Beefsteak Begonia Plant Care Guide

Beefsteak Begonia offers beauty and limelight to any home or office, meeting expectations as an indoor plant. The round translucent, glossy olive-green leaves gleam with their light pinkish flower, adding a spark of life to indoor spaces. The leaves have a star-shaped venation, like tiny umbrellas with hairy stems and burgundy underneath the leaves.

The average mature Beefsteak begonia is six to 20 inches in height and can trail along any soil surface. A mature plant will grow leaves about two inches around.

Also called Begonia erythrophylla, they are nothing short of attention-grabbing, making them popular years ago. Today, growers may have difficulty finding one at their local nursery. Most growers inherit their Begonia or obtain one through an owner propagating one from their plant.

beefsteak begonia plant

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Botanical NameBegonia erythrophylla
Common NameBeefsteak Begonia, Swamp Lily Begonia, Pond Lily Begonia, Kidney Begonia, Begonia bunchii
Size8 t0 36 inches
DifficultyMedium
Pet FriendlyToxic
Air CleanerYes

Beefsteak Begonia Origin

Begonia belongs to the tropical and subtropical regions South Asia, Africa and America. These beauties are part of the Rex begonia genus as diverse plants for indoors and outdoors. But the Beefsteak plant adapts well to living indoors with plenty of light. 

Two popular opinions support the plants history and parentage and its introduction to plant growers. One idea is that the Beefsteak begonia is a hybrid cultivated in 1845 when botanist Jozef Warszewicz crossed two begonias (B. manicata and B. hydrocotylifolia) to create this round-leaf plant.

The other idea is that botanist Charles Plumier introduced and named the species in 1670, tributing to his sponsor Michel Begon. Other names for the plant are Swamp Lily begonia, Pond Lily begonia, Kidney begonia and Begonia bunchii. 

The name arrived thanks to its glossy, thick and fleshy leaves. It seems the leaves resemble a beefsteak, giving its common name. 

How to Care for Beefsteak Begonia

Besides being unique and beautiful plants, one bonus to owning these plants is the ease growers have in caring for them. The only time growers have problems with Beefsteak begonias is when the plants receive improper care. By following these plant care tips, these houseplants will thrive. 

Light and Temperature

The Beefsteak begonia thrives in bright, indirect sunlight and, conversely, will quickly scorch and wilt if exposed to direct light for any time. Placing them near a window facing north will achieve the desired result, a happy plant. East or west-facing windows will give these houseplants too much sunlight. 

During the summer or warmer temperatures, try to prevent the Beefsteak plants from too much sunlight and heat. 

Like most subtropical and tropical plants, the Beefsteak begonias prefer average indoor temperatures — 65° to 85° Fahrenheit. These plants have difficulty tolerating cold weather and will wilt right away if left in cold temperatures. The same goes for high temperatures, causing the foliage to scorch and often killing the indoor plants. 

Keeping their environment between 65- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit will keep them growing well and happy. These begonias are humidity-loving plants. They grow well between 30 and 60 percent humidity, the average for most US households. 

If the Beefsteak begonias show any signs of dryness or the indoor humidity is too low, spray water as a mist over the leaves. That way, the moisture increases gradually and not too fast. Or place a bowl of water near the plants. Keep the water in the bowl low so it can evaporate easily.

Water

These begonias will not do well in stagnate water but need frequent watering. In fact, the more drainage holes they have in their container, the better. 

When the top half-inch potting mix is slightly dry, run water gently through the pot until the water comes out of the drainage holes. That way, these plants get plenty of water. Young Beefsteak begonias need more frequent waterings than mature plants. Still, don’t allow the potting mix to become waterlogged. 

Besides frequent watering being vital, some growers have difficulties growing these begonias because of insufficient water quality. Test faucet water regularly, ensuring the sodium and chloride ranges are not too high. Use purified water for the best results and happiest plants. 

Fertilization

Beefsteak begonias appreciate being fed occasionally in the spring and summer months. A balanced NPK fertilizer works well. Following the directions on the package, try diluting it in half and see how these beauties thrive. Avoid fertilizing in the fall and winter since these plants hardly grow during the colder seasons. 

Flowering

These begonia plants produce two-inch sized, pink to white flowers several times a year. Growers say they look like candy with three to four circular petals and have a pleasant fragrance. They are showy flowers and commonly bloom in mid to late winter and spring. 

Pruning

Wear gloves while pruning begonias because they are toxic. These houseplants require minimal to standard pruning. The best time to prune is when old, yellowing leaves appear. Or the advantage of slightly pruning Beefsteak begonias is they’ll grow faster. Pruning also shapes the houseplants, making them look more decorative. 

Use sharp, sterilized pruning shears that will not cause extra damage to the indoor plants. Find where the base of the leaf meets its stalk and cut there. Avoid random trimming by being specific. 

Repotting

When roots fill the whole container, it’s time to repot the houseplant. Gently lift the foliage and see if any roots are poking out of the top of the potting mix. Or look under the pot and see if any roots poke through the drainage holes. Also, if the planter has no more loose soil, it’s too tight for the indoor plants to grow comfortably. 

Most growers repot every two to three years. Repot during the spring and summer months when these begonias grow well. When it’s time to repot, Beefsteak begonias thrive, moving into a new pot one size larger or one to two inches bigger in size. 

Take the Beefsteak plant out of its old container and carefully remove old soil while loosening the roots. Place a few inches of new potting mix at the bottom of the new planter. Then, place the begonia in the pot and fill the potting mix around the plant. Water the houseplant thoroughly until water flows through the drainage holes. 

Pests

Beefsteak begonia plants can have pests, but it’s treatable, and the sooner the treatment occurs, the better for the plant. It’s best to inspect houseplants regularly for any sign of insects. Mostly, they are noticeable, and it doesn’t take a full-fledged botanist to determine if a plant has critters. A list of common pests:

Spider Mites — When the houseplants have these critters, there is noticeable discoloration of the leaves. Heavy infestation usually exhibits fine white webbing on the leaves. 

Whiteflies — Tiny white-winged flies fly around the plant. The begonia shows yellowing and blotchy leaves—undersides of the leaves so white dust particles. 

Scales — Bumpy and brownish scale-like pests with white cottony clumps appearing on the leaves. The foliage droops or wilts with patches of discoloration. 

Mealybugs — Under the leaves, white cotton substance forms, and the leaves curl, wilt and fall off. 

Aphids — These buggers come in various colors, but their tiny pear shape is consistent. They, like the other insects, suck the sap from indoor plants. Beefsteak begonia will have stunted growth with curling leaves that fall off. 

Treating begonias with pests is basic and easy to do. Cut the infected areas using a sterilized pruning shear. 

Use a clean, dry cloth or cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, and gently apply the cloth to the infected areas. Rubbing alcohol removes spider mites, mealybugs and their eggs. It’s super effective. 

Scales breathe through their shells, so apply neem oil to the infected areas. This suffocates them, then gently rub them off. If they don’t come off, try gently scrapping the buggers off with a blunt blade. Dish soap mixed with water and then sprayed on the plant also works. Then, carefully rub off the critters. 

Spraying insecticide removes whiteflies and aphids. Use a clean, dry cloth to remove any signs of the pests. 

If the infestation is out of control, neem oil and other horticultural oils work well. Follow the directions on the label. 

Once treated, check the Beefsteak begonias weekly, ensuring the treatment worked. If not, repeat until there are no signs of critters.

Diseases

Proper care of Beefsteak begonias is the best preventive treatment. Most diseases happen because of improper care, mainly overwatering. It blocks the plant’s ability to breathe and have air space. They literally can’t live and become weak. 

Measures to take to prevent diseases:

  • Avoid getting water on the buds and flowers when misting the plants.
  • Lean toward dry soil, not wet soil, in between waterings. 
  • Avoid having cold temperatures and humidity together. 
  • Treat the plants with a fungicide once a year as a preventive. 

A list of common diseases and symptoms:

Botrytis Blight — Yellowing flowers, stems and buds that grow abnormally, including black and brown patches on flowers. The flowers eventually rot away. 

Bacterial Leaf — Large brown and black circular spots appear on the foliage at the base of the Beefsteak begonia. 

Powdery Mildew — Yellowing and discoloring of the leaves includes a coating of white substance in the foliage. 

Gray Mold — Greyish-brown mold appears on the leaves, buds and flowers. 

Root Rot — Roots gradually degenerate, stunted growth, yellowing and wilting flowers that droop and fall off. 

Treating a begonia with any of these diseases takes patience and dedication. First, deadhead or cut off the spent flowers using sharp, sterilized pruning shears. Spray fungicides before any buds appear and after buds become flowers. 

If the Beefsteak begonia has root rot, take the plant out of its container. Dry it out and repot into a new planter with plenty of drainage holes, using fast-draining potting soil with porous. 

Treatment for powdery mildew requires fungicides with sulfur spraying the infected area. 

Severe infection is hard to treat successfully and save the plant. Most growers choose to propagate the healthy cuttings and toss the infected parts away. 

How to Propagate Beefsteak Begonia

Growers enjoy sharing their Beefsteak begonias from one generation to the next. A baby begonia makes an excellent gift to plant lovers that keeps on giving. Interesting fact is these beauties have flowers that are sterile without any seeds. Propagating is the best way to multiply them by following these simple methods. 

Stem Cutting Method

Take a sharp, sterilized pair of pruning shears and cut five to seven inches of a stem right below the leaf node. Cut off the lowest leaf and place the bottom end into a jar of filtered water. Roots will develop in a couple of weeks. 

Rhizome Cutting Method

Rhizomes are fleshy underground stems that will grow roots from nodes, including sprouting stems on top. With that, clip off a nice and healthy rhizome using sharp and sterilized shears. Place the cutting in a fresh potting mix appropriate for these begonias. Keep the soil moist but not wet, making sure the roots form and the stem will grow. 

Leaf Cutting Method

Growers who use the leaf-cutting method like a good challenge because it’s not an easy way to propagate a Beefsteak begonia. Cut off a leaf with a pair of sterilized and sharp pruning shears. Place the cut end in a jar of filtered water with rooting hormone. In a couple of weeks, roots will appear. Once the roots are mature enough, transplant the baby plant to a container that has fresh potting mix. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Beefsteak Begonias rare?

Beefsteak begonias are rare and rarely sold in plant stores. So, these beauties are a plant collector’s item. Most people propagate them and give them to others. That is the best way to get one of these plants today. 

Do Beefsteak Begonias spread?

These houseplants spread eight to 36 inches per growing season. During winter, they stop growing and are dormant. 

Does Beefsteak Begonia grow fast?

Yes. These begonias grow fast in the spring and summer if they have proper lighting, watering and nutrition. 

Is Beefsteak Begonia toxic to pets?

Beefsteak begonias contain calcium oxalates and can cause harm to pets. Eating the plants will have difficulty breathing, swollen lips and tongue, vomiting or nausea. The stomach feels like it’s on fire. 

Pets will show signs of pawing at the mouth, drooling and vomiting. 

Final Thoughts

Beefsteak begonias, also called Beefsteak erythrophylla, are unique and beautiful plants. Decades ago, they were a popular plant and easy to find in most nurseries. Today, it’s not that easy to find a Beefsteak begonia, so most people propagate them and share them with family and friends. 

Growers can easily care for them if they provide for them properly. By following these plant care tips, these indoor plants will thrive.

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