Here in Western Canada, our begonia choices are few and far between which is a shame because there are over 1800 species of begonia. In the genus of begonia there many different types. Cane begonias – like the Medora begonia I will be speaking of here, trailing begonias, rhizomatous types, shrub types and more. They can look very very different from each other and require different care. In my limited experience – cane begonias are pretty easy to care for.
Cane begonias develop strong, woody stems that you can train to stand upright or, like I am with my Medora, leave to grow wild and trailing. These plants have small delicate roots so care to not disturb them should be taken. Medora begonias can suffer from root rot and other moisture related ailments such as powdery mildew.
Medora Angel Wing Begonia General Care
Light: Light is quite important in the health and growth of your Medora begonia plant. They have leaves that are on the thinner side so they can burn if light is too intense however, I have mine fairly close to a west window (within 4 feet) and it does get some direct light. So far, so good. I have not had any leaves burn and I have had steady growth – even in winter. If you are struggling with yours, I would try to give it more light.
Water: You might think that begonia Medora or mini angel wing begonia struggles with water because the foliage and root system is rather small and delicate compared to other begonia species but that is not the case. They store a great deal of moisture in their strong stems. If it does get thirsty, it will show you by wilting and a deep watering will perk it right up. I don’t let it get to the point of wilting often, however, and I typically bottom water it when the soil has dried. If you water too often before it has had a chance to dry it could induce root rot which is never good.
Soil: Because Medora begonia have small roots you should choose a soil that allows for quick drainage and airflow. Mine drained well when I brought it home from the nursery and so I have never changed it. There is no need to repot your plant as long as the soil is performing well – these plants like to stay snug in their pots and to have their roots left alone. Standard potting soil with added drainage should suffice.
Humidity: Standard household humidity is good for these plants and it is best to avoid misting or getting the leaves wet when you water as they can easily develop powdery mildew or other fungal issues. It is often suggested that crispy leaves are caused by low humidity but I do not believe this to be the case. Underwatering, or, inability to take up water due to root rot are the more likely culprits.
Fertilizer: Because the leaves and roots are a bit delicate, I dilute any fertilizer to half strength and allow for a little bit at every watering over the summers. Using a fertilizer with a bit more potassium will help encourage blooms but I haven’t done that as for me, the show is in the delicate little angel wings.
Pruning and propagation: I have hacked my plant back several times, without much thought as to developing it’s shape as it has grown quite out of control. Cuttings were easy to root in water – let the roots grow quite long before transferring to soil. Your mother plant will easily throw out new growth and before you know it you’ll be trimming it back again. This is a great plant to share with friends!
Pests: So far I have been lucky to not have pests on my begonia but I do believe them to be susceptible to the usual mealy bugs and spider mites.
Toxicity: Begonia are toxic. Do not let curious chewers much on it and seek medical attention if a plant – leaves, stems or roots – gets eaten.
A note on leaf drop: If the conditions change for your plant – you move it from one room to another, there is a change of seasons and therefor light levels, you move it indoors for the winter etc – you may experience leaf drop. Don’t fret. Once the plant acclimates to it’s new conditions, it will replace those dropped leaves.