Begonia luxurians or Palm leaf begonia is an atypical representative of the eponymous genus native to the tropical forests of Brazil.
It is called Palm leaf begonia because the plant is more reminiscent of a palm tree than typical representatives of its genus due to its size and fan-like large leaves.
Irresistibly exotic and yet not demanding, this plant will bring a touch of tropical magic to any home.
What Is Begonia Luxurians?
Begonia luxurians is a robust perennial with a bushy upright shape that can reach 8 to 12 feet in height and 6 feet wide. It has hairy, fan-like leaves with 7-18 lobes and crimson reverse.
The leaves of the serrated edges appear in a zig-zag pattern, radiating from the reddish center. They grow on red-purple cane-like stems, which are hairy when young, but over time become smooth and hairless.
Fragrant white Begonia luxurians flowers that bloom in clusters appear from spring to mid-summer, growing on long stalks above the leaves.
Begonia Luxurians Care Guide
In other words, despite its exotic appearance and impressive dimensions, it is not difficult to grow.
– Soil Requirements
Begonia luxurians requires airy, nutritious, and well-draining soil with a slightly acidic reaction in pH values from 5.5 to 6.5. The standard substrate for houseplants is prone to compaction, so you can improve its structure by adding sand or perlite in a ratio of 1:1.
The nutritiousness of the substrate and mild soil acidity you could provide if you add a handful of sphagnum peat moss or hummus.
If you want to prevent excessive drying of the substrate, you can place mulch of dry leaves on the surface around the plant. This layer will retain moisture in the soil, and its gradual decomposition will contribute to soil nutrition.
– Temperature Requirements
Begonia luxurians will thrive if you can provide it with a warm environment all year around. In other words, try to set the temperature in the range of 60 to 80 F. The plant is sensitive to low temperatures and is not resistant to frost.
Therefore, avoid keeping it in a room that does not heat up in winter! Fleshy and watery stems decay rapidly if the temperature approaches the freezing point. All in all, the temperature at which you feel comfortable will suit your begonia as well!
– Light Requirements
Like other plants that grow in the shade of tall tropical vegetation, begonia luxurians loves bright places, but it is not accustomed to direct sunlight. Place it next to the east or west window, where it can get some mild morning or afternoon sunlight.
In winter, you can even move the plant next to the south window. During this period, the plant can withstand the direct winter sun since it is not strong enough to damage its leaves.
– Fertilizer Requirements
Begonia luxurians is a branched and large plant that grows fast, so it needs additional feeding because the nutrient in the soil is often not enough. From March to October, fertilize it twice a month with a balanced liquid fertilizer for houseplants, dissolved in water but diluted to half of the recommended dose.
In autumn, the growing season ends. The plant enters the dormant phase during this period, so it is not obligatory to supplement. Allow the plant to rest and gather energy for new growth in the spring when you can start fertilizing again.
– Water Requirements
Begonia likes moist but not soggy soil and, sometimes, it is a challenge to establish a suitable watering regime. Generally, you need to water the plant once a week. Yet, it is just a framework because watering always depends on all other growth factors such as temperature, sun exposure, humidity, and plant or pot size.
Therefore, it is best to feel the substrate each time before watering. Water only when 0.8 inches of the top layer is dry.
Reduce watering in the winter months to half of the established regime, allowing half of the substrate to dry. In other words, water sporadically just enough so that the substrate does not dry out completely.
What Water To Use?
When watering begonias luxurians, avoid tap water. If you have the opportunity, it would be ideal to use rainwater because it is naturally slightly acidic. However, distilled water or stagnant water at room temperature will also have a beneficial effect on the plant.
For the successful cultivation of these stunning begonia luxurians, you need to pay special attention to humidity. The optimal humidity level in which the plant will feel good is at least 50 percent. It means that you need to provide the plant with additional moisture, especially in the winter season when heating dries the air.
Still, do not let that discourage you! Here are a few practical ways to provide adequate humidity in the plant’s immediate environment without much effort and investment.
- Group plants that require similar growing conditions. Apart from looking decorative when growing side by side in different sizes and shapes, evaporation of water from their pots will alter the microclimatic conditions in their environment.
- Use a humidifier, a simple device that will ensure that all your tropical plants feel at home.
- A pebble tray is another easy way to provide extra moisture.
Avoid spraying the leaves!
Misting is the simplest way to provide additional moisture to the plant. Yet, in the case of begonia luxurians, it is not recommended. In conditions of high humidity and indirect lighting, tiny drops of water on its leaves slowly evaporate, creating the ideal conditions for the development of various fungal diseases.
If you want to refresh the plant, it is much better to wipe its leaves at least once a month with a damp cloth. It is a multifaceted treatment.
First, you will remove the accumulated dust. Dust deposits suffocate the plant because they slow down transpiration!
Second, wiping the leaves provides extra moisture and removes potential pests that might have settled on the leaves.
Begonia luxurians is a large plant and therefore needs a stable pot of decent size to maintain the balance between the large, aboveground mass and relatively small roots. For the first few years, transplant it each spring into a new, one-inch larger pot. After a few years, when the plant reaches its mature size, transplant it only every three years.
Top Layer Change
Transplanting a branched mature plant can sometimes be a challenging endeavor. It is demanding to handle the giant plant. Therefore, instead of repotting, you could replace only the top layer of the substrate. The size of this layer depends on the size of the pot and the development of the root system. Try to remove at least one-third of the old substrate.
If you add slow-release pelleted fertilizer to the new layer, you will provide the plant with a suitable medium for two to three years.
If you do not want your begonia luxurians to become leggy and scattered, prune it regularly at the beginning of the growing season, in the spring. Shorten the lateral stems to keep the plant compact, spherical shape. You can pinch the top shoots all season long. By shortening them, you will encourage branching and bushy form.
Begonia Luxurians Propagation
– Stem Cuttings in Soil
- Prepare a 5-inch diameter pot filled with a mixture of equal parts peat moss and perlite.
- Choose a healthy and well-developed stem with a node and few leaves at least 5 inches long and cut with a clean knife or scissors as close to the base as possible, especially if there are already aerial roots on the stem.
- Insert the stem into the soil in half. Optionally, you can dip the cutting into the rooting hormone, which will speed up the process, but this measure is not obligatory. Cuttings will form a root without it.
- Do not press the soil around the cuttings with your fingers; gently shake the bowl to make the cuttings firm instead. Protect it with a plastic cover or PVC transparent bag to prevent the substrate from drying out and place it in a warm, bright place.
- Keep the substrate moist but not soaked, as too much moisture can lead to the decay of the cuttings.
The rooting process takes several weeks. When you notice the new leaves, remove the cover, and treat the plant as the adult ones.
– Cuttings in Water
Instead of a substrate, you can use a glass of clean water as a rooting medium.
- Choose a healthy top shot without flowers or buds. Cut it at a 45-degree angle below the node.
- Remove all the lower leaves leaving only the top crown. To reduce transpiration, you could cut the leaves in half.
- Place the cutting in a standard juice cup (volume 6.76 oz) with room temperature water. In large containers with a lot of water, there is a greater chance that the cuttings will rot!
- When the cutting forms a root that is 1-inch long, transplant it into the substrate in a 5-inch diameter pot.
– By Seeds
If you want to propagate one or two new plants, cuttings are a great solution. However, if you want more new begonias, then it is best to apply propagation from Begonia luxurians seeds.
Here’s how to do it step by step:
- After flowering, pick up the seed pods and leave until the spring for the seeds to dry well.
- Prepare a bowl at least 6 inches deep and fill it halfway with a mixture of peat moss and perlite. Begonia seeds are tiny, so mix them with sand to distribute them evenly over the surface of the substrate.
- The seeds need light to germinate, so do not cover them with a layer of soil. Therefore, dab them with your fingers to make them cling better to the surface.
- Spray with water, cover the container with a plastic bag and place it in a warm and bright place.
- Occasionally mist the surface to maintain a humid environment.
The germination process is relatively slow, and it usually takes several weeks for seedlings to emerge. When the seedlings develop three or four leaves, place them as individual plants in 4-inch diameter pots filled with the same mixture. When new plants grow 10-15 cm high, transplant them into slightly larger pots where they grow as individual plants.
In general, once you establish optimal conditions for its cultivation, Begonia luxurians is a healthy and durable plant. However, you may still encounter problems while growing it, including the following.
Anthracnose is a fungal disease that often attacks begonias. It is caused by excessive wetting and retention of water droplets on the leaves. You will recognize it by yellow or brown spotted lesions or twisted leaves.
It’s best to prevent the spread of disease as soon as you notice the first symptoms. Remove all infected plant material and avoid wetting the leaves during watering.
If the infection has spread to the extent that it has affected most of the leaves, cut off the most diseased ones and treat the plant with some standard fungicides.
– Powdery Mildew
Powdery mildew is another fungal disease that often accompanies begonia cultivation. The plant affected by this disease has white, powdery, or filamentous growths on the upper surface of the leaves. If not stopped, the fungus can further cover the stems or flowers.
Although this disease is not fatal, it slows down plant growth and disrupts the general plant’s appearance.
You can treat an infected plant with a standard fungicide or homemade preparation that you can make from one teaspoon of baking soda and half a teaspoon of non-detergent soap dissolved in one gallon of water. Spray the plant leaves with this solution, and repeat the procedure several times at intervals of seven days.
If common house pests like aphids, mealybugs, mites, and scales appear on your other houseplants, they will not bypass the begonia either. These fast-spreading pests feed on the plant’s juices damaging the leaves thus weakening the plant.
Regular inspection and cleaning the leaves are the best prevention. However, if you notice these unwanted guests, treat the plant with natural insecticides such as neem oil solution or insecticidal soaps.
Given that begonia luxurians is a large plant, try to apply the insecticide to all its parts. These tiny plagues easily hide in the dense and large canopy of begonia luxurians, so if only a few avoid treatment, the problem will recur soon!
Palm leaf begonia is a stunning plant that cannot go unnoticed in any space.
Growing Begonia luxurians will be an effortless pleasure if you pay attention to the following:
- Provide it with plenty of diffused light, a humidity level of 50 percent, a warm environment of 60 to 80 F all year round, and well-drained, nutritious, slightly acidic soil.
- It is a plant that loves moisture. Yet, you have to be careful when you water your begonia luxurians since excess water in the substrate can lead to root rot. Therefore, allow the surface layer to dry to a depth of 0.8 inches before watering the plant again.
- Do not spray the leaves because it is prone to fungal diseases.
- Regularly remove all withered or damaged leaves and pinch the tips to maintain a compact shape and branching.
- Like all other begonias, this one is easy to propagate. You can choose from several methods: cuttings in water, cuttings in the ground, or by seed.
If you live in USA climate zone 10 to 11, you can also plant the gorgeous Begonia luxurians outdoors in a shaded area as a charming addition to your tropical garden. In other climatic zones, you can grow it as a houseplant. Begonia luxurians are like a real palm tree but less demanding.
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