Yes, the polka dot begonia is real, and it's also an ideal indoor houseplant. Here's why.
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Botanically known as Begonia Maculata, this strikingly gorgeous houseplant features unique silver spots on bright green leaves with red undersides. The Polka Dot Begonia is one of the most popular plants in Costa Farm's Trending Tropical collection due to its fresh and fun variegation. Think all the fun of an eye-catching indoor flowering plant, but without the big blooms.

Polkadot Begonia houseplant inside from Costa Farms
Credit: Costa Farms

"Personally, I think seeing the polka dot pattern rise up in home design also helped," says Justin Hancock, brand marketing manager at Costa Farms. "It kind of fits in perfectly with some of the trendy millennial design themes out there." It's also relatively easy to care for them.

If you've been thinking about adding this popular plant to your collection, here's everything you need to know about Begonia Maculata care, from how big they can get to how to propagate your plant.

What Is the Polka Dot Begonia?

The Polka Dot Begonia is a cane begonia. Also known as "Angel Wing" begonias due to their bamboo-like stems with long leaves that resemble wings. Begonia Maculata is pretty easy to grow in comparison to Rex and some of the other non-Cane begonias.

"I think that's my favorite thing about it is how overall tolerant it is," says Hancock. "It's pretty forgiving when it's in a warm, bright spot with average or above-average relative humidity." In addition to having stunning foliage, the Polka Dot plant produces clusters of white flowers with yellow centers on a single stem. Flowering typically occurs during the spring and summer months.

Polka Dot Begonia Indoor Care

Begonia Maculata is an excellent houseplant for anyone who has the right growing conditions for it. "If you're new to plant parenting and feel good about giving the plant the light and water it needs, it's a fine starter plant," says Hancock. Once you address all of its needs, the Polka Dot Begonia will wow you and your visitors. Here's what Begonia Maculata needs to thrive:

Soil

Plant Begonia Maculata in loose, well-draining soil. A generic house planting mix should work well. If it seems too heavy, you can loosen the soil with some perlite.

Light

For those with limited, bright light in your home, rejoice! The Polka Dot Begonia prefers it on the shady side. Too much direct sunlight will cause its leaf tips to brown and its color to fade. It does like bright, indirect light but will survive in less bright locations.

Water

Keeping the soil moderately moist will make the Polka Dot plant happy. However, soggy soil is a no-go. "As is the case for any houseplant, Begonia maculata will suffer root rot if it's overwatered," Hancock warns. Check the soil every few days to determine its moisture level. You can do this by sticking your index finger into the soil about one inch or so. If the soil is dry to the touch, water it until it runs through the bottom of the pot.

Temperature and Humidity

This tropical plant needs mild temperatures and high humidity. Temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal. A humidity level greater than 45 percent will help prevent the leaves from drying out. If your home is dry, especially during the winter, place the plant on a pebble tray with water or use a humidifier.

Feeding

To get great-looking foliage and flowers, you'll need to feed the Begonia Maculata with a basic houseplant fertilizer during the spring and summer every other time you water the plant. During the fall and winter months, you do not need to fertilize.

Pruning Tips

"Something that's really fun—and surprising to many—is that over time, this can grow into a big plant. I've seen healthy Begonia maculata specimens that have topped 5 feet tall," says Hancock, "Making for an absolutely stunning specimen plant." Hancock recommends pruning if the plant starts to get taller than you'd like or feels lanky because it wants more light. "Cut the stems back to encourage side shoots that give it a fuller, lusher look," he suggests.

Common Problems to Avoid

The Polka Dot Begonia is not without problems, but they are similar to common issues most houseplants experience.

  • Brown leaf tips/edges. Hancock says that this can occur if the plant dries out too much, the air is a bit too arid, or gets too much fertilizer.
  • Powdery mildew. "This may be a problem if the begonia is kept in a spot that's too dim and cooler than it likes," says Hancock.
  • Root rot. Begonia maculata will suffer root rot if it's overwatered.
  • Draft-sensitivity. Because of its thin leaves, Begonia maculata also can suffer if it's exposed to drafts of air noticeably warmer or cooler than the ambient temperature. "So be sure to keep it away from heating and cooling vents, exterior doors (especially in cold-climate areas during the winter," says Hancock.

Polka Dot Begonia Propagation

Creating new Begonia maculata is easy. The plant propagates easily by placing stem cuttings in water. Take a four-inch cutting from a healthy stem. Put the cutting in a glass of water and place it in a window sill or area that receives bright, indirect light. Top off the water as needed. Roots should appear in four to six weeks. After the cutting has rooted, pot the cutting in soil and allow it to grow until it's established.