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Begonia Popenoei Best Care Tips

Begonia Popenoei Best Care Tips

Anthuriums are not the only plants with huge leaves; Giant Leaf Begonias are also available for Begonia admirers. The showy Begonia Popenoei can be easily grown in a container, hanging basket, and even in the ground soil.

According to the American Begonia Society, Begoniaceae is the largest flowering plant family with about 1500 species. Begonia Popenoei is a great plant for landscape cover with green leaves and white flowers.

Begonia Popenoei grows from a creeping rhizome, and this tender perennial will develop beautiful foliage.

The extraordinary leaves are large and attractive with a smooth surface. This plant is also called White Begonia, mainly because of the white flowers.

As a Central America (Guatemala to Honduras) native, this plant has terrific growth and appearance. It is found growing in moist banks in its native region. This plant is named after Frederick Wilson Popenoe, who was an agronomist and botanist.


Basic Plant Care Instructions for Begonia Popenoei 

For maximum growth, do not keep it in temperatures higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.8 degrees Celsius), and the minimum temperature should not be lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). As a tropical plant, this Begonia enjoys growing in peat-based soil with leaf litter and organic mulch. You should also maintain 70-90% indoor humidity.



It will grow well in peat-based compost. In addition to standard ingredients, your potting soil also needs plenty of mulch and organic matter. You can add leaf litter or organic mulch around the plant base to increase the fertility of the soil. The soil should be well-draining so that it remains moist but not wet.

The USDA hardiness zone to grow this Begonia outdoor is 10 to 11. Keep the pH of the potting soil between 6 to 7 for best results.



This plant likes moist soil; therefore, pay attention to the moisture content in your soil. You have to water the newly planted Begonia Popenoei on a regular basis. You can water this Begonia plant in two simple steps:

  1. Thoroughly saturate the soil with lukewarm, distilled water.
  2. Drain the excess water via the drainage holes at the bottom of the container.

Repeat the above steps when the top inch of the soil surface is dry to touch. Checking your soil regularly ensures your plant is never under-watered. Rhizome Begonias can store some water and nutrients to survive during droughts or leaf loss. With already stored nutrients, these rhizomes can easily grow new shoots or roots even if the leaves are damaged.



Your plant needs the right light for the right growth. You should provide filtered sunlight in summer and spring. Be wary that direct sunlight can be detrimental for houseplants leading to yellow or brown leaves. In winter, Begonia Popenoei can tolerate a few hours of direct sunlight in an east or west-facing window.

This variety can also grow in shade to dappled sunlight (a combination of shade and sunlight). But do not keep it in a deeply shaded location; otherwise, the leaves will start looking dull and faded due to lack of sunlight.

You should choose a spot for your Begonia Popenoei after carefully mapping the shade and sunlight within your house.

A shade cloth or curtains help you filter sunlight for indoor plants. You can supplement low sunlight with artificial lights or lamps for indoor planting.

Outdoors, you can keep this Begonia under a large plant to give it some protection against direct sunlight.



Begonias are found growing in warm areas of forest understories, tropical and subtropical areas. The temperature for this plant should be between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit (15-23.8 degrees Celsius).

Begonia Popenoei hates cold, frosty weather; therefore, do not let the indoor temperature drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).



This beautiful Begonia plant likes high humidity. The indoor air moisture in your apartment or house should be 70-90% for healthy growth.



The type of fertilizer depends on why you want to fertilize your plant. Young Begonia Popenoei needs more nutrients than a mature plant to help the leaves grow.

Therefore aim for phosphorus-based fertilizer because it helps in root development. I would suggest applying a phosphorus-rich fertilizer at least once during the initial planting.

Once your plant is established, you can switch to a nitrogen-rich fertilizer as it will facilitate leaf growth. Always apply the nitrogen fertilizer in the early months of growing seasons; else, the flowering will be affected.

If you like organic fertilizers, you can opt for the fish emulsion to give nutrients to your Begonia houseplant. Slow-release fertilizers should be applied once at the start of the growing season. Liquid fertilizers can be applied every two weeks.

If you are using granule based fertilizer, make sure you do not allow the granules to sit on the rhizome or leaves. Always fertilize according to the instructions on the label by the manufacturer but avoid feeding in winter.



This Begonia has a shrubby growth; therefore, you should repot it once the soil becomes compact. You can refresh the potting soil every spring.



You should prune the outer stems and pinch the leaf tips to create a bushier plant. The ideal time to do this is the growing season. While pruning the plant, get rid of the dead or diseased foliage to prevent bacterial growth.

Every gardener should know about the four common types of pruning:

Rejuvenating – you remove old stems and leaves to restore the overall size and appearance.

Thinning – this is heavy pruning because you trim most of the stems on your plant. It is performed to improve air circulation or eliminate a plant disease.

Shearing – this is performed using electric shears to maintain the desired shape/size of the plant.

Pinching – you remove some leaf or stem tips to promote branching and leaf growth. This is a good alternative for heavy pruning if you do it every few months.



This plant should be propagated after the blooming season is over so that it has plenty of time to establish a strong plant structure before winter starts.


Propagating Begonia Popenoei through Rhizome Division

As a rhizome plant, this variety is best propagated via rhizome division. Start by sterilizing your gardening equipment. This step is important for the health of the plant and the success of propagation.

  • Separate the plant from the soil and divide the rhizome into 1-1.5 inch long sections.
  • Now bury this divided rhizome into moisturized soil. You can use a potting mixture of vermiculite and perlite.
  • Water these new plants regularly and keep them under bright, filtered light. The temperature needs to be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).


Propagating Begonia Popenoei with Stem Cuttings

  • Select a healthy leaf on your plant and take a stem cutting that is at least 4 inches long.
  • You should cut below the leaf node and trim the leaves in the bottom region.
  • Take a clear plastic cup and fill it with fresh water. Submerge the lower end of your cutting in this jar.
  • You should add new water after 3 days. Place this plastic cup in the kitchen window sill where it receives bright sunlight and warm temperature.
  • Within 3 to 4 weeks, the node will start sprouting tiny roots. You should transfer this plant to a soil medium once the roots are 1 or 2 inches long.
  • You can also plant the above cutting in a growing medium directly. You can use peat-based soil, as mentioned in the soil section.
  • Simply bury the node in the soil and water well. For additional care, you can dip the node in rooting hormone.
  • Cover the pot with a plastic bag or bottle to maintain high humidity. You should water this cutting every few days to maintain proper moisture in the soil.


Propagating Begonia Popenoei from Leaf Cuttings

Begonias can be propagated with even a single leaf.

  • All you have to do is cut a mature, healthy leaf at the leaf joint. Perform this step with clean tools; otherwise, you might infect both the original plant and the leaf-cutting.
  • Prepare a soil mixture, as discussed in the previous section. Bury the petiole (this is the small section of the stem attached to the leaf) in the soil.
  • The leaf should be above the soil. Maintain the humidity, light, and temperature required for the Begonia Popenoei, and this single leaf will start producing new roots and shoots.



This plant blooms with very delicate white flowers that have a bright yellow center. These erect flowers grow on thin petioles that can break easily. The flowers grow in a cluster to form a cyme.

This plant makes gloomy winter days refreshing as the blooms appear from early winter to late winter.

The flower panicles grow at the height of 1 foot (0.3 m) above the leaves.


The leaves of Begonia Popenoei have prominent veins that spread from the midrib. Each leaf is huge and has a different size (anywhere from 8 to 12 inches), making Begonia Popenoei an attractive houseplant.

The round leaves grow in groups to create a small leafy jungle. The leaves of this specimen have red veins and irregular edges on the top and undersides of the leaves. The leaves also have slight fuzziness on the surface.

The height of this plant can range from 1.5 to 3.5 feet (0.4 to 1 m), and the width can be 1 to 1.5 feet (0.3 to 0.4 m).


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Common Problems for Begonia Popenoei



This is a soil fungus that enters the plant system via the stems or the roots. Avoid overwatering in the first place, but if your plant is already infected with this virus, you should decrease watering. To save your plant, you should do the following:

  • Remove all the wilted parts.
  • Discard the soil and replace it with a fresh batch of potting mix.
  • Thoroughly wash your container with water and bleach (1:9 ratios).



Thrips are small, flying insects that enjoy feeding on leafy houseplants like Begonias. They feed on the flower tissues and leaves. They thrive in dry climates and warm temperatures. You should regularly inspect your indoor plant in winter because central heating makes a perfect atmosphere for thrips growth.

Thrips not only suck plant juices but also multiply rapidly and spread other viruses. The female thrips can lay about 300 eggs within 45 days. Infected plants will have distorted leaves, flower drops, and damaged flower petals.

  • Isolate the infected plant from other healthy houseplants.
  • Discard the infected parts of the plant.
  • Introduce predatory mites and yellow sticky traps to control the population.
  • Wash your plant with a water hose to dislodge the thrips.


Red Spider Mites

Spider mites use their sharp mouths to feed on the leaves of Begonia Popenoei. Just like thrips, mites also thrive in dry and hot climates. This one can lay about 200 eggs in less than 1 month.

The infected plant will have stippled, yellow foliage. Heavy infections can lead to the death of your plant; therefore, it is best to treat them in the early stages. The main symptom is white webs on the foliage and flowers.

You can get rid of the mites by doing the following:

  • Remove the infected part immediately after you detect a mite infection.
  • Increase the air humidity to avoid a dry atmosphere.
  • Water your plant regularly in dry weather.
  • Spray your plant with neem oil and remove the dead mites with a damp cloth.
  • You can also use an insecticide or miticide if the plant is heavily infected.



These are also small insects that feed on the tissues and cells of ornamental plants like Begonias. Mealybugs leave a white powder as they move along the plant.

These resemble cotton with their soft bodies. They feed in colonies and hide in the leaf or stem joints. After feeding, they leave a sticky residue on the plant, which promotes fungal growth called sooty mold.

You can control mealybugs using neem oil or isopropyl alcohol. You can also spray your plant with a strong stream of water, but please do this in an open area like the bathtub or outdoor garden.


These tiny flying insects resemble moths. If you want to check your plant for whiteflies, disturb it, and you’ll notice tiny insects flying around. They live on the undersides of the huge leaves and slowly feed on plant sap. You should do the following to control whiteflies:

  • Spread reflective mulch to distract whiteflies.
  • Trap them using sticky traps and introduce natural enemies like ladybugs.

The best prevention step to avoid pest infection is to always inspect the newly bought houseplants. You should isolate them for at least 2 weeks to detect any infection.


Powdery Mildew

Indoor plants with poor lighting and air circulation often develop powdery mildew. This fungus spreads as the nights become cold and the days are hot/humid. This is identified as a white/gray powdery substance on the upper surface of the leaves. Some of the major symptoms of the infection are:

  • Early flower drop
  • Brown or yellow leaves
  • Curled or distorted leaves
  • New growth is crinkled

Space your plants carefully to ensure airflow around them. Water your plant using the bottom watering method instead of watering from the top. Maintain proper sanitation for your plant and also use an appropriate garden fungicide to get rid of the fungus entirely.


Tips for Growing Begonia Popenoei

  • Avoid fertilizing at the end of growing seasons.
  • This moisture-loving variety needs ample water throughout the growing months.
  • If your plant produces fewer blooms, the lighting is insufficient. You should increase light exposure.
  • You should not fertilize the Begonia Popenoei from October to February.
  • Although this rhizome plant can tolerate some hours of direct sun (morning or evening), always keep it away from the afternoon sun in summer.
  • When this Begonia enters cold weather dormancy, it becomes susceptible to rhizome rot. Therefore it is recommended to reduce watering to prevent waterlogged soil.
  • Trim the dead parts of the plant after frost or freezing periods.
  • Add a fresh layer of mulch before winter starts; it will provide frost-protection for the rhizomes.
  • Always inspect the undersides of the leaves because most pests hide there.


Frequently Asked Questions about Begonia Popenoei


How often should I water the Begonia Popenoei?

This begonia variety has normal water requirements. This means you should water it whenever the top 1 inch of the potting soil has dried out.

How will I know if my Begonia Popenoei needs more sunlight?

The main indicators of low sunlight are leggy-growth, pale appearance, and fewer leaves. If you notice any of these on your Begonia Popenoei, transfer it to a spot with better lighting conditions.

How can I improve the green color of the leaves on Begonia Popenoei?

You can add a tablespoon of Epsom salt to enhance the lush green look of the leaves.

Why have the leaves of my Begonia Popenoei started collapsing after the cold weather?

The winter frost and cold weather are damaging the leaves of your Begonia; hence they have started collapsing. You should protect the leaves from cold weather with frost cloth, sheets, or any other light material to prevent this from happening.

When is the best time to fertilize Begonia Popenoei?

For best results, you should fertilize this plant just before new growth starts. You can use a regular houseplant fertilizer that is suitable for blooming Begonias.


Begonias deserve a special spot in landscape and indoor gardening, especially those with large leaves.  Begonia Popenoei gives tough competition to other houseplants with its large leaves and elegant white flowers. The apple green leaves make this a great addition to your hanging baskets.

Just remember that this plant needs plenty of room to thrive because it gets huge as it matures. If you like Giant Leaf Begonias, you can read our article about the interesting Begonia Nelumbiifolia.