polka dot begonia care

Taking Care of the Polka Dot Begonia in Your Home

The common Polka Dot Begonia is a splashy and colorful species of begonia plant. It is commonly grown in the home as it is a stunning specimen with deep to medium green leaves and complementary splatters and spots. This is a houseplant that will make a fine example of a stunning example of a flowering plant in your home’s collection.

As an added bonus, it is not hard to care for, which makes it a great piece for beginners and those who want something beautiful and relatively simple as far as growth parameters go.

We will start off with some general notes on what you need to know to get started with the best polka dot begonia care and how to keep this plant looking its best year after year.

Here you will learn how to care for this plant and how to address the most common problems that can arise when keeping this plant in the home. So let’s get started!

Quick Summary of Polka Dot Begonia

As a variety of the angel wing begonia sub-family off begonias, this is a very common houseplant. It can also go by the names wightii, clown or spotted. The plant’s exotic look comes from the variety of colors that come into play in its unique foliage.

It has silver polka dots that stand out in stark contrast to the deeper olive green leaves. It is accentuated by darker red undersides, and is adorned with delicate spikes of red or white flowers that have brilliant yellow stamens in the middle.

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia Plant

If something stunning and unusual is what you are looking for then you cannot go wrong with this begonia variant.

It can take some detailed adjustment to get the parameters right, but once you have everything figured out and set up, care is easy and you will have a stunning specimen plant that is the envy of your friends and neighbors.

Polka Dot Begonia Care

Knowledge is power when it comes to taking care of plants so we wanted to get you started with some solid basics about this species of begonia so you can have everything you need to get started off on the right foot.

The following snapshot will serve as a good starting point for our deep dive into the care of the polka dot begonia!

Polka Dot Begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia
  • Light – Bright, indirect light but avoid direct sunlight.
  • Foliage – Begonia maculata are perennials and keep leaves all year round.
  • Flowering – Bloom from spring to fall and have delicate sprays of white flowers.
  • Watering – Regular waters with small dry periods- cannot tolerate over watering.
  • Fertilizer – Hater-soluble fertilizer once a month or so during the growing season.
  • Humidity – High humidity of at least 45% ideally is important for good growth.
  • Soil – A specialized houseplant potting mix with good drainage is a must.
  • Temps – Moderate to warm temps- 65°F (18°C) and 86°F (30°C).
  • Pruning – Prune back as needed to maintain compact growth and full shape.
  • Propagation – Stem cuttings can easily be rooted in soil or water.
  • Re-Potting – Annual repotting ahead of the growing season promotes health.
  • Diseases and Pests – A number of pests and diseases can attack a stressed plant.
  • Toxicity – Toxic to pets and people if ingested and sap can cause skin irritation

Now with the basics out of the way and a good foundation laid out, it is time to dive into the details of taking care of your polka dot begonia and how to make it the talk of the neighborhood!

1. Humidity Considerations 

This is the starting point when it comes to taking care of these varieties of begonias because it is the most important and the most difficult parameter to dial in for home homeowners.

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia

A polka dot begonia can live in a dry environment but it will never thrive and it will never be as healthy and beautiful as it could be in the right humidity conditions.

Unexplained leaf loss and failure to flower, as well as other common and annoying issues, can all be tied back to inadequate humidity levels.

A simply way to achieve higher humidity levels for your plants without making your entire home damp and humid is to have a tray of water or a bowl of water set near the plant.

As the water evaporates it will add humidity to the area around your plant and help it be healthier.

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot

For a patio or area of the home that may be especially dry, a humidifier is the ultimate solution. These plants are native to tropical forest and areas so they like moisture in the air to be around 45% humidity, and even higher is better.

Humidity is especially important to monitor if you live in dry areas that don’t get a lot of rain as well as indoors in the winter when the home heating system can really dry out the air in the home.

Doing this one thing can greatly improve success with your polka dot begonia.

2. Light Requirements

It is also very important that you provide maculata plants with a bright spot to soak up filtered or early and late day sun. It should not be in a location where it gets long term exposure to direct or strong sunlight.

It is native to forested areas where the sun is almost always filtered through trees and overgrowth.

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia Flower

Direct rays can fade the lighter colored spots and if the exposure is very severe or prolonged even burn the foliage and kill the leaves. Bright filtered light will always be ideal with morning or evening sun being the best if full exposure is all that is available for your plant.

If necessary, this begonia species will tolerate low light, but it will not grow very big or very quickly if it is in dim and overly shady locations. In warmer and more southern gardeners, this begonia variety should be seen and treated as a shade plant.

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia Repot

This is more so due to the heat and intensity of the sun and direct exposure in these areas. Homeowners that live in colder areas of the country can put them in window boxes and areas that get more direct sunlight because it is less hot and intense and runs less chance of damaging the leaves.

You’ll know your polka dot isn’t getting the right amount of sun by watching the leaves. If it is not getting enough light, the leaves will fade in vibrancy and color and then start to wilt and drop off.

If it is getting too much sun then the leaves will turn brown and will actually start to look scorched, dry, and brittle before falling off. It can take some trial and error to find the right place in your home but once you find it your polka dot begonia will thrive in the right sun level.

3. Watering Guidelines

Watering is also important for good begonia health and vitality but it is a little more forgiving than humidity and light levels for most indoor grown plants of this species. Polka dot begonias do best in moist soil.

They can also benefit from small periods of drier soils though they should never be so dry that they entre drought-like conditions.

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia

A good guideline is to let around the top half-inch of the soil in the container dry out between watering. These plants are highly susceptible to root rot if they’re kept too wet, so the drying out periods are important for maintaining healthy plants.

Allowing some of the soil to dry out and keeping the plant for having soddy soil will also discourages fungus and nuisance pests who thrive in those kinds of damp condition. They are a little finicky in that they do not like the water sitting on their leaves for long periods of time.

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia in Pot

This is why many homeowners set the pots in dishes of water for an hour or so and let the plant soak up as much as it can and then dumping out the excess.

If waters from above with a watering can it is best to avoid the leaves as much as possible. The important thing to remember is they like a little break between waterings, but they should never be allowed to wilt and the leaves should not stay damp for long periods.

4. Soil Selection

Soil requirements of polka dot begonias are fairly easy compared to the other care parameters. All they need is a soil that holds moisture but also drains well.

A normal potting soil mix for houseplants with some added perlite can work well in most situations.

Soil Selection
Polka Dot Begonia,Soil Selection

Your pots need to have drainage holes and it can also help to add a layer of stones or pebbles to the bottom to help keep the roots of your begonia from sitting in water if the occasional overwatering happens now and then.

You can add in some organic matter such as compost to the soil as well if you so choose. Slow-release fertilizer can be added to the soil as well, but if you do so you will not need to worry as much about fertilizing later on.

5. Temperature Requirements

One of the easiest parameters to hit for the care of polka dot begonias is temperature because if you are growing them indoors, they will likely be happy at the same temperatures you are.

You need to make sure you can keep them out of drafts, and avoid temps of 59°F (15°C) or below.

Temperature Requirements
Polka Dot Begonia,Temperature Requirements

Ideal ranges for these begonias indoors are between 65°F (18°C) and 86°F (30°C. Midday spikes in temperature are fine though humidity levels will need to be maintained as this helps keep the plant from drying out in warmer temperatures.

They are hardy outdoors for USDA Zone 10 and if you are keeping them on a patio, porch, or balcony, they will need to be brought indoors well before the first freeze as they will die back easily at low temperatures.

6. Fertilizing Pointers

In most indoor houseplant growing conditions, these plants are considered to be moderate feeders. If you added a slow-release fertilizer to the soil then you can go 4-6 months before you need to start using a liquid fertilizer on your polka dot begonias.

The main thing to remember when you do start fertilizing these plants is to not go overboard with the feeding. Less is more with most begonias, including these.

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia Leaf

No special fertilizer blend has to be used, just a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10.

Dilute it 50% and then use it when watering your begonia once or twice, every two to four weeks when they’re growing. You will not need to fertilize them during the winter usually but an occasional feeding every 1.5 to 2 months will help keep the foliage healthy and beautiful. 

7. Diseases and Pests Prevention

In order to keep your polka dot begonia pest and disease free, it is important that you keep it as healthy as possible. Following basic plant hygiene can help as well by keeping the plant’s leaves clean and making sure you sterilize your tools.

Diseases and Pests Prevention
Polka Dot Begonia,Diseases and Pests Prevention

A healthy plant is less susceptible to pests or diseases and as long as it is healthy and not stressed out by an off-balance environment, your begonia will likely thrive. However, some common pests and disease can cause problems now and then.

  • Powdery Mildew – A fungal disease, this is among the most common ailments your polka dot begonia will likely deal with. It shows as a white or light gray fuzzy mold that forms on the leaves in damp conditions. Remove affected material and treat it with a fungicide to keep it from spreading. Always let the topsoil dry before re-watering and keep good air flow and temperatures in the home.
  • Botrytis – Another fungal disease, this one is known for the appearance of soggy, brown splotches on the stems and leaves. It often starts near the ground and again is caused by damp wet soil and poor air flow and temperatures. Remove fallen foliage or blooms, cut back leaves that touch the soil, and do not allow leaf material to decay in the pot as that creates a breeding ground for the fungal spores. 
  • Bacterial Leaf and Stem Rot – Leaf and stem rot almost always related back to the soil being too wet and the leaf sand stem rotting away due to contact with the wet soil. Prevention is the best option and can easily be attained by providing well-drained soil and being careful with watering practices. Diseased stems and leaves should be cut back and discarded so the rot doesn’t spread to other parts of the plant.
  • Pythium Root Rot – Another issue caused by poor watering practices and improper attention to air temperature and air flow, root rot is difficult to treat once it takes hold. Mild cases can be dealt with by cutting back diseased and rotting roots and then repotting. But in several cases, the entire plant will need to be discarded as it is very hard to stop rotting once it really takes hold and spreads throughout the roots.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Question)

As we wrap things up with this guide on polka dot begonia plant care, it is time for some quick answers to the most common questions people ask about taking care of these plants in their homes.

Is Polka Dot Begonia considered to be toxic?

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia Flowers Bloom

These beautiful begonias are considered toxic to most pets and should be kept away from dogs and cats. The toxins are primarily in the roots, though its stems and leaves are also potentially poisonous to children and can cause irritations to people with sensitive skin.

Why are the leaves turning yellow on my begonia?

Overwatering is the classic reason for unhealthy looking leaves. Light levels and temperature ranges can also play a role in how healthy the leaves of your polka dot begonia are. These parameters are always worth checking regularly.

Why does my Polka Dot Begonia suddenly start dropping its leaves?

polka dot begonia care
Polka Dot Begonia

Polka dot begonias can at times start shedding leaves. There are a number of reasons why this might happen. The soil may be too compact and damp or the humidity levels might be off.

It is also important to note that sudden changes in light and temperature parameters can shock the plant and cause it to drop its leaves.

Why is my polka dot begonia falling over?

As a vigorously growing plant when given the right conditions, the polka dot begonia can quickly become top heavy. There are two easy ways to keep your plant upright.

Why is my polka dot begonia falling over
Why is my polka dot begonia falling over?

You can cut back some of the growth to make it more balanced and compact. Or you can stake your plant to give it additional support as it grows.

What is the most important thing to remember about caring for this plant?

In a nutshell, you need to remember that this begonia species needs bright indirect light, soil that drains well, be allowed to dry out slightly between watering, have at least 45% humidity most of the time, be fertilized every 2-4 weeks, and be kept at temperatures between 65°F (18°C) to 86°F (30°C). 

With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your polka dot begonia plant all year round!

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