Begonia Maculata: 7 Expert Care Tips And Grow Guide

Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ is one of the most popular houseplants out there, and like Monstera deliciosa, it is the reason why many have become houseplant enthusiasts to begin with.

It’s not difficult to see why, either. The leaves on a Begonia maculata are the star of the show, with distinctive silvery polka dots, on whimsically-shaped leaves, featuring bright red undersides. 

The flowers are an added bonus, being a brilliant white with sunshine yellow middles, forming in clusters. They make the perfect contrast to the leaves. 

But like any plant, there is always a trade-off. While beautiful, Begonia maculata is a finicky plant, so plonking it in any old space in your home is unlikely to make it thrive, unless you are very lucky and your space has everything the plant needs!

It’s always good to understand exactly what a plant needs so you can make it as healthy as possible.

Let’s take a look at how to keep Begonia maculata happy and healthy, how to propagate it, as well as common problems you might encounter, and how to fix them.

How To Grow Begonia Maculata: Care Tips And Tricks

The trick to understanding what any plant needs is to look at the conditions it grows in within its native habitat, and then trying to mimic that as closely as possible.

This plant hails from the Atlantic rainforest in southeast Brazil, and it has also naturalized in Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, and other places.

As such, this plant needs balmy temperatures in order to thrive, as well as plenty of light. Let’s take a closer look.

As Much Partial Sunlight As Possible

While most houseplants like bright and indirect light all day, Begonia maculata is a little different. It won’t do very well with low light levels (see also Plants That Thrive In Artificial Light), as cane-type begonias prefer some sunlight.

A few hours of direct sunlight is all the plant needs for healthy growth, in a position that’s as close to a window as possible.

If it isn’t right in front of a window, this plant won’t do very well at all, as the plant will get very leggy, and the growth will be weak.

This is especially important in winter, when the light is at its weakest. Try not to put your plant in a North or South-facing window if you can help it. 

East-facing or West-facing windows are better-suited for Begonia maculata. 

The reason why you want to avoid South-facing windows is that direct sunlight from this direction is far too strong and can cause leaf scorch, unless you diffuse it with a sheer curtain.

Avoid North-facing windows as there isn’t enough light to sustain the growth. If this is all you have, you may have to use a grow light alongside it to keep the plant healthy.

Grow lights are a good option anyway when you want to grow plants in places other than your windowsill. Maybe you’ve run out of room, or there’s no feasible way you will get a plant there in the first place. 

You can even use fluorescent lights instead, which tend to be cheaper than grow lights, making sure that you get cool white ones, placing them about 2 inches above the plant.

They will need to be left on for 12 to 14 hours a day to make a difference, and you will need to move the light as the plant grows upwards.

For best growth, put your Begonia maculata in a room where temperatures stay stable, somewhere between 65°F and 85°F. 

Keep the plant well away from sources of heat and drafts, as these conditions will only cause the plant to suffer.

Ideal Soil For Begonias

Some begonias are very fussy when it comes to soil, but luckily this is not something that you need to worry about with Begonia maculata. 

What you can do to make this plant healthier, however, is to add some perlite into an all purpose, good quality houseplant compost. This will help sharpen up the drainage to keep root rot away.

Finicky Begonias: How To Keep The Soil Properly Hydrated

Begonia plants are extremely fussy when it comes to the moisture levels in the soil. 

As they hail from the rainforests in Southeast Brazil, they don’t like drying out, but neither do they like being bogged down in sludgy soil.

While how much light you give this plant will determine the growth, soil moisture is key to a healthy plant, and it is literally the difference between life and death for a Begonia maculata.

These plants are quite delicate on the whole.

It’s important to remember at this stage that it can be difficult to maintain a ‘perfect’ Begonia maculata indoors, as life can get in the way of watering and keeping on top of other elements of plant care, but that’s not to say that you can’t try.

Keeping Begonia maculata healthy is like walking a tightrope, you don’t want to keep the soil too wet, or too dry.

Keeping the plant too dry, where the soil has almost dried out will result in healthy leaves dropping off the plant. This is so disheartening that you want to avoid it at all costs!

The plant will also let you know it’s too dry when the leaves turn brown at the edges, spoiling the look of the foliage (though there are other things that cause this, too). 

Similarly, keeping the plant too wet will result in complaints. The leaves will yellow and start to drop off. If this goes too far, boggy soil will cause root rot, among other things such as powdery mildew.

So how do you keep a happy medium? Well the best way is to check the soil before you water, always. Aim to let the top inch of the soil’s surface to dry out in between watering, and then give it a good soak.

Make sure to water all the topsoil, letting the water run through the soil into the drainage holes. 

Always make sure you get rid of any water sitting in the pot or saucer, otherwise this will mean a quick death for your plant.

To get the absolute best out of this plant, place a Begonia maculata in a room with higher humidity such as a kitchen or bathroom, or group it around other plants to create a microclimate.

Plants naturally lose some water through their leaves, which helps raise the surrounding humidity, so group a few similar plants together to keep them happier.

Just make sure that enough airflow can get around all the plants, and that no leaves touch, otherwise pests and disease will be rife on your plants.

You could also use a humidifier, which is especially useful in winter, not just for your plants, but also for your skin. 

In winter, we tend to have the heating on more often, and central heating will dry out the air like no one’s business, making it tricky to keep plants such as begonias happy without some intervention.

You’ll also notice that in winter the growth rate of your begonia will slow down, but it is important to note that it won’t stop entirely, so move your plant to a brighter spot, and while you should scale back the watering to some extent, don’t let the plant dry out completely.

Should You Feed Begonia Maculata?

It’s a good idea to feed Begonia maculata every few waterings in the growing season. Always leave at least one watering in between fertilizing the plant, to prevent any salts from building up in the soil.

Use a balanced, good-quality houseplant fertilizer, making sure to follow the dosage instructions exactly to avoid root burn and unbalanced growth.

Avoid feeding a Begonia maculata in fall or winter, and allow the plant to rest.  

Keeping Your Plant Tidy: How To Prune Begonia Maculata

It is inevitable that eventually your plant will grow a little leggy, no matter how much light you give it. 

Life can get in the way of houseplant care, and when it does, your Begonia maculata can look a little worse for wear when you let it dry out, or it doesn’t get enough light, or another issue entirely. 

The good news is that you can chop it back without damaging the plant (as long as you use clean and sharp scissors), and this will create a denser growth habit. 

To promote a fuller plant throughout the growing season, you can take off the very tips of the canes, and this will force the plant to produce growth from the base of the soil rather than putting out growth at the top of the plant.

If your plant looks particularly pathetic with very little leaves and lots of wood-like canes, you can take the whole plant back to the soil line. While it will take some time, the plant will recover.

In terms of newer growth – which will look like green canes rather than brown, be a bit kinder. 

Take off the top few inches if the canes are very long, but allow 4 nodes to remain on each cane where you can, and the plant will produce new growth on the canes.

It’s better to give your begonia a haircut in the last few weeks of winter, or in the early spring when the plant is growing, but it’s not at the height of its growth for the year. 

It’s also a good idea to remove spent flowers from the plant, especially because you don’t want them to sit on the foliage for long, otherwise this can invite disease and pests.

Keep in mind that any stems with leaves that you cut from the plant can also be used for propagation, provided that the growth is healthy enough.

How To Propagate Begonia Maculata

Begonia maculata is extremely easy to propagate, as long as you take cuttings that have at least one node on the stem.

You can also use any stems you’ve cut from the plant as you’ve trimmed it, too, as long as they have nodes.

If you’re not sure what to look for, take a cutting from the top of your plant. At the very top you’re likely to have a pair of leaves, and then another leaf or two lower down. 

Cut about half an inch below the lower leaf, and remove the lower leaf, too. Always leave around two leaves on each cutting.

Put your cuttings into a jar of fresh water straight away. Alternatively, you could root your cuttings in damp perlite, if you prefer.

Keep the cuttings somewhere warm and bright, but away from direct sunlight. Within a few weeks, you’ll see roots forming. 

Once the new plants have formed roots that are about an inch long, it’s time to pot them up. You may notice that these plants root pretty readily, and most of the time, nearly all of them if not all of them will root, which is pretty unusual.

Other Things To Consider When Growing Begonia Maculata

Giving the plant the most ideal conditions possible helps to make sure the plant is healthy, but you may still have questions as you continue to care for it. 

Here are some other things you might want to know.

Is Misting A Good Idea?

Begonias are very susceptible to powdery mildew and fungal diseases, which is one of the reasons why misting is not a good idea.

Misting begonias often results in leaf drop, and can quickly cause the plant to drop all of its leaves, leading to a quick plant death, and this is obviously something you want to avoid.

Contrary to popular belief, misting does not increase humidity for more than a few moments. 

To increase the humidity for begonias, use a humidifier, or group similar plants together, but allow enough airflow in both situations to stop fungal diseases from killing your Begonia maculata.

How To Promote Flowers On Begonia Maculata

The key element to encourage any plant to bloom is to give it lots and lots of light without letting the sun scorch the plant. 

Allow your Begonia maculata to have at least a few hours of direct sunlight, preferably in the morning or very late in the afternoon, when the sun is weaker, and this way the plant will get a boost without it being too much.

Leaf Drop

If your Begonia maculata is dropping leaves, this suggests that something in the growing conditions is badly wrong. 

It’s usually a dramatic change that the plant can’t cope with, such as too boggy soil, compost that is bone-dry, no humidity, or yo-yoing between two different extremes.


If you find that your Begonia maculata seems to be putting out lots of growth, but the space between the leaves keeps getting bigger, this means that you need to give the plant a brighter position.

Plants get leggy when they attempt to find more light when their current position just isn’t enough to sustain the plant’s healthy growth.

Moving it to a brighter spot will not fix the growth that has already gone leggy, but it will stop any more from becoming too long. 

If you like, you can chop off any leggy stems and use them to propagate instead.

Begonia Maculata: General Troubleshooting And Common Problems

Begonia maculata is not a plant that you will grow with no problems at all. Luckily, the majority of issues you might encounter are prevented by the right growing conditions.

However, there are times when problems just seem to appear out of nowhere, despite your best efforts. 

In which case, here are the most common problems you may run into, and what the plant is trying to tell you.

Leaves Dropping Off

Indoor begonias are as fussy as they are beautiful, unfortunately. These plants stage protests by dropping leaves when growing conditions aren’t stable. 

It’s normal to see a few leaves drop from the plant as it acclimatizes to your home, but if your plant is still doing this after a week or two, it’s a good idea to try and stabilize the growing conditions as much as possible.

Be consistent with your watering, the light levels, and temperatures, and this should stop.

One thing that you want to avoid when caring for Begonia maculata, or any begonia for that matter, is misting the leaves. Do not mist the leaves of your begonias.

This will not end the way you want it to. Instead of increasing the humidity (which only works for a few minutes at the very most), this will cause the plant to drop its leaves.

Don’t do it!

Yellowing Leaves

There are several reasons why your Begonia maculata has yellow leaves. Usually, it’s a moisture problem, in that the soil is either too wet or too dry.

Check the compost to see which problem the plant has.

Brown Tips Appearing On Begonia Maculata Leaves

Brown leaf tips are usually caused by one of two things: the compost has been bone-dry for too long, or the air is too dry, and you need to increase the humidity.

Powdery Mildew

Begonias fall victim to powdery mildew pretty readily, unfortunately. This disease takes hold of the plant when there is plenty of moisture and humidity in the air, but not enough airflow.

You can spot powdery mildew by the tiny white spots that appear on the foliage (different to the natural pattern on the leaves), and these will spread rapidly to other parts of the plant, so you need to act quick.

Remove any infected plant parts, and treat the whole plant with a fungicide designed to deal with powdery mildew. 

It’s important to remember that if you run a humidifier, you also need to increase the airflow so that none of your plants can be attacked by powdery mildew.

The easiest way to do this is to use a fan. It doesn’t matter what type you use, as long as it can circulate the air, and this will help prevent any fungal problems from forming on your plants.

Begonia Maculata Leaning To One Side Or Flopping Over

Like the Swiss Cheese plant, after a while your Begonia maculata will start to lean to one side, or flop over entirely.

It helps to know that this plant will look for some sort of support as it gets longer, but this is not absolutely necessary. 

If you don’t give your plant any support, (see also How To Support Houseplants) eventually it will just trail instead of growing upright, and it just depends on which look you prefer.

Final Thoughts

Begonia maculata is perhaps not the best plant to start with on your houseplant journey, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful.

It’s always worth trying to grow this plant, as the journey alone will teach you a lot about plants. If it looks like the plant may not survive, take the healthiest cuttings you can, propagate them, and try again.

These plants are absolutely magical, especially when in bloom, and make a statement in any room. 

To really give the plant a boost, you can even summer it outdoors if you like. Just make sure that you gradually acclimatize it, and only give it partial shade at the most in terms of light.

Remember to bring it indoors before the temperatures drop, and you will soon notice plenty of growth on your plant, and perhaps even some flowers, too.

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