How to Care for Beefsteak Begonia?
Priced for their foliage and blooms, begonias are routinely grown indoors as houseplants. The Beefsteak Begonia stands out because of its reddish-green foliage and pink or white blossoms.
The Beefsteak variety is a hybridized plant created in Germany, and while accustomed to a temperate climate, it’s not frost-resistant, therefore, it needs to be winterized indoors.
Begonias can seem a bit finicky, but once you get a clear understanding of their needs and requirements, it will seem much easier to grow it.
Here are my recommendations on how to take care of the Beefsteak Begonia:
Size & Growth
A small to medium-sized plant, the Beefsteak Begonia usually reaches a top height of 20 inches, making it a wonderful choice for a tabletop plant.
It’s not a fast-growing plant and does most of its growth in the spring-summer season. Growth slows down significantly in winter, when the plant is entering into a rest period, then resumes again in spring.
The plant features large, rounded leaves with rusty red undersides that are reminiscent of the color of beef, hence the name of the plant.
You’d think that growing this plant indoors can be difficult because there isn’t enough light, but I have some good news – the beefsteak begonia actually enjoys moderate to bright, indirect light.
This being the case, direct sun exposure is not tolerated, especially during the hottest periods of the day such as the afternoon.
A bit of gentle early morning direct sun or late afternoon direct sun will not cause problems and it’s even beneficial to the plant’s development, but strong, direct light will burn the leaves of the plant.
Keep a few feet away from a south-facing window or near an east-facing window. If kept outdoors over the summer, make sure to position it somewhere with filtered light to prevent damage caused by strong sunlight.
The other extreme – light deprivation – should also be avoided. Without enough light, the plant will grow weak, its resilience will crumble. Stems will etiolate – grow thin and long – and its otherwise large leaves will grow small.
I also recommend rotating the plant periodically if only one of its sides is getting enough light. Etiolation can happen even on a single side of the plant, so if you don’t want your Beefsteak begonia to grow lopsided, then make sure to rotate it.
The Beefsteak begonia doesn’t appreciate sitting in wet soil, therefore, you need to watch how often you water this plant.
The ‘soak and dry’ method appreciated by many other plants that don’t tolerate wet roots is appreciated by the Beefsteak Begonia as well.
Simply water the soil, allow all excess water to drain, and then wait for the top two inches of soil to dry before you water again.
This method involves checking up on the soil often to monitor its moisture level. You’ll especially need to check back often during the summer season, when evaporation is faster, and the plant needs more hydration.
When watering, you should also watch out for two other things – water quality and water temperature.
In terms of water quality, the begonia does not tolerate chlorinated water too well. Nor does it appreciate other chemically treated tap water. If possible, water with filtered water or allow tap water to aerate overnight.
In terms of temperature, use ambient temperature water. Water that’s too cold or too hot will send the plant into shock.
Even if your watering routine is exemplary, you’ll still need to plant your Beefsteak Begonia in airy, loose soil that will allow water to drain instead of sitting in the soil.
I recommend soil-less mixes such as sphagnum peat moss, humus, perlite. One mix that I found works great for the Begonia Beefsteak are African violet potting mixes.
These are made up of loose, airy substrates that hold onto just the right amount of moisture, without them becoming compacted or way too saturated with water.
Excess water can drain more easily, and the soil can stay aerated and loose, favoring root development and warding off bacterial and fungal overgrowth.
Therefore, along with light exposure and watering, the type of soil you pick for your begonias is crucial to keep their roots healthy, and the plant thriving.
Temperature & Humidity
The ideal temperature range for the Beefsteak Begonia is between 45-85 F. I mentioned how this isn’t a frost resistant plant nor does it tolerate temperatures below 45 F.
It also doesn’t like temperature fluctuations such as those caused by AC units, heating vents or a drafty window. Keep your begonia away from these as well as other sources of cold or heat that might induce temperature shock.
The Beefsteak begonia enjoys humidity but adapts to average indoor humidity levels as well. However, its sweet spot is somewhere around 50% humidity, so if you can maintain those levels
When it comes to fertilizing the begonia, a little goes a long way. Not heavy feeders, they can get by on monthly fertilizing with a diluted fertilizer. I recommend a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength.
Spring and summer are the only seasons in which fertilizing is recommended since the plant does most of its growing and all its blooming during these seasons. Stop fertilizing in winter, then resume fertilizing in spring.
Potting & Repotting
Unfortunately, begonias don’t have a very long lifespan, so you probably don’t need to worry about repotting them. Since they live around three years or so, repotting them is not really a concern.
If you do repot yearly, however, make sure to use a well-draining potting mix that won’t get sticky if watered and allows the rootball to get aerated.
How to Propagate Beefsteak Begonia?
There are two ways in which you can propagate a Beefsteak begonia – through root division and stem cuttings.
You can divide the rootball when repotting a plant, or the easier method is simply to root Beefsteak Begonia cuttings.
You can harvest and root cuttings in spring or summer. Each cutting should be sized between four to six inches. Cut them just below a leaf juncture.
You can root cuttings in water, which is probably the easiest way, or root them in moist potting mix.
Make sure the cut end that goes into the water or potting mix doesn’t have leaves on, but that one leaf node is either under the water level or planted in the potting mix.
Keep the potting mix moist by spraying it so it doesn’t completely dry out. When rooting in water, replace the water at least once a week to keep it from clouding.
Keep the cuttings out of direct sunlight, which can scorch them but can also increase evaporation and make the soil dry out faster.
Provide filtered light or bright, indirect light and warm temperatures. Cuttings should root in a couple of weeks.
For cuttings rooted in water, make sure the roots get about an inch long before transplanting them to their final pots.
Not sure about those brown spots on your Beefsteak Begonia? Worried your plant may be toxic to your pets? Here are some FAQs about the Beefsteak begonia – answered.
– Why are the leaves on Beefsteak Begonia turning brown?
If it’s the leaf edges turning brown, it may be because the soil of your begonia is too dry. Conversely, an overwatered begonia’s leaves can also turn brown.
Likewise, when the plant is exposed to strong, direct sunlight, its leaves get scorched and turn brown.
Some fungal leaf diseases can also cause yellow to brown spots on the leaves.
– Why is the Beefsteak Begonia plant wilting?
Leaves wilting on a Beefsteak Begonia can be caused by dehydration, temperature shock but also overwatering.
Check the moisture level of the potting mix and adjust your watering schedule. Also, examine whether the plant has been exposed to extreme temperatures or a cold draft, all of which can cause the plant to wilt.
– Is the Beefsteak Begonia plant toxic to pets?
The Beefsteak Begonia is toxic to cats, dogs, and even grazing animals like horses. The toxic principle is calcium oxalate, which can cause kidney failure, vomiting, gastrointestinal upset in cats and dogs.
Keep your begonias in a place where your pets don’t have access to. Seek medical help if any of your pets have ingested parts of the plant.
With a manageable size and beautiful foliage, the Beefsteak Begonia can be a bit finicky in its requirements, but it’s generally easy to take care of.
Although its light requirements can be described as moderate, you should never leave your begonia in direct sunlight in the afternoon, when the sun is the strongest.
Keep the plant in a warm location and don’t keep it outdoors during the winter, especially if temperatures drop below 45 F in your area. Extreme heat and temperature fluctuations should also be avoided.
Even though the Beefsteak Begonia is acclimated to temperate climates having been hybridized in Germany, it’s still very much a tropical plant with the same needs of begonias growing in subtropical and tropical regions.