Begonias are as gorgeous as they are versatile. With flowers and foliage that work just as well in hanging baskets, porch pots, or garden beds, they’re a workhorse of the gardening world! Most of us think of their luscious tropical-looking flowers when we imagine Begonias in our minds. However, the kinds that people keep indoors as houseplants are not quite the same as those with the showy flowers that thrive outside.
Begonias fall into three main types, with many sub-categories, and over 1,000 species worldwide. They are primarily classified based on their root system, either tuberous, fibrous, or rhizomatous. Fibrous and rhizomatous Begonias are usually the easiest to grow indoors. They have showy leaves, but less significant flowers. Tuberous Begonias are the ones with the big showy blossoms that do best outside.
If you’re eager to enjoy fibrous or rhizomatous Begonia as a houseplant, it’s always best to review the care needs of the specific variety you have your eye on. In general, however, you can follow these rules of thumb for taking care of these colorful, elegant, low-maintenance plants indoors!
Best Location For Begonias in Your Home
All Begonias need bright, indirect light. This means the indoor varieties prefer a spot near a large window with a sheer curtain to protect them from any direct sunlight. Direct sun can burn their leaves. However, the light levels in our homes are drastically reduced compared to outside, so they also won’t do well in a dark corner.
During the winter, you may need to provide extra light from a lamp with a full spectrum bulb for about 14 hours per day.
Begonias like consistent temperatures between 60-70°, so keep them away from drafty doors and windows.
Humidity & Water for Begonias
Begonias are native to places where the humidity is high, so they do not push water to the edges of their leaves as well as other plants would. This characteristic makes them ideal for terrariums. The drier prairie air here in Iowa can be a challenge for humidity-loving plants, especially during colder months. Make sure to provide a pebble tray under the pot or a nearby humidifier when the air is dry.
The best way to know when to water your Begonia is to check the soil with your finger every few days. Begonias like evenly moist soil, but they prefer to dry out just a bit between waterings. Stick your finger in the soil up to the first knuckle—if it’s dry, water it. When watering your Begonia, opt for distilled water or rainwater if possible, as the plant can be sensitive to the dissolved salts in tap water. This sensitivity can cause some browning of the leaves, which is typically not fatal to the plant, but can detract from your Begonia’s appearance.
Make sure your Begonias have ample drainage so that their roots are never sitting in standing water. Soggy roots will cause them to drop leaves and can make them susceptible to root rot, pests, and other diseases. If there is still water in the catch tray 30 minutes after watering, dump it out.
Provide fertilizer according to package directions when your plant is actively growing, which is typically during the summer months.
When to Re-pot Your Begonia
Begonias prefer to be root-bound, so don’t put them in a big pot! If the soil stays damp for several days after watering, you may need to re-pot down a pot size. When you bring a new Begonia home, only put it into a larger pot if it is already root-bound in its nursery pot. If it’s not yet root-bound, put it in a pot the same size as the nursery pot.
Whichever variety you choose, Begonias are excellent houseplants with an incredible ability to bounce back from the brink of death. We’ve been shocked many times by how tough and adaptable these delicate-looking plants truly are! With a little bit of care and a good location, your Begonia will thrive for many years.