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How to keep your Polka dot Begonia alive

Plant ABC

Words by Georgie Sinclair

Illustrations by Elena Boils

Introducing the Plant ABC, our very own encyclopaedia of plants and flowers. This week, read up on all the tips, tricks and trivia you need to keep your Polka dot Begonia alive.

Latin Name: Begonia Maculata ‘Wightii’

Nickname: Polka dot Begonia

Family: Begoniaceae

Native to: Brazil

Spotted in: Christian Louboutin’s bathroom

Life Cycle: Perennial

Soil: Neutral pH, sand/loam

Special Feature: Resistant to plant-predators


An absolute must-have

Spots might not be a characteristic desired by humans, but they’re an absolute must-have in the plant kingdom. With its unique white-dotted upper leaf and scarlet red underleaf, the Polka dot Begonia has earned itself permanent A-lister status. Rumour has it that Christian Louboutin took inspiration from the Begonia for his trademark red-heeled shoes. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that this plant is a demanding little creature and requires specialist attention. On the upside, if you treat her well you will be rewarded up to three times a year with beautiful red or white blooms, and she’ll grow up to a height of two metres.

Expect flowers in the Spring

Every season is show season for the Polka dot Begonia, but you should expect her to flower in Spring or in late Winter. If you want to give yours a prune it would be best to do so in the Spring. But as they grow so fast a trip to the hairdressers will not go amiss whatever the weather.

How much sun does it need?

The Begonia needs sunlight but she will react very badly if you leave her to frazzle in the afternoon sun. She’ll be at her best lounging on a windowsill facing a north or easterly direction.

Try to mimic Brazilian weather conditions.

This might be a tall order for those living in Europe’s temperate climate, but if you can, try to mimic Brazilian weather conditions. You can do this easily by keeping your Begonia in the bathroom. If you’d rather not keep her there, then keep her close to your other plants. This will naturally increase humidity levels. Spray the air around her, but NOT directly on her leaves. The soil should be moist, but do not drown the poor soul. The Begonia family are particularly susceptible to rot, and overwatering could lead to a nasty death. You can prevent this by ensuring your plant is potted in a container with drainage so water does not collect in the bottom.

Hot or Cold

Maintain a room temperature of 18 – 22 C.