If you’ve got shady spots in the garden that need some brightness, begonias are the perfect solution. With their wide variety of colors and leaf shapes, these delightful bloomers add personality wherever they go. Begonias are also relatively easy to take care of, as long as you know how often to water them.
Begonias don’t need a lot of water, but they do need consistent moisture. The best way to water begonias is to give them a thorough soaking once a week. Let the water run until it comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Then, empty any excess water from the saucer.
You may need to water your begonias more frequently during hot, dry weather. Give them a drink if the leaves start to wilt or the soil feels dry to the touch. However, overwatering is more of a problem with begonias than watering them too little. So, err on the side of too little rather than too much. Let’s take a closer look at why that is and how to tell if your plant is getting too much water.
What Are Begonias?
There are actually over 1,300 species of begonias, so it isn’t easy to give a single definition that covers them all. Generally, begonias are tropical or subtropical plants that grow well in shady areas.
They prefer humid conditions and moist soil, which is why they’re often seen as houseplants.
In terms of appearance, begonias can have fibrous or tuberous roots, and their leaves are usually glossy and textured. As for the flowers, they come in a wide range of colors, from white and pink to orange and red. Begonias can be shrubs or climbers, depending on the species.
The most popular begonias are the wax begonias (on Amazon), which have small, flat leaves. They’re often used in hanging baskets or as bedding plants. Other popular varieties include the tuberous begonias, which have large, showy flowers, and the Rex begonias (on Amazon), known for their beautiful leaves.
How Often Do You Need to Water Begonias?
When it comes to watering, begonias are a bit like Goldilocks. They don’t like it too wet or too dry; they prefer it just right. Why is that? Well, begonias are native to tropical rainforests, where they grow under the canopy of taller trees. In their natural habitat, begonias don’t get a lot of direct sunlight, and the soil is often damp.
So, when growing begonias at home, you should try to mimic their natural conditions as closely as possible. That means watering them regularly but not letting the soil get too soggy. A good rule of thumb is to water your begonias once a week, giving them enough water to dampen the soil without making it soggy.
However, when the weather is hot and dry, you may need to water your begonias more often. The season also plays a role in the spring and summer; when begonias are actively growing, they’ll need more water than in the fall and winter, when they go dormant. Similarly, potted begonias will need more water than begonias that are planted in the ground.
However, too much water can be just as damaging to begonias as too little water. If their roots sit in water for too long, they’ll start to rot. This can lead to a whole host of problems, including leaf damage, disease, pest, and stunted growth.
How Do You Know if a Begonia Needs Water?
There are a few telltale signs that your begonia is thirsty — the most obvious one is dry soil. Begonias like their soil slightly moist but not bone dry. Gently stick your finger or a stick into the soil, and if the top inch is dry, it’s time to water. If you see moisture just below the surface, wait a few more days.
You can also check the leaves for signs of dehydration. If the leaves are wilting or drooping, with crumbly edges or brown spots, that’s usually a sign that the plant needs more water. Other signs include stunted growth and leaf drop.
Can You Overwater Begonias?
Unfortunately, yes, it’s possible to overwater begonias. In fact, it’s one of the most common problems people have with these plants. Most of the time, overwatering happens when the plant doesn’t have proper drainage.
Either the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, or the soil is too dense and doesn’t allow water to flow through. However, it’s also possible to overwater even with proper drainage.
Overwatering is a serious problem for begonias. The roots need oxygen to survive, and if they’re constantly sitting in water, they won’t get the oxygen they need. This can lead to root rot, which is fatal for the plant.
It also puts physical strain on the plant as it tries to support all that extra water weight. The leaves will droop, and the stems will become mushy and limbless. All this stress leaves the plant vulnerable to pests and diseases. In extreme cases, the plant may die.
What Does an Over-Watered Begonia Look Like?
Begonias are pretty good at telling you when they get too much water. Let’s discuss the signs and symptoms of overwatering so you can catch it early and save your plant.
- The first and most obvious sign of overwatering is soggy soil. Begonia doesn’t like to sit in water, so if the soil is constantly wet, that means you’re overdoing it. The soil should be moist, not soaking wet.
- Droopy, wilted leaves are also a sign of too much water. The difference from underwatering droop is that the leaves will be limp, rubbery, and soft, not crumbly.
- If you gently squeeze the stem and it feels squishy or breaks easily, that’s a bad sign. This usually happens when plants remain in the water for a few days.
- Yellow leaves can also be a sign of overwatering, especially if the leaves are turning yellow near the bottom. Some are also accompanied by curling or falling off. This happens when the plant is not getting enough oxygen, and the leaves start to die.
- If you find a white or gray powdery substance on leaves or near the soil, that’s mildew. It’s caused by too much moisture and insufficient air circulation — a sign that you’re overwatering.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and check the roots. If they’re black or brown and mushy, that’s a sign of root rot caused by overwatering. At this point, it’s often too late to save the plant. You’ll either need to start over with a new plant or try to propagate from the remaining healthy part.
If you see any of these signs, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate how much water you’re giving your begonias. The good news is that these plants are pretty resilient, and if you catch the problem early enough, you can often save them.