The Begonia maculata, commonly known as the polka dot begonia or the spotted begonia, is a highly attractive plant with distinctive spotted leaves. The striking foliage and flowers that range from white to pink make this type of begonia a great addition to any space.
For the successful growth and good health of this unique plant, you’ll need to understand its basic care requirements. But, let’s start by looking at a few features of the plant.
Polka dot begonia is native to the tropical forests of Brazil and it later spread to other parts of Central America including Mexico, Cuba, and Argentina. It was discovered and named by an Italian taxonomist who chose to use the Latin word “macula” which means spotted.
The green oblong leaves of this plant are dotted with silvery spots with undersides featuring a rich red-purple color. Their spiral arrangement on the stem makes the plant visually appealing from all angles. A reason some enthusiasts refer to it as the angel wing begonia.
In summary, here’s what to know about the begonia maculata plant.
|Constantly moist and well-draining soil (Slightly acidic).
|Evergreen tropical perennial.
|Upto 2ft. height.
|Partial shade or bright indirect sunlight.
|Toxic to dogs, cats, and livestock.
|Spring to early summer (April to July).
|White and Pink.
|USDA zones 9 – 12.
|Toxic to dogs, cats and livestock.
Begonia maculata care
Begonia maculata is generally easy to grow and care for as long as you follow a few simple rules. As a tropical plant, it prefers constantly humid and warm areas similar to its native habitats but you can grow it indoors in areas with winter climates.
Polka dot begonias thrive in bright, indirect light. Indoors, the plant should be placed near a window with filtered sunlight to prevent leaves from getting scorched. The east-facing window can be a perfect spot or any other as long as the plant is not receiving direct sunlight.
You’ll know Begonia maculata isn’t receiving enough light if the stems grow thin and spindly or when the leaves lose color and turn yellow. Add artificial grow lights if the location of your plant is not receiving enough natural light. Make sure you rotate the plant occasionally so that all sides are illuminated equally.
Temperature and humidity
This spotted begonia variety prefers warm and humid conditions to thrive. Maintain a temperature range of 65-75°F (18-24°C) during the day and up to 60 percent humidity. To maintain the required humidity level, mist the leaves regularly when the air gets dry.
Placing the plant on a pebble tray half filled with water can also keep humidity consistent. However, excess humidity may cause fungal issues. So, keep monitoring your plant for any signs of powdery mildew or rot and treat as needed.
This plant doesn’t actively go dormant during the winter but will significantly slow down. Avoid exposing it to cold drafts and reduce watering.
Begonia Maculata prefers consistently moist soil. This means watering should be regular during the growing seasons. However, it’s important to avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot and other fungal problems. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again.
Make sure the pot has proper drainage holes through which excess water can escape. Waterlogged soils can deprive roots of oxygen causing them to die. With damaged roots, the plant stops taking up water and important nutrients for its growth and survival.
Potting and repotting
As the Begonia maculata grows, the roots may outgrow its pot. This can impair their ability to take up water and nutrients. Repot the plant into a slightly larger container during the spring if you notice signs of root bound. Choose a pot one size larger than the current one and make sure it has drainage holes.
When potting or repotting the polka dot begonia, use well-draining soil rich in organic matter. This is to ensure proper drainage and proper root development. A mix containing peat moss, perlite, and orchid bark works well for this plant. A standard mix without any amendments can lead to root rot.
Polka dot begonias aren’t heavy feeders but you can fertilize to boost flowering and growth. During the growing season (spring and summer), apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks. A 10-10-10 plant formula is sufficient enough to use on your plants.
Stop fertilization during the dormant winter months when the plant’s growth slows down. Little to no growth takes place when the plant is dormant. So fertilizing during winter is not just a waste but also a threat to the health of your houseplant.
Your spotted begonia doesn’t need regular pruning. Just remove any dead or yellowing leaves to promote new growth and maintain the plant’s overall appearance. You may trim off a few stems if your plant is growing leggy. Make sure you are using clean pair of pruners to avoid spreading infections.
Begonia maculata is susceptible to common garden pests such as mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. So, regularly inspect the plant for any signs of infestation. You can treat insect pests on the plant using neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Overwatering and excessively high humidity levels can cause root rot and other fungal infections. To prevent this problem, avoid overwatering and ensure good air circulation around the plants. All plants that are infested or infected must be isolated for treatment.
How to propagate begonia maculata
Propagating your begonia maculata, can help create new plants to share or add to your collection. The easiest way to propagate this plant is through stem cuttings. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it.
- Choose a healthy stem from the polka dot begonia and make a clean cut just below a leaf node. The cutting should be around 3-5 inches long.
- Remove lower leaves from the cutting and leave just one or two preferably at the top. This is to reduce the surface area for moisture loss through evaporation.
- Root the cutting in water or your preferred propagation mix. If desired, you can dip the cut end in a rooting hormone before planting it.
- If you choose to root in water, simply submerge the cut end of the cutting in a container filled with clean water and place it in a spot with bright indirect light. You can cover the cutting with a plastic bag over the container to boost humidity around it.
- Change the water every 4 to 5 days and your cutting should take a few weeks to develop roots.
- Once the begonia cutting has developed some roots, transplant it into a small pot filled with a well-draining potting mix. Make sure to water the cutting thoroughly after transplanting.
Pro tip: Take multiple cuttings when propagating polka dot begonia to increase the chances of success. Additionally, be patient as it may take even months for the cutting to grow new roots.
The Begonia maculata is relatively easy to grow and care for. By providing the right conditions of light, humidity, water, and care, the plant rewards with vibrant growth and a stunning appearance. You can also propagate this remarkable plant through stem cuttings to get more plants.
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.