Learn all about polka dot begonia care and how to make sure this cute houseplant thrives in your home.
Looking for an unusual houseplant that will really catch the eye? How about a polka dotted one?
Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’, better known as the polka dot Begonia, clown Begonia or spotted Begonia, has truly taken the houseplant world by storm in the past few years. Not surprising, as it really is a spectacular plant to look at!
Begonia plants are beautiful and the polka dot begonias are as well. You’ll be in awe when the cascading white flowers bloom.
Let’s go into polka dot Begonia maculata care tips and how to successfully grow one in your own home.
Polka Dot Plant Light Requirements
Begonia maculata plant, which features plain green leaves without dots in its wild form, is naturally found in southeastern Brazil. It grows in the Atlantic rainforest in the seaside state of Rio de Janeiro as part of the undergrowth.
Because the harshest sun is naturally absorbed by taller trees in its natural habitat, your polka dot Begonia won’t do well in direct sunlight.
Its striking leaves burn easily, so find yours a spot that receives bright indirect light.
Too dark and you’ll run into trouble as well: it’s all about finding the middle ground.
Temperature & Humidity
The Atlantic rainforest is hot and humid, so it’s not difficult to imagine that your polka dot Begonia likes things pretty toasty in the home.
Average room temperature is fine, although the plant won’t suffer if things heat up a little more during the summer months either.
What you need to look out for is cold, which it’s sensitive to.
To avoid leaf drop, keep your Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ away from chilly winter windows, A/C units and drafty hallways.
Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ isn’t always considered the easiest plant to grow, and a lot of that has to do with its humidity requirements.
It’s a bit fussy about humidity levels and can lose much of its charm (and leaves, unfortunately) if you fail to provide the air moisture it needs. It happens: during winter especially, as our homes can become pretty dry, while these plants like 50% or more.
If your polka dot Begonia’s leaves appear to crisp from the edges and the plant never produces its typical small white flowers, you might be dealing with a humidity problem. Be sure to check!
A humidity meter is very cheap and a fantastic tool for the indoor gardener.
Don’t worry, you can still have a beautiful polka dot Begonia even if your home doesn’t resemble a tropical rainforest.
There are a few great easy options for raising humidity, which include:
- Placing your Begonia in the bathroom if lighting permits it. The humidity here tends to be higher.
- Grouping houseplants together so they can benefit from the moisture each one respirates.
- Running a humidifier.
- Creating a simple humidity box with sphagnum moss or placing your plant in a greenhouse cabinet.
Since this is a Cane Begonia, you’ll find it likes a little less water than some of their cousins, but that doesn’t mean they appreciate dry soil either.
To avoid root rot, you should let the top of the medium dry out, while the rest should have lightly moist soil at all times.
Don’t water on a schedule, as a plant’s needs vary throughout the year (they tend to need much less water during the dark and cool winter months, for example).
The easiest way to figure out whether it’s time to water yet is to simply stick your finger in the soil. If it still feels damp, wait a little longer.
If the plant’s leaves and stems are drooping, possibly accompanied by leaf drop, you’ve either waited too long or you’ve overwatered your polka dot Begonia to the point of root rot.
Soil & Repotting
Because polka dot Begonias can be sensitive to root rot if the soil stays too wet, it’s important to use a well-draining soil type.
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just somewhat airy so excess water can easily flow through.
You can use a normal houseplant potting soil mixture. Just make it suitable for your polka dot Begonia by including some gritty elements.
Great choices for creating a lighter mix include perlite, fine orchid bark and pumice.
First off, as with almost all houseplants, it’s important to always use a container with a drainage hole for your polka dot Begonia.
Excess water should always be allowed to drain.
You’ll probably end up repotting your Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ on a yearly basis. Cane Begonias are generally quick growers, after all, and this one is no exception.
They tend to like some fresh soil regularly, as they quickly deplete the nutrients present.
With the right care, your polka dot Begonia can actually attain an impressive height and spread within a few years.
To give your polka dot Begonia a little boost, you can mix in a small amount of compost every time you repot it.
Supplement with a diluted balanced houseplant fertilizer every month or so during the spring and summer growing season.
Be sure not to overdo it, as these are not overly heavy feeders.
During the winter months, when it’s likely not actively growing, it’s best to stop fertilizing entirely. Excess nutrients can cause leaf damage!
If you let it grow freely, your polka dot Begonia can start looking a bit sparse.
The species seems to aim for height more than density. To keep yours from taking on a lanky appearance, you can prune it regularly.
It’s very easy: just cut the branch right above a leaf.
In reaction, your plant will usually send out multiple new ‘heads’, meaning you’ll end up with a more bushy-looking polka dot Begonia as a result.
Don’t throw away the stems you removed. Polka dot begonia propagation is very easy to do by just placing them back into the planter, helping to maintain that bushy appearance we all like in our houseplants.
You can also propagate Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ by placing the cuttings in a glass of water. Put them in a light and warm location and you should see roots appear within a few weeks!
Final Thoughts on Polka Dot Begonias
Some houseplant enthusiasts struggle with polka dot Begonias.
As you’ve hopefully concluded from this care guide, though, it usually only takes a few tweaks to keep your plant happy and healthy.
The most important factors are sufficient light, good drainage and, very important, adequate humidity levels.
If you keep these in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy your polka dot Begonia in all its glory. And with a striking plant like this, we’d say that’s absolutely worth the little extra effort.