Last Updated on October 13, 2022 by Plant Mom Care
Polka Dot Begonia, an exotic-looking evergreen perennial is indigenous to the tropical rainforests of Brazil. It grows fast reaching 3 feet in height or more when mature and produces cascades of white flowers with bright yellow centers throughout summer.
Its leaves are large and wing-shaped patterned with silver-white polka dots and olive green on top with dark purple-red underneath and grow on bamboo-looking stems.
After flowering its growth will start deteriorating as its life cycle has been completed, although it can live on for another year however, when grown indoors, you can extend its life by pinching off flowers when they appear since the main beauty of the plant lies in its lovely foliage.
Propagating new plants every year from cuttings will ensure that the plant can continue growing indoors. Another good thing about this plant is that it is very easy to care for and maintain.
Polka Dot Begonia Light Requirements
It grows best under bright indirect light and even survives in lower light locations although it won’t grow well. It’s preferable to grow this plant indoors as strong sunlight can make the silvery spots fade or even scorch the leaves.
Growing it near east- or west-facing windows is good enough throughout the year as long as it is kept out of direct sunlight.
You will know if the plant isn’t getting enough light through its leaves – first, they start losing some color, then become yellow, and finally start dropping. Plant growth slows down and the stems will get leggy.
Polka Dot Begonia Watering
Proper drainage is important when growing this plant as the thick stems can store water and it doesn’t like soggy soil. A pot with plenty of drainage holes will help the excess water drain properly to avoid overwatering and root rot.
While it doesn’t like dry soil either, let about an inch of topsoil dry before watering. This will also discourage fungus and pests like gnats from taking hold. It also doesn’t like its leaves getting wet, so bottom watering is recommended.
When the plant is actively growing in spring and summer and the temperature is high the plant will have to be watered more regularly. The suggested frequency of watering is once every week in spring and summer and once in 2 weeks during winter when growth slows down.
Polka Dot Begonia Humidity
It prefers medium to high levels of humidity – more than 45% is ideal. A humid environment mimics its native habitat and helps the plant thrive. Proper humidity levels can bring success while mediocre growth will result in low humidity.
Growing it near other plants, using a water tray or a humidifier can help raise humidity. Pay closer attention to humidity in winter when indoor heating tends to dry the air.
Polka Dot Begonia Temperature
It prefers temperatures between 65 – 86°F. Keep it away from drafts and avoid temperatures below 59°F.
Polka Dot Begonia Soil
This plant likes well-draining soil that can also hold moisture without being soggy. It will grow well in light commercial soil but it’s better to amend it with perlite, wood chips, and a little organic compost.
Polka Dot Begonia Repotting
While it likes being a little root-bound it will quickly exhaust nutrients and minerals from the soil. Repotting is best, even if you return it to the old container since fresh soil will help keep the plant thriving. Since the foliage makes it top-heavy, using a heavy terracotta or stone pot is recommended.
If you’re reusing in the same pot, carefully loosen and remove soil around the edges of the roots to make space for fresh soil.
Polka Dot Begonia Propagation
There are two ways for propagating this plant – in water or soil.
Just place the end of the cutting in a small container of water. The stem cut end will release rooting hormones so you shouldn’t let them get diluted. Transplant the cutting when roots and new growth appear.
Dip the cutting’s end in root hormone and plant it in potting soil. Firmly press the soil down and water thoroughly.
Give the cutting sufficient light, under suitable warmth, and you will have a new plant within a few weeks.
Feed the plant with a diluted balanced fertilizer every 2 or 4 weeks in spring and summer. This will help it produce bigger leaves and encourage flowers to appear. Don’t feed it in fall and winter.
Creating a bushy plant takes some pruning. The plant naturally directs more energy towards growing upwards rather than horizontally and the canes can become leggy. Pruning away the tips of new cane growth every couple of weeks will stimulate bushier.
You can also trim down long stems in winter to help the plant conserve energy. Don’t worry, new growth will emerge when spring comes.
Polka Dot Begonia Common Problems
If you water the plant properly, keep the leaves clean and sterilize your tools, it won’t be vulnerable to any pests or diseases. The main problems the plant faces are fungus and infestations due to overwatering or high humidity.
Powdery mildew is one of the most common diseases. Unfortunately, healthy humid settings only increase this problem. It starts with white powdery circular spots on foliage and can spread to healthy leaves and other plants as well.
Remove affected foliage and treat the plant with a fungicide but treatments could be ineffective and prevention is the best defense. Always ensure the topsoil is dry before watering and provide good air circulation.
Botrytis is another fungal disease and causes soggy, brown blemishes. It often begins on lower leaves that touch the soil, aided by poor air circulation. Remove fallen leaves or flowers, and prune away affected areas. Apply fungicide and sterilize tools with alcohol.
Bacterial leaf spot causes pimple-like spots on leaves. Damage can be limited by pruning the affected areas although heavily infected plants must be discarded.
Stem rot can be prevented with well-drained soil and judicious watering. The stems infected with the disease become black, puffy, and mushy. There is no other treatment and severely infected plants must be discarded.
Treating mealybugs and whiteflies with pesticides isn’t very effective – beneficial bugs will also be killed off. These pests create colonies under the leaves and near stem joints. The application of insecticidal soap and neem oil can help.
Type of Begonia Plants
Is begonia maculata hard to care for?
The plant is an easy-going plant if you look after it well.
Are polka dot begonias hard to grow?
It’s very easy to grow when compared to begonias. It is very easy to grow if it is in warm temperatures with suitable humidity and sufficient light.
How fast does polka dot begonia grow?
This plant is a fairly fast grower, growing almost up to 12 inches a year. As it matures and is provided with good care, it will become a beautiful indoor plant that reaches 4 feet high or more.