Skip to Content

Begonia Maculata: 7 Expert Care Tips and Growing Guide

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.

Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ is another houseplant that has taken the plant world by storm and is super popular. And for good reason! The foliage is absolutely stunning and is nicknamed the Polka Dot begonia for obvious reasons. Begonias can be a bit touchy though, so it is important to know a few things to keep your plant in tip top shape.

Let me take you through 7 care and propagation tips that I’ve developed from personal experience that will help you take care of Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ and keep it looking its best.

begonia-maculata-wightii

In this post you will learn how to take care of this plant, as well as discuss some common problems with Begonia maculata and what you can do to help prevent these issues.

How do you care for a Begonia maculata plant?

1. LIGHT

Light (next to watering) is the most misunderstood topic in houseplant care. When grown indoors, Begonia maculata does like some partial sun.

This is not a low light houseplant. Cane-like begonias such as the maculata like brighter light. It is not necessary, nor desirable, to keep your plant in full sun all day, but some direct sun is beneficial indoors.

This plant absolutely MUST be in front of a window, otherwise it will grow weak and lanky. I find that they tend to need support regardless, and if you have these plants in conditions that are too dark, you will be disappointed.

Keep this in mind next time you see a staged photo of plants on Instagram. In many cases, photos are staged and those plants are not necessarily growing where you see them in the photo!

By the way, if you aren’t following me on Instagram, what are you waiting for?

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuAM72fg9_1/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

I have my own plant growing in my sunroom, which has nice light from a large wall of North widows, a smaller wall of East windows, and also a skylight.

Granted, in the winter, conditions in Ohio are quite dismal so you may be luckier than I am! Sunshine in the wintertime is beneficial for many plants (including ones that don’t traditionally “need” direct sun).

begonia-maculata-wightii
Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’

I would not recommend growing this plant in front of a North window. In most cases, it will not be enough light for this plant. A good East window, or West window, would be great.

If you are blessed with super sunny windows, you may want to diffuse the light with blinds or a sheer curtain. Too much direct sun can scorch these plants, at least wash out the color of the foliage, and bye bye polka dots!

If you are concerned about not getting enough natural light, the American Begonia Society says that begonias can grow very well under fluorescent lights and it doesn’t have to be an expensive set up.

The ABS says that if you are on a budget, you can use a plain shop light with cool white bulbs and leave them on for 14 hours a day. Just be sure to have the bulbs 2 inches above the top leaves for best growth.

Just be careful as the plant grows, you will have to adjust the lights!

I actually have successfully grown begonias indoors even under LED lights (not the hideous purple ones…just plain LED).

2. SOIL MOISTURE, WATERING & HUMIDITY

Soil moisture for Begonias is CRITICAL! Read this section carefully because it could mean the difference between success and failure.

I’ve found that there is a delicate balance to strike in watering begonias indoors. They seem to demand very exacting conditions in soil moisture to really look their best!

As long as you don’t expect a perfect looking plant (and begonias will rarely look perfect indoors), you will be ok if you heed everything I have to say.

If you keep the soil too dry (meaning completely dry, or even almost completely dry), I’ve found that Begonia maculata is prone to dropping brand NEW green leaves.

In addition, you will get more of the dreaded crispy brown tips. Some of the lower leaves will also turn ugly and drop off as well.

If you have leaves that are yellow and dropping off, you are potentially keeping it too wet. When you notice this happen, stick your finger in the soil and see if it is wet or dry in order to best diagnose the cause.

So don’t let these plants completely dry out! To read more about crispy brown leaves in houseplants in general, be sure to read my blog post on why plant leaves turn brown and crispy.

begonia-maculata-brown-leaf-tips
Brown leaf tips on Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’

On the other hand, you must NOT keep any begonia too wet. This will cause rotting to occur and also invite various diseases that begonias can be prone to including powdery mildew, among others.

My recommendation for watering would be to let the surface dry out (about the top 1/2 inch or 1 inch or so) and then water thoroughly. This should be a good rule of thumb.

Water your plant thoroughly until all excess water escapes the drainage hole, and discard the excess water. Do not let your plant sit in water.

And don’t expect perfection with begonias indoors. For begonias to look their best indoors, they need high humidity, which is difficult to achieve indoors. These plants are native to the jungles of southeast Brazil, so they are used to high humidity.

Although being diligent with watering and NOT allowing your maculata to dry out completely is much more important than worrying about humidity, if you can increase humidity to the 40-60% range, it will be beneficial.

I do run a humidifier indoors in the months that our central heat is on, otherwise my plants (and my skin) will hate me. I wrote a blog post on the topic of increasing humidity for houseplants so be sure to check that out as well.

Before we move on, I talk about this in the humidity post that I referred you to above, but my absolute favorite humidifier, and the one I use in my home, is made by Levoit. I LOVE it and it has so many features.

My plants, and my skin, are much happier in the winter with the humidifier. My plants are already subjected to dark Ohio days in the winter, so I make sure that I can compensate a little bit by giving them extra love with more humidity!

I talk about the humidifier in my blog post that I linked to above, but if you want to go directly to Amazon to purchase it, check out the Levoit Ultrasonic Humidifier now. You won’t regret and your plants and your skin will love you!

MOST POWERFUL
LEVOIT Humidifiers (6L)
$89.99

Warm and Cool Mist Ultrasonic Air Vaporizer, Customized Humidity, Remote Control, Whisper-Quiet

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/26/2021 04:12 pm GMT

3. SOIL TYPE & REPOTTING

Cane-type begonias aren’t as picky as some other types of begonias as far as soil goes. Many other begonias need a coarser mix.

Mine is just planted in an all-purpose Miracle Gro potting mix to which I’ve added some perlite to it. It seems to work just fine.

Just make sure that you don’t keep your plants too wet and remember my advice from the watering section!

One very important caution if you are repotting your begonia…be sure not to use a pot that is much larger than where it was previously in. If you go too big, the soil will stay wet for much longer and you will risk disaster with your begonia! This is especially important for begonias!

For example, if you are growing a plant in a 4 inch pot, go up to a 6 inch pot and no bigger. Be sure to loosen the root ball a little bit too before placing it into the bigger pot.

4. FERTILIZING

I’ve converted most of my houseplants to Dyna-Gro Grow fertilizer. I can’t speak highly enough about this fertilizer. It is urea-free, is balanced enough for pretty much all foliage plants, and has all the major and minor nutrients.

I add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water and use this with every watering throughout the growing season. I refrain from fertilizing in the winter when growth slows or comes to a halt.

Dyna-Gro Grow is simply the best all purpose fertilizer that I’ve used for my indoor plants and should be part of anyone’s houseplant care routine.

Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow Quart
$23.98

This is an amazing, nutritionally complete, all purpose formulation that contains all the micro and macro nutrients that plants need to thrive. It is urea-free so it will not burn your plants.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/26/2021 05:56 am GMT

6. PRUNING BEGONIA MACULATA

Over time, your plant may get a little leggy and you might want to rejuvenate your plant.

If you want a bushier plant, you can trim and prune your plant. I trimmed mine in the photo further down below, and you can see that it is growing back.

My plant had started to look a bit ragged because I unintentionally let it dry out multiple times (life happens…) but I took action to improve it. Don’t be afraid to prune! You’ll see shortly how beautifully my plant responded to a hard pruning.

I followed these tips from the American Begonia Society. In late winter or early Spring, when plants start back up into growth, you can do some maintenance.

Begonia maculata after pruning and showing new growth

If there are very old, woody canes, especially with not that many leaves, just cut the whole canes down to the soil line.

Looking to purchase a Begonia maculata? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the Begonia maculata selection (link to Etsy) today!

For any green canes, you can shorten them a bit, but leave at least 4 nodes like I did in the photo above. A node is where the leaves meet the stems.

A few months later, this is what the plant that I chopped back looked like. Granted, I also had it outdoors during the summer, but look at the transformation!

begonia-maculata-wightii-flowers

And the flowers are just stunning! After the flowers are spent, they will fall off. If the flowers fall onto the foliage, make sure you remove them promptly, otherwise it could damage the foliage and encourage pests and disease if they left for too long.

begonia-maculata-wightii-flowers

Note that if your plant is not blooming, it’s probably not getting enough light. Fertilizing will help increase the show, but light is what will help your plant bloom.

Throughout the growing season, if you pinch the growing tips of the canes, this will help to encourage brand new cane growth from the base of the plant. This will result in a fuller plant.

And of course after all that trimming and pruning, you can use the cuttings to propagate your plant.

7. HOW TO PROPAGATE BEGONIA MACULATA

Propagating this plant is very easy. Just take any clippings that you may have taken from pruning your plant and use this material to propagate.

You’ll want to have one or two nodes on the stem. Again, the node is where the leaf meets the stem.

Here is an example of where you can cut to make a cutting.

propagating begonia maculata

If you then remove the leaf right above where the scissors are, you are left with one node where the roots can grow from, and the cutting still has two leaves at the tip.

Whatever you do, make sure each cutting has one or two leaves left on it.

Then simply just place the cutting in water to root, or you can even insert the cutting into a pot with moist perlite. Once it is rooted, pot it up. Don’t wait forever to pot it up into soil.

Here are all the cuttings I made after I pruned my plant.

begonia-maculata-wightii-propagation

And here is an example of one of the rooted cuttings! All the cuttings I made rooted. There is evidence of rooting on the node and also on the internodes (between the nodes).

begonia-maculata-wightii-propagation

And here is a close up of the roots.

begonia-maculata-wightii-propagation

BEGONIA MACULATA PROBLEMS

POWDERY MILDEW

Begonias in general are prone to powdery mildew, which is a fungus that starts to appear as small white spots on the foliage and will quickly spread.

Remove any affected leaves and spray the entire plant with an appropriate fungicide. Powdery mildew tends to be an issue when you have high humidity and poor air circulation.

If you are using a humidifier or have your plant growing in high humidity, you’ll want to take care to increase air circulation in order to help avoid powdery mildew. A ceiling fan, or even a portable fan, set on low to gently circulate the air will help avoid this issue if you’ve had problems with it in the past.

BROWN TIPS ON LEAVES

This is most commonly caused by allowing your potting mix to become too dry. Humidity levels that are too low can also cause this.

YELLOW LEAVES

There are many reasons why plants get yellow leaves. Yellow leaves can be caused by potting mix that has gone too dry, or has stayed too wet for too long. It is up to you to feel the potting mix and determine which could have caused it. In addition, too much direct sun can wash out the foliage color as well.

DROPPING LEAVES

These are definitely touchy plants, and if conditions are not even and stable, your plant may protest and drop leaves. Leaf drop is common if you have recently brought your plant home. It needs some time to adjust to its new environment. Striving for consistent condition (soil moisture), stable, warm temperatures and sufficient light will help avoid this issue.

LEANING OVER

Is your plant leaning over to one side as it’s growing? Over time, as your begonia canes get long enough, they’ll require support. Simply insert thin bamboo stakes, or a similar support, in the pot and loosely clip or tie the canes for support.

BEGONIA TOXICITY

Begonia maculata is toxic to cats and dogs due to calcium oxalate according to the ASPCA.

That’s about it folks! Do you have a Begonia maculata? What are your experiences with this plant? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you.

begonia-maculata-wightii

Looking to purchase a Begonia maculata? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the Begonia maculata selection (link to Etsy) today!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

Candice Kobielski

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

I thought you were supposed to let the soil dry out so that you avoid root rot but my leaves are starting to fall so maybe I should try your way😄

Raffaele

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

Hi Candice! Many plants don't like to dry out completely, and root rot is only a problem if your plant stays too wet for too long. You can still keep your plant fairly moist with no danger of root rot. And you certainly need to water properly. Too many people are scared to water properly. The thing to remember is that you want to thoroughly water your plants, but have them start to dry out in a reasonable amount of time. And it doesn't mean that you have to let all the soil dry out (depending on what plant you have). Begonias will protest if they go completely dry, so I only let the top inch or two dry out. Having pots that are much too big (compared to the size of the pot that the plant was growing in before) is dangerous because the soil will take a long time to start to dry out because of volume of soil. If you have cooler conditions, your soil will taking longer to dry out. If your potting mix is not well drained, or you don't have a drainage hole, this can be problematic too. There are a lot of factors involved. I talk about all these factors in my book, Houseplant Warrior that is coming out in March. :-)

Jennifer

Tuesday 7th of September 2021

Hi!! I love your polka dot begonia! I have 4 and am struggling to keep them happy. I keep losing leaves. I don’t know what to do. They are by a window and get morning sun. I water them once a week. When I do, I notice that the soil is very dry. I water until water runs out of the drainage holes and then I throw away the water in the dish. I am lost and getting so sad that I can’t make them grow more leaves and become bushy. I would appreciate what advice you can give me. I am losing hope. :(

Raffaele

Thursday 9th of September 2021

Hi Jennifer! If you noticed that your soil has gone really dry, you may just need to monitor it more closely and water more frequently. If the potting mix is so dry that the water seems to stream through really quickly, you may have to soak it several times in a row to re-wet the potting mix. Many times, when potting mix gets super dry, it will actually repel water...so you need to stream water through for a while until it accepts water again. I hope this helps a bit!

Brooke

Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Great post! How big does maculata leaves get? And are the biggest leaves only at the top? If I cut off the tops, will the leaves at the bottom get bigger, or just bushier?

Raffaele

Thursday 2nd of September 2021

Hi Brooke! The size really depends on how good your growing conditions are. The biggest leaves won't necessarily only be on top. When the leaves are fully open and mature, they will remain that size. But the size of the leaves really depends a lot of how good your growing conditions are.

Christine

Tuesday 20th of July 2021

I am from Hongkong. Was given a plant of Begonia Maculata from a friend 16 months ago. It had a full foliage and one month afterwards, flowers bloomed. I fell in love with Begonia Maculata! After 2 months, flowers dropped and leaves started to brown, probably because it was the hottest month of the year! Leaves continued to drop but the plant continued to grow taller, up to 2 feet tall. More leaves dropped. At the moment, there are only 6-7 leaves left at the top and I saw very few nodes on the lower part of the canes! Was thinking of propagating. In April, took out one cane which had one leaf and two nodes plus the root and placed it in water. As I did not see too strong roots coming out, I had left it quite long in the water before transferring to soil. Nothing grew further, in fact, the two leaves are now hanging on to their life and could drop off any moment! What could I do to help with the main plant and the one which I was trying to propagate?

Raffaele

Wednesday 21st of July 2021

Hi Christine! Did you place your cuttings in good light? Make sure you have the cuttings by a window where you'd normally grow your plants. Change the water frequently. If you trim your main plant back, it will respond with new growth and will rejuvenate your plant, like I showed in the blog post. Don't be afraid to trim it :-)

Marianne

Friday 9th of July 2021

I only just got mine this winter (London England) Had some dry tops which I’ve trimmed She lives in the bathroom close to a window but Indirect light. She lives next to a rubber plant and I put them for a shower approx every 8-9 days when top soil is dry. But I’ve just noted that some of the new leaves has got holes tiny ones in the middle of their leaves… do u know why? Also our cat died very suddenly could this plant be why? It’s next to cat flap!😱

Raffaele

Friday 9th of July 2021

Hi Marianne. I'm so sorry to hear about your cat :-(. Begonias are considered toxic. Did you notice any leaves missing or chewed up other than the little holes?