How to grow and care for Wax Begonia Indoors

Houseplant, Wax Begonia

Botanical name: Begonia semperflorens
Family: Begoniaceae

Wax Begonia is a small leafy bush which blooms almost the year round. It is easy to grow and easily adapts to indoor growing conditions. The plant grows to about 6-12 in. high and is the easiest to grow of the flowering Begonias. Its hybrids have round waxy leaves about 2 in. across, ranging from greenish-yellow to deepest red. These hybrids have a wide range of flower types in red, white, orange and pink. Newer hybrids are regularly developed which are more compact and have bigger blooms. In their natural habitat Begonias grow as understory plants in moist, shady to partially shady conditions in the tropical and subtropical regions in South and Central America, Africa and southern Asia.

How to Grow Wax Begonia

Light

Wax Begonia prefers bright light with a few hours of morning or evening sun. Occasionally turn the pot to ensure the plant grows uniformly on all sides. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants

Water

For optimum growth of Wax Begonia, keep the soil moist during the growing period but allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Reduce watering during the cold months as growth is minimal. Avoid waterlogging of the soil as it can lead to Root-rot Disease. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Cool to average warmth with a minimum of 140C is ideal for Wax Begonia. Protect the plant from cold draughts. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Wax Begonia prefers a humid environment for optimum growth. To raise humidity set the pot on a wet pebble tray. Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth. Do not mist Wax Begonia as wetting the leaves may lead to fungal infestations.

Feeding

Feed Wax Begonia with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing period. To promote flowering, apply a phosphorous-rich fertilizer weekly when buds begin to develop. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal. Learn more on how to feed houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Wax Begonia at the beginning of the growing period only if the plant has become root-bound or is too large for the pot. The plant blooms more when root-bound. Use a rich free-draining soil and a pot 1 size larger. Ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging as it can lead to root-rot. Do not repot a flowering plant as the shock of repotting will cut short the flowering.

Pruning

Pruning Wax Begonia is easy. Remove the dead flowers, yellow and dead leaves to keep the plant neat and tidy. Cut back the bare stems at the beginning of the growing season to rejuvenate growth. The foliage emanating from pruning can be used to propagate new plants. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Wax Begonia

Wax Begonia can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from stem cuttings or from seeds. Seeds can also be germinated but they take months to grow.

Propagating Wax Begonia from stem cuttings
Stem cuttings from low down on the plant root more easily. Take a 3-4 in. stem cutting from a healthy Wax Begonia plant. Insert the cutting in moist free-draining soil. Cover the set up with a clear plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect. Place the set up in a warm shaded place. Maintain the soil moist until the new Wax Begonia plant is well established.

Common Problems in Wax Begonia

  • Yellowing leaves
  • The leaves of Wax Begonia may yellow due to two reasons. One is too little light; move the plant to a brighter spot. Wax Begonia prefers bright light with some direct sunlight. Two is too little or too much water; maintain the soil moist at all times but not soggy. Never allow the soil to dry out completely. Learn more on how to water houseplant.

  • Loss of leaves
  • There are three reasons for loss of leaves in Wax Begonia. One is too little light; move the plant to a brighter spot. Wax Begonia prefers bright light with some direct sunlight. The second reason is too much heat; the best temperature for Wax Begonia is cool to average room temperature. Protect the plant from hot draughts. The third reason is too much water (waterlogging); ensure the soil is free-draining and the pot has a drainage hole to avoid waterlogging.

  • Flower buds drop
  • The causes of flower bud drop in Wax Begonia are two. One cause is dry air; raise humidity by setting the pot on a wet pebble tray but do not mist the leaves. The second cause is underwatering; maintain the soil moist at all times and never allow the soil ball to dry out completely.

  • Brown leaf tips
  • If the air humidity is too low, Wax Begonia will respond with brown leaf tips. To raise humidity for Wax Begonia, set the pot on a wet pebble tray but do not mist the leaves to prevent disease infestation.

  • Pale, rotting leaves
  • The reason for pale, rotting leaves in Wax Begonia is waterlogging of the soil. Maintain the soil moist but not soggy. Ensure the soil is free-draining and the pot has a drainage hole to prevent waterlogging.

  • White powdery spots
  • This is an indication of Powdery Mildew in Wax Begonia. Isolate the affected plant, cut off diseased leaves and treat appropriately. Avoid damp conditions and low temperatures and improve air circulation.

  • Brown blotches, turning grey and moldy
  • This is an indication of Botrytis Disease in Wax Begonia. Isolate the affected plant, cut off diseased parts and treat appropriately. Avoid low light and over damp conditions and improve air circulation.

  • Plant collapse
  • There are three reasons for plant collapse in Wax Begonia. One reason is Stem Rot Disease due to waterlogging. The second reason is Nematodes (Root Knot Eelworm) which are characterized by swollen bumps on roots. The third reason is Vine Weevil which is characterized by tunnels in the rhizomes.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Wax Begonia are Aphids and Red Spider Mites.

Toxicity

All parts of Wax Begonia and especially the roots are considered mildly toxic to pets. If ingested they may cause burning in the mouth and throat, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains.

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