The Begonia sutherlandii (Be-GON-yuh Suth-er-LAN-dee-eye), Begonia Papaya or Sutherland Begonia is a rare is a cascading perennial that has lovely small apricot-colored flowers and belong to the species of tuberous Begonia. They are tuberous perennials native to the south of Tanzania and South Africa.
Begonia Sutherlandii is a tuberous perennial, and it grows from a small tuberous root. All this plant needs is a position in partial shade with a potting mixture that is fertile and well-draining. Fertilize this species with a regular houseplant fertilizer, especially in growing months. Keep temperatures between 71 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 30 degrees Celsius) for the best results. Keep the humidity around 70%.
There they grow in higher altitudes and cascade over rocks and trees in lower light, humid environments. Their foliage is asymmetrical and green with red veining and stems that cascade over the edge of the pot accompanied by orange, edible flowers.
Despite their exotic place of origin, these plants are easy to take care of, especially if you are looking for one that can withstand lower temperatures.
They make for a great addition to indoor and outdoor urban jungles and will look amazing in a hanging basket. Furthermore, the Begonia sutherlandii has been awarded the RHS Award for Garden Merit, because it is considered such a well-performing and reliable plant.
According to The National Gardening Association, this plant can attract wildlife like bees in your garden.
So, without any more beating around this Begonia bush, let’s get into what it takes to have a big, beautiful, flowering Begonia sutherlandii of your own either in your garden if conditions allow or as an indoor plant.
- 1 Begonia Sutherlandii Plant Care
- 2 Common problems with Begonia sutherlandii
- 3 Tips to keep Begonia sutherlandii problem-free
- 4 Frequently asked questions about Begonia sutherlandii
- 4.1 Where should I grow the Begonia Sutherlandii?
- 4.2 It’s almost the end of spring, but my Begonia Sutherlandii is still dormant; why is that?
- 4.3 Can this species survive in a very hot summer?
- 4.4 What soil conditions are preferred by this plant?
- 4.5 What other plant species is a good companion for Begonia Sutherlandii?
- 4.6 How can I winterize Begonia Sutherlandii?
- 4.7 Is this plant edible?
- 4.8 Can I start the Begonia Sutherlandii early?
- 4.9 What organic fertilizer to use on indoor Begonia sutherlandii?
- 4.10 How to water a big hanging Begonia sutherlandii?
- 4.11 How do I set up a humidity tray for my Begonia sutherlandii, if it is in a hanging basket?
- 5 Conclusion
Begonia Sutherlandii Plant Care
Since the Begonia sutherlandii is a tuberous species of Begonia, a well-draining soil mix is essential, especially when planted in a pot. I always recommend mixing your growing medium, so that you know first hand what soil your plant is living in, and you can tweak it depending on your specific environment.
Make sure your potting mix holds the moisture required for the plant to grow and thrive.
A general recipe would be one part garden loam, one part coarse sand, and four parts of high-quality store-bought potting mix. Garden loam is composed of sand, silt, and clay and is considered to be the perfect gardening soil.
Make sure the soil pH is falling in the range of 6.5 to 7 (acidic to neutral). This plant thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11.
This is because of its porosity and water retention abilities, that enable water to seep through the soil slowly, while still preventing waterlogging.
For outdoors it is also advisable to plant them in well-draining soil with leaf molds and other organic materials.
This plant can tolerate shade or filtered sunlight both indoors and outdoors. However, a few hours of morning and evening sun will help your plant in blooming and leaf growth. Make sure you never expose your Begonia to direct sun in the afternoon; always keep it in a sheltered position with filtered sunlight.
In winter Begonia Sutherlandii will appreciate some direct winter sun. This will help in photosynthesis as well as prevent the plant from staying too wet.
Keep in mind that in its natural habitat, this plant is found growing in shady locations, so it likes partial shade for indoor planting also.
But at the same time, excessively dark locations increase the risk of soil mold and rhizome rot. Therefore it is best to experiment and find the best spot for your Begonia.
When choosing a place for you Begonia sutherlandii in your garden, look for a shaded, possibly elevated spot that is protected from stronger gusts of wind.
Avoid putting it in direct sunlight to prevent sunburns. Indoors put it in an east or west-facing window with bright indirect light or dappled shade.
It will do well in medium light also, so it could be appropriate for a bathroom (because of high humidity).
We have emphasized the need for a well-draining soil already, but this doesn’t mean that Begonia sutherlandii are drought-tolerant plants. All Begonia Sutherlandii requires good watering that keeps the soil moist.
They indeed like a good amount of water, so you should grab your watering can as soon as the top inch of the soil is dry during the spring and summertime.
Don’t water to the point where the soil becomes soggy, just a medium amount of water once or twice a week should do the trick. For plants that live in the garden water the entire bed generously when the top of the soil is dry.
This plant can tolerate a short period of dryness as the thick trunk or caudex stores some water for the plant.
I water my Begonia Sutherlandii 1-2 times every week. You can add water when 1 inch of soil is dry.
Remember that the water needs of a plant grow with it. This is especially important to remember with begonias, that tend to grow big each season.
Also, water more when the temperatures rise, as the soil dries out quicker. Use rainwater or distilled water when you can.
You can even go for aquarium water if it is available, but avoid tap water that hasn’t been sitting for at least 24h.
The Begonia sutherlandii will thrive in medium temperatures and are known to be a little bit more tolerant of the cold than other Begonias. Some say they can survive near-freezing temperatures but will lose all of their leaves in the process.
The ideal indoor temperature range for this Begonia plant is 71 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 30 degrees Celsius). You can plant it outside if the nighttime temperature remains above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 degrees Celsius). If the temperature starts dropping below this, your Begonia needs to go inside.
Remember that like some other plant species, this one also prefers cooler nights for best growth.
They will wilt if overheated and in direct sunlight, and will do well with temperatures as low as 55 degrees F. Since they are tuberous Begonias, they can be easily overwintered.
You should do this before the first hard frost. Prune the plant back to about six inches in height and dig up the tubers in a ball of soil.
Store this in a bright and frost-free place, until the stems fall off. Once that happens, wash the tubers carefully without causing damage to the roots, and let dry.
You can store the dead tubers in a dark, open, cool place.
Your Begonia sutherlandii will thrive in high humidity. A greenhouse is a perfect place for that. Otherwise, consider a humidity tray or humidifier.
In nature, this plant is found to be growing in humid forests. Therefore it naturally loves high humidity. During the daytime, you can keep the humidity of 60-80%, whereas, at night, 80-100% humidity is best.
Around 70% humidity is perfect, but with consistent misting and a humidity tray, they will do well in normal indoor humidity. Be very aware that in case you are misting your Begonia, you should do it early in the morning, with a very fine mist and ample ventilation around the plant to prevent fungal issues.
You can use a fan for that purpose. When you combine droplets of water on the leaves and poor ventilation you have a perfect recipe for powdery mildew, that we are going to touch upon later.
This is why we generally do not recommend misting your Begonias, but with the right preventative plan, you might get away with it.
If you are planting your Begonia sutherlandii in your garden, I suggest adding a slow-release, organic fertilizer to the soil when you do so. You can top dress it with the same fertilizer again around the middle of the growing season.
Alternatively, if your Begonia sutherlandii is in a pot, you can go for a balanced liquid fertilizer for houseplants. Dilute it to half strength and pour it in the soil after watering, to prevent fertilizer burn at the roots.
The fertilizer will help your Begonia plant bloom abundantly. I fertilize mine using a balanced fertilizer once every two weeks. You can repeat this application until the plant starts blooming. I even add a small dose of fertilizer that is rich in potassium.
You can also top-dress your Begonia with a slow-release organic fertilizer indoors in spring and summer. Apply it once every month during active growth.
The Begonia sutherlandii is easy to propagate like most Begonias. Conveniently, you can look for bulbils that they have at the nodes.
These bulbils can then be placed directly onto the soil and will take root if kept reasonably moist. Alternatively, you can propagate it by leaf or stem cuttings.
- Choose a healthy stem or leaf to propagate. It should be young and not damaged and free of pests. Older leaves have a smaller chance of success, and you surely don’t want to put effort in a cutting that already has a disease or irreparable damage.
- Put the stem into the water so that at least one node is submerged. If you are propagating by leaf, just make sure a decent amount of stalk is submerged.
- Enclose the cutting and water container in a plastic bag to preserve moisture and warmth.
- When an inch or so of roots appear, prepare their new pot. Fill it with growers soil and poke holes for the new plants. Moisten the soil.
- Put the cuttings into the soil carefully and cover the roots. Keep a plastic bag over it but remember to check these cuttings regularly. The soil should be kept moist but not soggy.
- When you notice the plant has set secure roots and new growth appears on the top of your plant, you can remove the plastic bag.
- Most tuberous Begonias are propagated through rhizome division. All you have to do is separate the tubers of a well-established plant.
- Divide the tubers into several sections depending on the size of the root ball. Make sure each section has two stems with few leaves on it.
- Prepare small pots with a well-draining, rich potting mix. The number of pots will depend on the number of sections you have.
- Using sharp and sterilized tools, separate the tubers from each other. You might have to trim away any rotting parts of the root ball. This will ensure the new plants have a healthy root system.
- The new plants perform best when covered with a refrigerator or plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse.
Bulbils are formed on the leaf axils, and these are a great option for propagating Begonia Sutherlandii. If you have never heard of bulbils, these are small bulbs that grow on the parent plant. Just like seeds, the bulbils also have the ability to produce a new plant under the right conditions.
- Separate the bulbils from a well-established Begonia Sutherlandii.
- Put them in an appropriate potting mixture that is suitable for growing Begonia plants.
- Planting them in summer is ideal because it gives the plant plenty of time to establish itself before winter starts.
- These bulbils need plenty of moisture for growth. Therefore make sure you water them regularly throughout the growth process.
- Maintain a temperature of 64-70 degrees Fahrenheit (18-21 degrees Celsius). Soon you will notice new baby roots growing from the bulbils. Most of the time, this plant takes 4-8 weeks for new growth.
This whole process is much easier if you have a propagation box. You can simply place your cuttings in long stem sphagnum moss, keep them moist and wait for the roots. Put in soil when new growth and a couple of inches of new roots are present.
The Begonia sutherlandii is known for its cascading growth habit. It produces flowers in pendent panicles. It can grow up to 6 inches in height and 1 to 1.5 feet in width/length.
When potting your Begonia sutherlandii keep in mind the importance of drainage. Ideally, choose a clay pot with drainage holes.
Place clay shards or coarse gravel on the bottom of the pot to aid further drainage. Pour a layer of soil in, place the tuber in the middle, and pour the remaining soil around it.
Pack the soil down a little, so that the tuber is in contact with the soil entirely. When the plant outgrows its pot, go an inch or two up in size in springtime.
When repotting to a new container, select a pot that is 1 inch large in size than the previous pot. Allow the pot to have at least one drainage hole. You can use unglazed clay or terracotta pots. For potting soil, you can prepare a peat-based mix and add a small quantity of perlite.
To repot, remove the root ball from the old pot by brushing away the soil from the tubers. Bury the tubers a few inches deep in the new batch of potting mix.
Even if you don’t repot your plant every year, I would highly suggest refreshing the potting mixture. This will replace the overly compacted soil with a loose, fresh mix that ensures good drainage and airflow. I would recommend repotting after two years to help your plant grow better with more room for root development.
Pruning encourages more blooms on all flowering Begonias. Prune the Begonia Sutherlandii at the beginning of spring to help your plant have more blooms in the coming season.
Pruning is also necessary to remove any damaged or decaying parts of the plant. Remove the yellow, distorted leaves and dying flowers.
The Begonia Sutherlandii will bloom for you all summer and even early autumn. The blooms are scented and are about 1 inch in size. They vary in shades of coral and apricot with a tiny bright yellow flower in the center.
The flowers grow in pendulous panicles with yellow anthers. The flowers droop downwards on the long stems; that is why the best way to showcase these beauties is in hanging baskets.
The female flowers turn into small capsules that contain the brown seeds for Begonia Sutherlandii.
This plant has a bushy appearance and trailing growth habit. The leaves appear in shades of dark, light, and olive green creating a unique look against the orange flowers. This plant has trailing stems, and the foliage appears as light green with red veins in the growing months of spring and summer. The leaves have toothed edges and tiny hairs on the undersides.
The stems are up to 30 inches long and pink or red in color. This plant reaches maturity after 2-5 years with a height and spread of 20 inches.
This plant will go dormant in winter. After the harsh winter is over, give your plant some warmth and light in spring to bring it back to life.
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Common problems with Begonia sutherlandii
Although Begonias are mostly pest resistant, they can suffer from fungal disease indoors and some bigger pests outdoors. From powdery mildew to caterpillars, we are going to give you the tips and tricks to deal with anything that tried to harm your Begonias sutherlandii.
Powdery mildew is identified by white powder on leaves, flowers, and stems in summer. This disease leads to stunted and distorted growth and very few blooms. The foliage has black spots with discoloration.
Powdery mildew thrives in moist conditions; therefore, avoid misting the plant unnecessarily. The moisture sitting on the plant favors the spread of this disease. The powdery mildew can spread very fast even via air. Therefore it is best to dispose of the infected parts of the plant.
Powdery mildew manifests itself as round, white, furry looking spots on your Begonia sutherlandii’s leaves and stems. It usually pops up when there is not enough air circulation around the plant and high humidity as described.
This is why I recommend watering in the morning and at the base of the plant so that you don’t get the leaves wet and the water has all day to be absorbed or dissipated.
When the damage is already done, mix a homemade remedy that consists of 1 tablespoon of baking soda, ½ teaspoon of liquid soap, and a gallon of water. Wipe all the mildew away, and remove the parts of the plant where the tissue is already dead beneath the spots.
Use a store-bought anti-fungal treatment or neem oil to prevent further mildew development. Repeat this process if necessary.
These are unfortunately very hard to identify and consequently catch in time. Nematodes are microscopic worms that disrupt the roots and vascular system development.
You will notice the symptoms on the top of your Begonia sutherlandii like wilting and yellowing of the leaves, but by then it is most likely too late. If you dig the plant up, a sign of this pest is swollen parts of the roots.
As with most pests prevention is key, that is why you should always opt for sterile plating soil and buying your plants from reputable nurseries. If the issue is in your garden soil, consider solarizing the soil.
Solarizing the soil will be beneficial for many other reasons as well, as it prevents numerous pests and diseases.
If you notice any small insects that are green, black, brown, or yellow, get ready because your plant is infested with aphids. These pests feed on the sap of your Begonia Sutherlandii. The infected plant has sticky leaf surfaces that are colonized by sooty mold.
A heavy infestation can weaken the plant, making it vulnerable to other pests and diseases. Aphids not only damage the host plant but spread the virus from one plant to another as they can easily move.
Take the plant to an outdoor location and wash it thoroughly with a water hose. It is best to replace the top few inches of soil with a fresh mixture. Allow the soil to dry out before applying any oil or soaps.
You will have to repeat the hosing of your plant every 7-10 days until your plant is completely free of aphids.
If you decide to grow your Begonia sutherlandii in a greenhouse, a likely enemy you shall face is the caterpillar. The main problem with them is that they can do a lot of damage in a short period, very hungry fellas.
If you notice holes on the young leaves of your Begonia plant, caterpillars might be feeding on the leaves. They are mostly an issue for outdoor Begonias as they may go unnoticed outside. Spray your Begonia with soap and water.
Pick them off by hand if they are big enough, and treat your Begonia with an insecticide. If you can identify the particular species of caterpillar, you can purchase traps that exude pheromones that attract the males for population control.
Mealybugs are first noticed as a white cottony substance that is usually found at sneaky paces like leaf axils, stem joints, and undersides of leaves. If you further inspect your plant, you will find the mealybugs or their eggs under the sticky substance called honeydew.
The honeydew creates a perfect situation for the spread of sooty mold. Mealybugs multiply quickly as the female can lay several eggs every day. Prune the infected plants or any flowers that were hosting these bugs.
Apply neem oil or any other good quality horticulture oil to kill the mealybugs. I would recommend separating the infected plant for at least 3 weeks.
The major symptoms for these mites are brown or rusty leaves that are distorted. Sometimes the flowers of the Begonia Sutherlandii are also distorted and blotchy.
You can hardly see the tarsonemid mites with the naked eye because they are very small in size, about 0.25 mm. They have shiny brown bodies. They feed on flower buds, shoot tips, and are slow-moving, so you might never notice them.
Treat your plant with a mixture of soap and water to get rid of them.
When houseplants are infected with thrips, a white-silvery color starts appearing on the leaves, and they start losing the bright green color. Thrips have many varieties and vary in colors from black, brown, or yellow. Thrips lay their eggs on young leaves and flower buds.
In addition to discoloration, you may notice black spots as a result of thrips infestation. Your Begonia Sutherlandii may fail to bloom after a thrips infection.
Just like mealybugs, they also feed on plant sap; if you leave the thrips feeding on the plant, the shoots and flower buds will become distorted. Therefore it is best to get rid of these destructive pests as soon as you notice them. Use neem oil or rubbing alcohol.
Often slugs will start eating Begonia leaves. But this is a minor problem, and they can be treated by sprinkling iron phosphate pellets on the soil surface. Diatomaceous earth is also effective against these.
Yellow leaves are an important sign of overwatering. This usually happens if you place your Begonia in low light but don’t reduce the watering frequency. Remember that good air circulation and oxygen are equally important for the plant’s health and root system.
Lack of oxygen often leads to overwatering; the best strategy is to reduce watering for your plant. And only water when needed.
Tips to keep Begonia sutherlandii problem-free
- For early blooms and growth, you can start this species indoors in a heated greenhouse during early spring.
- Keep the Begonia Sutherlandii away from intense sunlight.
- Always allow the topsoil to dry well before watering the plant again. Reduce the frequency of watering in autumn and winter months else the plant is vulnerable to rhizome rot.
- Position your Begonia Sutherlandii in a humid location that has consistent temperature according to the temperature range mentioned previously. Adequate humidity is mandatory to prevent sudden leaf-loss.
- Give your plant at least two hours of morning sun for optimum growth.
- Make sure outside you grow it in a frost-free area; otherwise, bring your plant inside for winter months. You can also cut the tubers before frost damage and store them indoors for winter, just like Dahlias.
Frequently asked questions about Begonia sutherlandii
Where should I grow the Begonia Sutherlandii?
You can easily grow this plant in conservatories, greenhouses, hanging baskets, or indoor planters.
It’s almost the end of spring, but my Begonia Sutherlandii is still dormant; why is that?
This is completely normal for this Begonia species. Many growers have noticed that this plant wakes up very late in spring, but the wait is worth it because it will bloom throughout summer.
Can this species survive in a very hot summer?
This plant prefers cool or moderate temperatures. It might die or wither in very hot temperatures.
What soil conditions are preferred by this plant?
Keep this plant on the drier side for better growth.
What other plant species is a good companion for Begonia Sutherlandii?
Ferns are a great companion for the Begonia Sutherlandii.
How can I winterize Begonia Sutherlandii?
This plant is not winter hardy, so bring the pot inside as winter hits. To winterize, place the pot in a dark, cool place and withhold watering. Within a few days after doing this, the plant will die back and go dormant.
Is this plant edible?
Only the orange colored flowers of the Begonia Sutherlandii plant are edible.
Can I start the Begonia Sutherlandii early?
If you plan to start this plant in early spring from tubers, make sure the sprouts appear before planting the tubers. You have to move your plant to a warm location after it starts sprouting. Plant them outside once the risk of frost damage is over by hardening them off for a week or two.
What organic fertilizer to use on indoor Begonia sutherlandii?
I suggest you go for vermiculite (worm castings) or fish emulsion to fertilize your Begonia sutherlandii. If you have your compost you can use that too.
How to water a big hanging Begonia sutherlandii?
If you are unable to unhinge your pot every time you water, your best bet will be a small ladder. Put a container beneath your basket that will gather the water that seeps through.
Use a watering can with a narrow spout so that once you are up the ladder, you can go in and in between the stems and leaves, and water the plant evenly. When you see the water has started draining through, stop watering.
How do I set up a humidity tray for my Begonia sutherlandii, if it is in a hanging basket?
If you are not planning on doing so major ‘McGyvering’ I don’t think there is an easy way to set up a humidity tray for a hanging plant. In that case, I would suggest the use of a humidifier or moving your plant somewhere where the relative humidity is higher.
To conclude, these plants are relatively easy to take care of but will still show off with abundant foliage and orange flowers. Water moderately, keep in dappled shade and keep an eye out for mold, and you should have no problems with your Begonia sutherlandii.
So, are you ready to get your own? It is quite rare to see in regular garden centers and nurseries, so we would be happy to see it when you do! Share the pictures with us in our Facebook group and let us know if there is any tip or trick we might’ve missed.