garden with dappled or filtered light works well, but remember that midday sun or heat is a no-no or they get burn marks and even the buds tend to fall off.
This plant can take some direct sun in winters sitting by your east window. Although they are shade-loving plants, you can grow Begonia pearcei quite healthy with a bit of morning sunlight.
My Begonia pearcei care hack for the moisture is to simply water the plant when the leaves look just a little lank. This is more to exercise restraint and avoid overwatering than to neglect them.
The mild dryness doesn’t affect the plant because the succulent herbaceous stems hold water well. Also, the intermittent dryness is good to induce flowering.
Juvenile Begonia pearcei care is a bit more demanding in terms of watering. With delicate stems, they need even and consistent moisture all the time.
The peat, mulch, compost, etc. used in the soil have very good water retention properties and help in moisture management.
Pro tip: These plants are susceptible to fungal problems. Grow Begonia pearcei away from sprinklers and sprays.
Water only at the roots or water in the mornings allowing the breeze to dry off the leaves during the day. This Begonia pearcei care hack will ensure your plant stays disease-free.
The Begonia pearcei is of Bolivian Andean origins where temperatures are somewhat cool at higher altitudes. However are have no frost tolerance. At any cost day time temperatures are to be above 56F (13C).
Once temperatures become cold the plant will automatically wilt and disintegrate for the winters.
You should ideally grow Begonia pearcei in temperatures between 58 – 72°F (15 – 22°C) for the best results.
You can grow Begonia pearcei in high humidity during the summer months. But during colder months high humidity can cause mildew problems.
The succulence of the stems helps them with moisture management and unlike other begonias, the Begonia pearcei copes decently well in a semi-dry environment. If you can manage humidity levels at upwards of 50% they won’t complain.
While most Begonias don’t prefer extra fertilization over and above the organic soil additives in the form of compost and mulch, the Begonia pearcei won’t mind a little extra.
Basically, they need a constant dose of nitrogen in the soil to grow well. The organic matter does go a long way but there are things you can do to improve growing conditions for the plant.
As explained before, coffee grounds help with nitrogen fixing.
Nitrogen rich succulent fertilizers are also quite effective in my experience because they are typically slow release and less harmful for delicate begonias.
If you’re into chemical fertilizers, you can top it up with any balanced fertilizer like a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 but make sure you dilute it three times its prescribed strength.
This diluted mix can be applied once a month. Make sure you drench the soil well when you fertilize.
Being a tuberous variety, Begonia pearcei propagates through multiple natural ways i.e. tubers, corms or bulbs of the plant.
In nature, bulblets that form at the leaf axils fall to the ground at first frost and spring back into life in spring.
Even the corms of the plant under the soil are preserved under a heavy cover of dead leaves sprouting back after winters.
Home gardeners however, are better off using cuttings to propagate the plant. Begonia pearcei propagates quite readily from all parts of the leaf and the herbaceous stem.
Begonia pearcei has a compact and mound-forming growth habit with good branching. The bushy look can be affected by pruning and propagating the tips in the same pot.
You can grow Begonia pearcei clusters to as tall as 1 foot (30 cm). During summer months you can grow Begonia pearcei outdoors in semi-shaded spots of your garden where the plant can get prolonged filtered light.
From summer through early fall Begonia pearcei displays yellow to pale yellow blooms. As the days grow short, the plant goes dormant and the leaves start to wilt and the plant collapses.
However, you can collect your stem cuttings for propagation for outwintering even before that hits.
Although aggressive pruning isn’t required for these soft-stemmed herbaceous plants, deadheading the flowers is a good Begonia pearcei care hack to induce flowering.
This also goes a long way in disease prevention.
Due to the succulence of this plant, a best practice with respect to Begonia pearcei care is to use terracotta pots. The roots air out better in these pots.
Given the annual/perennial nature of the plant, you may not really get an occasion to “repot” this plant in the strict sense. But before the end of every growing season, you’ll need to propagate this plant aggressively in pots to outwinter them for the next season.
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STEP BY STEP GUIDE ON BEGONIA PEARCEI PROPAGATION
Most people grow tuberous begonias as annuals just buying the baby plants in early spring until they die in late autumn.
Some nursery professionals collect seeds to germinate in the next season. You can grow Begonia pearcei as annuals or perennials.
I find saving the tubers or corms a very effective way. Finally, begonia’s herbaceous stems take root very easily. Let’s examine each method in detail.
Begonia pearcei propagation through corms or tubers
- At the end of the season dig out the tubers when the foliage begins to turn yellow. Wrap them in soft paper or dry peat moss and store them in temperatures between 40 – 50°F (4 – 10°C), until next season.
- At the end of winter place the tubers an inch (2.5 cm) apart in a shallow tray filled with moist potting mix
- Make sure to have the hollow side of the tubers facing up. The tubers should be visible above the soil and not buried deep.
- The tray should be placed in a dark room maintaining at least 65°F (18°C) occasionally misting the soil.
- In a month you’ll see each tuber sprouting from the hollow.
- Once the frost has passed 100% you can transfer the sprouted tubers in your garden 3 to 4 inches apart or in individual pots.
Adequate ventilation is needed throughout Begonia pearcei propagation or it can catch mildew.
Begonia pearcei propagation through cuttings
- You can grow Begonia pearcei from stem cuttings if more than one sprout appears from a tuber. Remove the extra sprouts when they are about 5 inches high
- You can even take small tip cutting for this method
- Plant the cutting in a well-draining potting mix like 50-50 perlite and peat moss. Keep the soil just moist
- Use a plastic bag to block out drafts and maintain high humidity levels. Humid conditions reduce wilting and promote faster rooting
- Keep this indoors in a somewhat dark spot, undisturbed until established.
- When the roots are established you can transfer this to your Begonia pearcei spot
COMMON PROBLEMS WITH BEGONIA PEARCEI
Spots or patches of white to greyish talcum-powder-like growth
This is powdery mildew, a fungal disease that shows on the top and underside of leaves.
It needs moisture and humidity to spread. Proper Begonia pearcei care requires that you water the soil around the plant and avoid splashing the leaves.
Water in the morning so that droplets evaporate during the day. Immediately cut away affected leaves and do not compost infected debris.
There are commercially available sprays that are useful in treating this disease such as sulfur-based fungicides or neem oil.
Colorado State University research suggests the application of fungicides at 7- to 14-day intervals to provide continuous protection throughout the growing season.
They also recommend an alternative nontoxic control for mildew viz. baking soda combined with lightweight horticultural oil.
They have tested the fungicidal properties of this combination against powdery mildew on roses.
They advise that applications of 1 tablespoon baking soda plus 2.5 tablespoons of Sunspray oil in 1 gallon of water are still experimental. It may be worth a try if the situation demands it.
Dark brown, crisp looking marks on leaf edges are usually caused by low humidity or exposure to the midday sun. Cover the area with a shade cloth. Water deeply whenever you water.
Buds dropping off
Buds may dry, turn brown, and drop if the temperature is too high. You should ideally grow Begonia pearcei in temperatures between 58 – 72°F (15 – 22°C).
Neglect and dried-out soil can also result in bud loss too. Shade cloth and watering are usually solutions to this problem. Poor drainage can also cause buds to drop. In this case, the center buds usually drop first.
This variety isn’t a heavy flowering type in the first place. That said, fewer flowers often result if plants are in too dark a spot.
Deadheading and pinching of the shoots can induce flowering as well. Overfeeding with Nitrogen-rich fertilizers can also result in a few flowers and makes the plant vegetative.
Rotting can happen due to water-logging which can easily be avoided if you follow the Begonia pearcei care instructions for soil.
The other reason is a fungal infection. Keeping the plant surroundings clean is important. Remove dead leaves, flowers, and any other decaying matter immediately.
TIPS TO KEEP BEGONIA PEARCEI PROBLEM-FREE
- Grow Begonia pearcei in prolonged filtered sunlight of between 12 – 14 hours at least.
- The plant is semi-succulent and could do with moderate watering allowing soil to dry out partially between watering.
- This plant responds well to regular but mild fertilization with nitrogen rich formulas
- Avoid late-summer applications of nitrogen fertilizer to limit the production of fleshy stems, which is more susceptible to infection
- Avoid overhead watering to help reduce the relative humidity that can lead to mildew and other bacterial infections
- Prune a few branches on overcrowded clusters if you feel air circulation is low
- Propagate tip cuttings regularly throughout the season
- Save the tubers before winter
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BEGONIA PEARCEI
Is the Begonia pearcei annual or perennial?
You can grow Begonia pearcei as a perennial, saving up the dormant tubers at the end of every season. The plants produce seeds and bulbs as well. Begonias propagated from seeds are like annuals.
Is Begonia pearcei suitable for indoor growing?
Unlike most tuberous begonia which I’d normally recommend for outdoor gardening, Begonia pearcei is quite “Rex”-like in it’s growth habit and makes for compact windowsill indoor plants. The only thing you’ll need to ensure indoors is sunlight.
Is deadheading necessary to grow Begonia pearcei?
Deadheading is not a necessary part of Begonia pearcei care, rather a best practice often adopted by gardeners mainly for a tidy look and to induce branching. It also helps to control diseases like mildew.
Are coffee grounds good for Begonia pearcei?
You can either compost coffee grounds or you can add them to the topsoil of your Begonia pearcei. The breakdown process helps in soil acidity as well as nitrogen-fixing both of which are great Begonia pearcei care hacks.
Begonia is a genus of over 1,000 species that botanists often crossbreed and hybridize to create a variety of colors, textures, and sizes we enjoy today.
In general, fibrous and rhizomatous begonias make the best indoor plants. Tuberous begonias like Begonia pearcei do best as annual outdoor flowering plants rather than long-term indoor plants.
This is because their growth cycle includes a dormancy period when flowers and foliage both die back.
If you’re happy with Begonia pearcei care we’d recommend another native of the Bolivian Andes, Begonia Boliviensis which great gorgeous blooms.
If you are more of a foliage person, do try growing Rex Begonia or Begonia Brevirimosa. We have detailed care guides on these and several other species that will surely make your begonia journey a lot easier.