Growing begonias is fun, and you can enjoy them both in your garden or indoors. Learn everything there is to know about them in this detailed begonia plant care guide. In this article, I’m going to give you tons of care and maintenance tips, show you how to fix common problems, answer your FAQs, and much more!
If you think that begonias are only good for growing in your garden, think again! There’s no doubt that they add tons of color to the garden, but many varieties can also be kept indoors as houseplants.
That means you can grow your favorite varieties for years to come, either indoors or out. And it’s easier than you might think. Yaaaas!
Below I am going to show you exactly how to care for begonias. First I will give you tons of information about them, including the different types, hardiness, growing them indoors or outside, fixing common problems, and more!
Information About Begonias
Before you can become a begonia care ninja, it’s important to understand some basic things about them. First, there are tons of different kinds that you can grow (and collect!).
Some can easily be kept as houseplants, while others are a synch to overwinter. But one thing is for sure, all of them add amazing color, both outdoors and inside the house.
Different Types Of Begonias
There are over a thousand different kinds of begonias, and they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some are adored for their gorgeous flowers, and others for their amazing foliage colors and patterns.
At a high level, there are four common types of begonia plants:
- Tuberous – (e.g.: Rieger begonias) These begonias have bulbs (tubers) and large flowers
- Rhizomatous – (aka: Rex begonias) These begonias are mostly grown for their gorgeous foliage
- Cane – (aka: Angel wing begonias) These begonias are usually large, showy, and constant bloomers
- Fibrous – (aka: Wax begonias) These begonias are common bedding plants famous for the prolific flowers
The different types of begonias don’t all require the exact same care, so it’s best to figure out what type you have so you know if it requires any special treatment.
Are Begonias Annuals Or Perennials?
Though they are commonly sold as annual plants in cold climates, begonias are actually tropical perennials that can live for many years.
Some are only hardy to zone 9, while others can survive in colder climates down to zone 6. It’s best to look up the exact variety you have if you’re unsure how hardy they are before planting begonias outside.
With the proper care, many types of flowering begonias will bloom year round. However, some of the rhizomatous varieties don’t flower at all, but have amazing foliage.
Don’t worry, what they lack in flowers, these begonias more than make up for in unique and colorful leaves. In fact, many avid growers prefer the non-blooming types because you can’t beat their stunning foliage.
How To Grow Begonias
As I’ve already mentioned, begonias can grow either outside or indoors. So in this section, I’ve broken it down to give you specific details about caring for them both outdoors and inside the house.
Growing Begonias Outdoors
Begonias are wonderful for adding tons of color to a shade garden, or combined in mixed outdoor patio planters. Choose a spot in your garden that has rich, well-draining soil.
Most begonias grow best outdoors in partial shade or dappled sunlight. They can survive in full shade, but might not bloom very well if they don’t get enough sunlight.
Growing Begonias Indoors
Once the weather gets too cold outside, you can bring your begonias indoors and grow them as houseplants. Heck, many types will even grow great indoors all year round!
Place them in a spot where they get bright, indirect light, and keep the soil consistently moist. Begonias do best in a home that is kept between 65-75F.
If you want, you can move them outside during the summer to give them a boost. Just be sure to wait until all chance of frost is gone before moving them outdoors in the spring.
Begonia Care Instructions
No matter where you choose to grow them, the good news is that the basic begonia plant care requirements are the same for all types. That’s great, and definitely makes things much easier. Keep reading to get all the deets…
Proper watering is one of the most difficult parts of successful begonia plant care. That’s because they like to be kept evenly moist, but won’t tolerate being overwatered. It can be a difficult balance.
Rather than watering begonias on a set schedule, you should always check to make sure they need it first. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels wet, then let it dry out a bit more before watering again.
If you struggle with getting it right, then I recommend using a soil moisture gauge to help you out.
Indoors they do have a greater risk for fungal problems and rot if the leaves get wet. So, to avoid any issues, it’s a good idea to water begonias from the bottom.
To do that, simply fill the plant tray or cache pot with water, and allow the soil to soak it up through the drainage holes.
Don’t let them sit in water for too long though, only to the point where the soil is moist again. Dump out any water that hasn’t been absorbed after 20 minutes.
Growing begonias in African violet pots is a great way to make bottom watering easy, and it will also help prevent overwatering.
Like most tropical plants, begonias like a lot of humidity. This usually isn’t a concern when they’re growing outside, but can be a struggle indoors.
Humidity is especially important during the winter months, since heating our homes makes the air even dryer than normal. An indoor humidity monitor is a great tool to use to keep track of how dry the air is.
There are several things you can do to help increase the humidity to a level that will make your begonias happy.
Try running a humidifier near them, or place them on a pebble tray filled with water (don’t allow them to sit in the water though).
Some begonias need more sunlight than others, and there are new varieties on the market these days that can even handle full sun.
But most will suffer if they get too much sunlight, and it can burn their tender leaves. In general, they prefer a partial shade location where they are protected from the intense afternoon rays.
Indoors, you should grow begonias in a spot where they get bright, indirect light. An east or west facing window would be the perfect spot.
If the leaves start to turn white or faded, or look like they’re burning, then that means it’s getting too much sun. In that case, move it to a shadier location.
On the flip side, if the stems start to grow leggy and reach for the window, then they’re not getting enough light. Move it closer to the window, or add a grow light.
Begonias aren’t super fussy about the type of soil they’re planted in. But ideally, they prefer one that is fast draining, and also holds moisture.
To help the soil retain moisture, or if you tend to under water, add peat moss and/or vermiculite to the mix before planting. Outdoors, you can amend your garden soil with compost, worm casting, or peat moss.
Begonias will benefit from regular feedings during their active growing season (spring and summer). Start by giving them a weak dose of half or quarter strength liquid fertilizer in early spring.
Then gradually increase the dose, so you’re feeding them weekly as part of your regular begonia plant care routine during the summer.
They can be sensitive to chemicals tough. So I highly recommend using an organic plant fertilizer on them, rather than synthetic ones.
A good quality organic compost fertilizer is always a great choice. You can buy it in a liquid concentrate, or get tea bags and brew your own. An organic African violet fertilizer would also work great for feeding begonias.
Instead of liquids, you could mix a granular fertilizer into the soil a couple of times throughout the summer, if you prefer. Stop fertilizing begonias in the fall, and don’t feed them at all during the winter.
The best time to repot is in the spring. But only repot them once they have outgrown the container. Begonias like to be root-bound, and can struggle if repotted too often.
When it’s time for repotting begonias, be certain to choose a container that is only one size larger than the current one. They can start to suffer if they’re planted in a pot that’s too large.
Always use a container that has drainage holes to prevent overwatering. Also, pots that are made out of plastic or ceramic are better choices than terracotta. Clay wicks moisture out of the soil, and it ends up being too dry for growing begonias.
Regular pruning is a great way to keep begonias growing and looking their best. Deadheading the faded flowers also helps to encourage new blooms.
Spring is the best time to trim them for shape and size. Pruning begonias in the fall or winter can result in weak and leggy growth.
But you can prune dead leaves and flowers at any time during the year. You can simply pinch out the spent flowers, but be sure to use a sharp pair of precision pruners to avoid damaging the plant while trimming the leaves and stems.
Another awesome thing that makes begonia plant care even easier is that they don’t usually have much trouble with houseplant pests. Yes! Fungus gnats and mealybugs are the biggest risks, so keep an eye out for them.
The presence of gnats in the soil is a sign that you’re overwatering. The best way to get rid of them is to allow the top inch of soil to dry between waterings. You can also use a yellow sticky trap to help control them.
Bugs on the leaves are pretty rare. But if they do appear, it’s best to treat them by hand rather than spraying anything on your begonias. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, and use it to kill and remove the bugs.
Many times you can wash the leaves with a diluted mild liquid soap and water. But some begonias are sensitive to this, so be sure to test it on a few leaves before washing the whole plant. Learn more about how to get rid of houseplant bugs here.
Begonia Propagation Tips
Mature begonias can be propagated by leaf or stem cuttings, by division, or even by collecting and then planting the seeds.
Begonia stem cuttings are pretty easy to root, as long as they get enough humidity. For best results, take cuttings that are a couple of inches long, and include a few leaf nodes. Remove some of the lower leaves, as well as all of the flowers and buds.
Keep the soil consistently moist, and be sure the air around the cutting stays very humid. I have found that it’s much easier to use a propagation chamber to root begonia cuttings, and I’ve had the best success with that.
Growing begonia seeds is definitely the hardest (and slowest) form of propagation. They can be a bit difficult to grow from seed, but it’s fun to experiment.
If you want to try saving seeds from your begonia, then don’t deadhead the flowers. Seed pods will form where the flowers were.
Allow the pods to dry on the plant, then collect them in a small bowl. The seeds are tiny (like dust), so don’t attempt this when it’s windy!
Bringing Begonias Indoors For Winter
If you put your begonias outside for the summer, make sure you bring them back indoors before it gets too cold, or they could start to suffer.
It’s best to bring them inside before the temperature gets below 60F in the fall. They don’t like to be cold, and the shock might be too much for them to survive.
Tuberous varieties are the only ones that can’t be kept as houseplants, they prefer to go dormant during the winter. Learn how to overwinter tuberous begonias here.
Troubleshooting Common Begonia Care Problems
The most frustrating thing about growing begonias is when they start having problems, and you have no idea what’s wrong. So, in this section, I’ve listed out some of the most common problems, along with the probable causes, and solutions.
- Leaves turning brown – Most of the time, brown leaves means they aren’t getting the right amount of water (usually under watering). But can also be caused by lack of humidity or extreme temperatures (freezing or sunburn). Ensure the soil stays consistently moist, and run a humidifier next to them if the air is dry.
- Flowers turning brown – Begonia flowers turn brown as they start to die back, which is totally normal. Pinch out the brown/faded flowers regularly to encourage fresh new blooms.
- Leaves turning yellow – This is usually caused by overwatering, but in some cases could be due to a fungal disease or lack of light. Ensure the soil is not wet or soggy. If you suspect disease, prune off the yellow leaves, give your begonia better air circulation (an oscillating fan works great indoors), and never water over the top of the leaves.
- Dropping stems and/or leaves – When a begonia starts dropping leaves and stems, it’s usually because of too much water (especially during the winter). But it could also be from exposure to cold temps, or moving the plant around too much.
- Leaves turning white – White or faded leaves usually happens when they are getting too much direct sun. Move it to a location where it gets bright, indirect light inside, or to a shadier spot outside.
- Curling leaves – This can be caused by a number of problems. First, check to make sure there aren’t any bugs on the leaves. Otherwise, it could be due to lack of humidity, improper watering, or too much sun or heat.
- Wilting or drooping leaves – Droopy leaves is usually caused by under watering. But it could also happen after the plant has been repotted, if it’s being overwatered, or if it’s getting too hot.
- Not flowering – First off, not all begonias flower, so this may be normal for the variety that you have. If you have a flowering one, then it could be caused by lack of fertilizer, using the wrong type of fertilizer, or not enough light.
Begonia Plant Care FAQs
In this section, I will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about begonia care. If you don’t see the answer to your question here, then ask it in the comments below. I’ll get it answered for you as soon as I can.
Are begonias easy to grow?
Yes, they are easy to grow, as long as you give begonias the right care. They are the most fussy about water and humidity, which can be a struggle to get right for some.
Do begonias like sun or shade?
Most begonias like shade, and will burn in the full sun. However, there are new cultivars that have been bred to grow in the full sun. So it really depends on which variety you have.
Can begonias live inside?
Yes, and begonias make excellent houseplants! The only types you can’t grow indoors are the tuberous ones. Those require a period of winter dormancy each year. See the “Growing Begonias Indoors” section above for more details.
Do begonias come back every year?
It depends on where you live. Begonias are tender perennials that can survive outside during the winter in the right growing zone. Some are hardier than others though, so it’s important to know the ideal climate for each variety that you have.
Are begonias indoor or outdoor plants?
Begonias can be grown as either indoor or outdoor plants, depending on where you live and the type that you have.
How do I save begonias for next year?
Bring your begonias indoors for the winter. Begonias can either be grown as houseplants, or you can overwinter the tubers – depending on what type you have. See the “Bringing Begonias Indoors For Winter” section above for details.
Growing begonias is easy, and you can enjoy their beauty year round. Plus it’s fun to collect different varieties of begonias, and they are all sure to add tons of color to your home and garden. If you follow these begonia plant care tips, they will thrive for years to come.
If you want to learn how to grow plants indoors through the coldest months of the year, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is for you! It’ll show you everything you need to know in order to keep them thriving all year round! Download your copy today.
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