Propagating by stem cuttings is just about the easiest way to make more begonias for next summer’s garden. During the fall, I regularly trim off 3-node long cuttings and put them into the growing pots where they take root.
Now that cold weather has arrived, I root the stem cuttings in a vase of water. It’s a great way to produce more pots of Begonias for next summer’s garden.
Water the plant well the day before.
Take a cutting about 4-inches long, with 3 nodes, from a healthy stem.
Use a perfectly clean container. Rinse the container with a drop of bleach if you are uncertain about its spotlessness.
Remove all but the top leaf or two. There should be no leaves in the water.
The cutting should have a healthy leaf node at the bottom. Don’t leave a stub below the node. Place the cutting into the water, and place the container out of the sun. In a couple of weeks, you will see new roots beginning to form.
Check the water periodically to make sure it is still fresh. If it begins to smell, pour it out, clean the container, gently run water over the cuttings and put them in fresh water.
Angel Wing Begonia rooted cutting
When the cuttings root, keep an eye on them. If they are left in water too long, the stem will rot.
Notice the long roots on the cutting on the right. Those little leaves grew under water!
Prepare planting pots by filling with potting soil. Make a hole with a pencil. I sprinkled some moisture retention crystals in the hole.
Water well and let the water drain out. The soil will settle when you water. You may have to remake the hole and add more soil.
Remove all but the top leaf or two from each cutting. Large leaves can be cut in half.
A few of these stem cuttings could or should be shorter, but they’ll be OK. When they get settled in their pots and new growth emerges, I’ll pinch it off to encourage branching and leafing out.
Even though their flowers are very pretty, Cane-like Begonias are grown mostly for their beautiful leaves. I keep pots on the kichen windowsill in the winter and in a shady seating area in the summer.
To keep your plants full and attractive, pinch off the top growth. Fertilize with half-strength houseplant fertilizer.
The photo on the right is the pan with two-types of Cane-like Begonia cuttings potted and ready to grow in the shed
There is a lot more to learn about Begonias at the American Begonia Society webpage – here.
Angel Wing Begonias produce beautiful flowers in a range of colors from white, pink, orange, and red, but they also require plenty of water and warm temperatures.
This plant makes attractive plants in the garden with its beautiful foliages that can bloom all year round. It can be kept indoors as a houseplant and are easy to care for. However, it is toxic to pets; so a little care should be taken.
- Angel Wing Begonia Overview
- Varieties of Angel Wing Begonia
- Angel Wing Begonia Care Tips
- angel-winged begonia cuttings in water?
- Angel Wing Begonia Care
- How to Propagate Angel-Wing
- A. Begonia Pests or Disease Problems?
- Suggested Uses For Angelwing Begonia
- Begonias: Propagation by Leaf
- Tip On Propagating Begonias From Cuttings
- Begonia Propagation Info
- Begonia Propagation from Stem Cuttings
- Propagate Begonias from a Single Leaf
- Monthly Meals
- My Favorites: Begonia rex
Angel Wing Begonia Overview
Angel Wing Begonia Quick Facts
|Scientific Name:||Begonia coccinea x Begonia aconitifolia|
|Common Names||Angel wing begonia|
|Type||Perennial flowering plant|
|Watering||Maintain moist soil|
|Light||Bright, indirect light|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets|
|Pests||Aphids and spider mites|
Varieties of Angel Wing Begonia
The Angel Wing Begonia was named for its foliage, which is shaped like the wings of angels. The foliage is very attractive and usually features variations in the form of spots of frosted patterns, often with the underside of the leaves being a maroon color. The plant is a cross between the Begonia aconitifolia and the Begonia coccinea, which was created by a Californian plant breeder in the 1920s. Other varieties of begonia include the following.
Begonia ‘Super Cascade’
This begonia features elaborate showy blooms that can measure up to 5 inches across. This plant works well in hanging baskets as the pendulous flowers droop down in a very dramatic way. The plant features flowers that have smaller double blooms surrounded by four larger petals to create an extravagant bloom.
Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’
This begonia flowers so heavily that during the height of the blooming season that the foliage can hardly be spotted underneath all of the flowers. The pretty apricot-colored blooms are some of the largest of any begonia variety, and they persist all summer long.
Begonia ‘Million Kisses Elegance’
The flowers of this plant are quite minimal and understated, which is unlike most other begonias. The pale pink flowers bloom heavily on dainty arching stems and give off a very elegant appearance (Gardeners World Magazine).
Angel Wing Begonia Care Tips
The Angel Wing Begonia is a thirsty plant that will need watering as often as every day during summer. It likes to be kept in continuously moist but not soggy soil, so you should aim to keep the top layer of soil moist to the touch without overwatering the plant.
Although it likes to be watered frequently, it can suffer from root rot if overwatered, and this will be fatal for the plant. Always remove water that has drained out of the pot and do not let the plant sit in excess water.
During winter, you can reduce the frequency of watering, but the plant still likes its soil to be kept moister than most. Aim to keep the lower layers of soil lightly moist, allowing the top layer of soil to dry out before watering the plant again. Never allow the plant to dry out completely. Always water the plant at soil level to prevent the leaves from getting wet, as damp leaves can cause fungal diseases.
Keep the angel wing begonia in a position of partial shade or bright indirect light
In its native environment, this plant would usually grow under the cover of larger plants and trees, so it is not accustomed to growing in direct sunlight. It does like bright light, however, so keep it in a position of partial shade or bright indirect light. In colder months, it can tolerate more sunshine and would ideally be in a position where it could benefit from morning light and sheltered from afternoon light when the sun is at its strongest.
Ensure the plant does get plenty of indirect light, as this will be essential to the production of flowers. If your Angel Wing Begonia is kept outside during the summer, it will need to be protected from direct sunlight.
The Angel Wing Begonia enjoys high humidity, as this is what it is accustomed to in its native environment. High humidity will help the plant thrive, and so it would be a good idea to mist the plant with a light water spray on a daily basis, being careful not to overdo it and create damp leaves where fungal diseases will thrive. Alternatively, you could use a pebble tray or humidifier to increase the moisture content of the air.
This plant works well as a houseplant because it likes average household room temperatures ranging from 60-75° F. Keep the plant away from areas where it might experience cold drafts, such as open windows or entryways. It should also be kept away from sources of heat such as stoves or heating vents. The plant is not frost-resistant, and if kept outside, it should be brought inside if temperatures drop lower than 55° F (Royal Horticultural Society).
An Angel Wing Begonia is being propagated in the water
Angel Wing Begonias can be propagated from stem cuttings. Take a cutting from the plant around 6 inches in length, which has at least one node one the stem. Choose a stem which is not currently flowering, and if it has any leaves, you should remove all of the lower sets of leaves. You can then choose to propagate in either water or soil.
To propagate in water, you will need a jar half-filled with water, and simply place the stem into it so that the lower half is submerged, position it in a warm spot and watch over the following weeks as roots appear.
To propagate in soil, you will need to fill a small pot with moist soil and make a hole in it with a pencil. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone and then insert into the pre-made hole in the soil. Tuck the soil around the stem to support it, and roots should appear under the soil in 4-6 weeks. You will know roots have formed once new growth also starts to show above soil level. Once roots have formed, you can transplant the cutting into a larger and more permanent pot.
This plant can look quite wild and unkempt if allowed to grow without pruning. To keep it in good shape, prune off any overgrown stems that are outside of the plant’s natural shape during the growing season, as this will help keep the plant looking neat. For more routine pruning, you can cut off old woody stems at the base of mature plants at the beginning of every spring, and trim back other stems to various heights to help maintain the rounded look of this plant. Pruning will help to keep the plant looking full and fresh as it responds well to cutting and will be encouraged to produce new growth.
This plant is attractive all year round thanks to its interesting foliage, but the flowers only bloom during summer. They range in color from white, pink, orange, and red and appear in pendulous clusters that droop down from the plant’s stems. The flowers themselves have a waxy texture, and they rely on good lighting, and frequent fertilizer feedings high in phosphorus to bloom. Once flowers fade, you should pinch them off at the base to encourage new flower production.
Common Pests and Diseases
This plant is susceptible to diseases that typically occur if its care requirements are not being met. It can fall victim to fungal diseases, including powdery mildew, stem rot, and botrytis if it isn’t looked after properly. To avoid these diseases, ensure your Angel Wing Begonias have good air circulation, an appropriate level of humidity, and that their leaves are not kept damp.
They can also be host to common pest infestations, including aphids and spider mites. Spider mites typically thrive in dry conditions, so maintaining high humidity should work as a good prevention method against this pest.
angel-winged begonia cuttings in water?
Morning all, so glad when there isn’t much activity. Actually, I have been seriously thinking of dropping out here as I just can’t cope anymore with coming on every morning to around 300 emails. It is taking me 3 – 4 hours to get through it all and I just can’t be starting my days that way. The time difference makes it even harder as I feel I have missed the boat with so many things as well as the fact that when I do get here half of you have gone to bed anyway. Kutchie, don’t bash your head with your mil and mother, I did quite a bit of study on the effects of dementia when I was caring for my mum and all the expert advice is to just go with them, arguing with them only confuses them more. Dementia affects short term memory first and as it progresses the memory loss extends further back in time. My mother first forgot day to day things, then couldn’t remember back a month, then a year, then she was back living in her previous home she had left 20 years earlier, then she was back at school except she went to school in the area I live in and not where she lived. She went shopping every day where she shopped as a teenager, she knew all the stores and the owners’ names, she never forgot people although new people she met she got very confused about. My doctor told me the day could come that she would think I was her mother and I think she was about there when she died. That freaked me a bit. The worst part of it too is that they think they can physically do the things they could do 30 or 40 years earlier. My mum needed a walking stick for safety, but when she was more off the planet than normal, she thought she could walk on water and had a lot of falls as a result. Another problem with them living at home with dementia and their lack of ability to know their limitations is that they then refuse to move when the time comes for them to have better care. Next time she calls about the safe, just sound all concerned and tell her you will look into it – she will have forgotten by the time she gets off the phone. When she needs a saucepan, tell her you will bring it next time, when she makes claims about Nancy just give her a surprised “really”, nothing you say will ever have any effect on her and she will have forgotten everything by the time she finishes speaking to you. Anyone approaching the later years should have an enduring Power of Attorney in place so another family member can manage their affairs for them. Our Govt is really pushing for people to stay in their homes for as long as possible, which is good in one way but it does leave them open where TV shopping channels are concerned or here with Charities making begging phone calls. BH’s mother bought a $2,000 vacuum cleaner from a door to door salesman one time despite the fact she freely announces she doesn’t do housework and as her Financial Manager now, he is constantly calling Charities to let them know any pledges she makes will not be honoured and demanding they do not call her again. No one ever thinks of the big picture when they make policies – we have a Do Not Call Register for businesses but Charties are exempt. They should be made exempt for people with dementia if the Govt wants them to live in their own home.
HOW TO Root Begonias
Anne K Moore
Photographs by Anne K Moore
When the houseplant begonias become long, lanky and thin it is time to prune them back. This often happens while our plants overwinter indoors. They reach for the light, do not have any wind to strengthen their stems, and start to look puny.
With just a quick cutback of stems to shape the plant, a top-dressing of good compost, and an outdoor summer in the shade, your plant will be thickened and beautiful in no time.
If you would like to propagate more pots of begonias, fill out the original pot with more plants, or just share with friends, begonias are some of the easiest to root from cuttings. No need to use a soilless mix and rooting hormone, these plants want to grow. You can start them in a glass of water.
Keep the begonia cut stems cool and moist until you get them into a clear vase or jar of water. While you do your pruning, put the cut stems into a plastic bag lined with a soaking wet paper towel to keep them from drying out.
Remove all but the top leaves from the cut off stems. Make sure you know which way is up since the cuttings will not root if you put the tops down in the water. This can be hard to discern if the leaves are gone from the cutting. A quick arrow on the stem with a marker will tell you which way is up if you are using a bare stem.
Cut off and discard any thin, scraggly, floppy ends from the cuttings. Also, pinch off any flowers or buds. Use the sturdiest pieces you have cut off the plant. You want as strong a piece of stem as you can find with at least 2-3 nodes (joints). Trim the bottom to within a quarter inch of the bottom node. Long pieces of jointless stem that are underwater will rot.
Put the trimmed stems, bottoms down, in a clear glass of water on a windowsill that gets good light, even sunlight. I like to use a Kitchen window so that I remember to add water as it evaporates. Clear glass containers seem to help the cuttings root faster.
At least weekly, dump out the water and add fresh. When you add or put in new water, let the faucet spray it into the glass. This helps to aerate the water. Cuttings need oxygen in the water just like they do in the soil. Be careful not to use too much water force on the newly emerging roots. I like to hold the cuttings out of the vase while I fill it and then gently put them back into the fresh water.
After roots form and are at least a couple inches long, pot them into good potting soil and keep them a little wetter than usual, letting them dry slowly so they transition to the soil from the water.
Put a bow around the pot, add a gift card, and you have a perfect gift for any occasion.
Angel Wing begonia is a flowering plant producing clusters of colorful coral-red flowers.
It’s a hybrid begonia, created from a cross between Begonia coccinea and Begonia aconitifolia.
There are many named hybrids and various species loosely falling into the cane-type category.
A California plant breeder made this hybridization in 1926.
The begonias belong to the Begoniaceae family of plants and mostly come from South and Central America.
The hybrid begonia received its name due to its large, angel-wing shaped leaves.
It’s also called a hanging begonia due to its long stems with joints.
The angel wing begonia is an easy plant to care for, provided it gets enough sunlight. Check out the Dragon Wing Begonia as another option.
Angel Wing Begonia Care
Size and Growth
Unlike the begonias commonly grown for ground cover, the angel-wing begonia is a type of cane begonia.
The plant is a vigorous grower.
As indoor plants, they grow on cane-like stalks reaching 4’ – 6’ feet and up to 15’ feet outdoors.
The angel-wing begonia is suited for USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11, where it can grow outdoors as an evergreen.
It produces shiny green leaves growing in pairs on the thin stalks.
The undersides are often reddish while the tops feature white or silver markings.
Flowering and Fragrance
The angel-wing begonia flowers in the late spring or early summer and produces clusters of pinkish-red flowers.
The flowers don’t have a scent and tend to last throughout the season.
While the flowers are interesting, the attractive tropical foliage provides the main reason for growing this plant.
Light and Temperature
These begonias need lots of bright light, but not direct sunlight.
The direct light can scorch the leaves, causing permanent damage.
The plant grows best in temperatures in the upper 60’s during the winter.
In the summer, temperatures should be at least 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C).
Bright light is best and during the winter some morning or late afternoon sun indirect light is fine.
They’re not as sensitive to direct light as Rex begonias but cannot handle direct sunlight like wax begonia can.
Watering and Feeding
Water the plant regularly year-round, keeping the soil evenly moist.
It also needs regular feeding throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
Dilute a liquid fertilizer with water, creating a 50/50 mixture.
Use the fertilizer with each watering, except during the winter.
Underwatering is a common mistake people make when cultivating the special angel-wing begonia.
If watered properly, the plant may live for many years.
Soil and Transplanting
Plant the angel-wing begonia in soil with good drainage.
A commercial potting mix such as African violets ready-made mix works best.
To make the potting soil at home, combine equal parts of sand, peat moss, leaf mold, and compost.
The plant only needs transplanting if it outgrows its small pot, transplant to a larger pot when needed.
Freshening the top layer of soil each early spring can help provide the plants with additional nutrients.
To create bushier new growth, trim back the stems.
Trim any time of the year and save the trimming for propagation.
How to Propagate Angel-Wing
Propagate angel-wing begonia using leaf cuttings.
There are two ways to take cuttings.
The first option is to take whole leaves before they mature.
- When the leaves are about 3” – 4” inches long, trim them along with a bit of the stalk.
- Plant the stalk in moist peat moss and cover with plastic or glass.
- Ensure the cover provides ventilation and set in a warm room.
- After two to three weeks, new plants should start to grow around the edges of the leaves.
- When these young plants appear firm, transplant them to their pots.
Another option is to take cuttings from a large leaf.
- Trim a fully mature leaf and then cut it into triangles along the veins.
- You should get four to five cuttings per mature leaf.
- Use the same process for these cuttings.
- Plant them in moist peat moss soil and cover.
- After the young plants begin to grow, transplant into their containers.
You want a node or more on the stem where a new flower will begin to grow.
The stem cutting should be placed in water or in perlite (use a root growing powder with perlite) until growth appears then go about repotting in new soil.
Angel wing begonia plants seem to thrive when they are slightly pot-bound.
A. Begonia Pests or Disease Problems?
Spider mites may threaten the health of the plant.
- Stop infestations with insecticide.
- Black or brown patches on the leaves indicate rot caused by poor air circulation or high humidity.
- Move the plant to an airier spot with brighter light.
- Keep infected plants away from your other houseplants.
Mildew is not the problem with angel-wings like it is with other begonias.
- If the leaf spots are large and brown, they may be scorch marks.
- Scorch marks appear when the plant sits in a window with direct sunlight.
- Prune the damaged leaves away and move the plant to a shadier spot.
Scorch marks may also appear when the plant doesn’t get enough moisture.
- Water more frequently or start misting the plant daily.
- If the leaves start to turn yellow or brown near the centers, it’s still getting too much sun.
- Give it more shade.
Besides the issues discussed, the plant is also toxic to pets.
Keep it away from dogs and cats.
Suggested Uses For Angelwing Begonia
Grow angel-wing begonia from a hanging basket or place on a pedestal, allowing the hanging stems to droop down.
The dragon wing begonia houseplant is beautiful all year-round.
It also looks great grown with other begonias or in a collection of other tropical plants.
> > Propagation
by Brad Thompson
This article will describe the various ways to propagate begonias through cuttings. Rooting cuttings to form new plants is basically a type of cloning. To make new copies of begonia hybrids, cuttings are the only way they can be reproduced. It’s also an easy and quick way to make new plants of begonia species. There are three basic types of begonia propagation; stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, and division.
Propagation involves taking portions of a begonia plant and rooting them to grow into new plants. Some types of propagation require more skill than others or more specialized conditions. Everyone should be able to propagate begonias without too much difficulty. This article contains descriptions and illustrations of the various types of propagation. Nearly all begonias can be started from stem or tip cuttings. Rexes, rhizomatous, tuberous, and a few other types can be started from leaf cuttings or portions of leaves. All begonias can be divided except for some tuberous begonias.
Rooting Mediums and containers
The simplest medium to root cuttings in is water. Nearly all the types of cuttings will root in water, except for leaf section cuttings that require sterile conditions. The best containers for rooting in water are small baby food jars. Whatever container you use should be relatively. The reason for using a small container is that cuttings release a rooting hormone in the water as they root. The least amount of water, the more concentrated the hormone. You can put several cuttings per container. Once roots are half an inch long, they can be potted up in regular potting mix and grown on. Forget any myths you’ve heard about water roots, the cuttings will transplant just fine.
Other common mediums for rooting cuttings are perlite and vermiculite or a combination of both. These mediums can be used for cuttings including ones needing sterile conditions. Perlite and vermiculite are rock/mineral products so contain no organic matter that can harbor disease or promote rotting. When using these products, you’re basically still rooting in water. They act as little rock sponges to hold water for the cutting to root in. They also contain air pockets. Perlite and vermiculite don’t require sterilization to use, although you do need to use distilled or sterile water to keep it sterile. Vermiculite is less commonly used now, I believe it was determined to contain asbestos. When using either product, you should wear a mask or avoid breathing in the dust when mixing or pouring it.
Another medium for rooting is peat moss or various combos of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. This works for all types of cuttings but unless sterilized for sure, it may rot cuttings since it contains organic material. It is mostly used for stem cuttings or rhizome cuttings that don’t require sterile or specialized conditions. It’s also used for cuttings that are overly fleshy and tend to rot in water only.
Many begonia cuttings can be started directly in your potting mix in a shady location. Most rhizome, shrub, thick-stemmed and canes will start directly in mix. You should only use this method for the sturdier varieties though.
There are many clear containers such as sweater boxes that work quite well for rooting begonia cuttings. Leaf and wedge cuttings require some type of container to root in. It has two benefits. It keeps the humidity up so the rooting medium doesn’t dry out and is less stress on the cuttings. It also keeps spores that cause disease from your medium.
Tip and Stem Cuttings
A tip cutting has to have certain elements in order to grow a good plant from it. As a general rule, begonias won’t send out new growth from a node where they have previously had a bloom. Nearly all begonias that won’t grow from leaves also won’t send out growth from a node they bloomed at. This element doesn’t apply to tuberous, rhizomatous and rexes, they will send out new growth from any rooted part of the plant.
The illustration at the left shows a typical begonia stem and its various possible components. On a begonia stem, there is a node above each leaf. This node can have a bud that will grow into a new stem someday, it can have a flower cluster grow from it, or it can be dormant and not showing a bud. Any node that doesn’t have flowers or the scar left after the flowers have fallen off, has a bud in that node whether it shows or is completely dormant and not showing in the lowest node will be a good cutting.
A good cutting needs to have a node with a bud on it for it to grow into a proper plant after it’s rooted and In the illustration you can see that the planted. The bud is where all future basal growth will lowest node pictured has a scar from where come from as the cutting grows. Using cuttings where the leaf was attached. It also has a bud. the nodes have had blooms will result in plants that can That is the main requirement of a good never send up new basal growth. The illustration cutting, no matter what the rest of the shows how to determine what nodes you have. If you nodes on the cutting, look at a node and there is a leaf or the scar left after a leaf has fallen off, and there is no scar left from a .A tip cutting should also have at least a flower, then there is a growth bud there whether you couple leaves. One without leaves may can see it or not. When leaves and flowers fall off they root but not as easily or as quickly. You both leave round scars on the stem where they were. can also make a regular stem cutting from So, a bare node that has two scars is a node that parts of a stem that don’t have the tip. For previously had a leaf and a flower cluster. If this those types of cuttings, since they don’t explanation isn’t clear, the illustration on this and the have the tip, need to have at least two next page should make it clearer for you. One at the base of the cutting that will be buried in the potting
The best cuttings are ones that have never bloomed mix and one to grow into top growth. It since they have buds in all their nodes that will should also have a leaf if possible. Woody eventually grow into new stems and new side growth. hardened stems will root without leaves Any stem cutting though, that has at least one good bud however. They do take longer though.
The illustration at the right shows a good tip cutting. Elements of a good tip cutting It has buds in the leaf nodes for future stem growth as described previously. When taking a tip or stem cutting cut the stem about half an inch below the selected node. It’s possible that if you have any stem rot while rooting the cutting, if you have cut closer than half an inch below, you could lose that lower node. Half an inch gives you some margin. Cutting further than half an inch below leaves too much unnecessary stem below the lowest bud. When you get ready to pot up the cutting after it roots, it will be hard to get that lowest bud buried in the potting mix if too much extra stem is left below it. When rooting the cutting, you should remove any leaves from the lower nodes first, since those parts will be buried eventually anyway can could rot.
In the illustration below right you can see how to pot up the newly rooted cutting. Put the cutting as low in the pot as possible covering at least one good bud. In the illustration, you can see the importance for doing this. The buried buds will eventually grow into new shoots and all the future basal growth. Without a buried bud, the cutting will of course still root and grow. It won’t be able to send up new basal growth however. It will only be able to branch somewhere above the pot.
The only time you should use cuttings without buds to bury is if you’re going to grow a begonia as a standard. Since a standard should be just one main stem, ordinarily bad cuttings are perfect for that purpose.
For begonias that are everblooming and hard to get good cuttings from, one tip is to first prune the plant. Then take cuttings from the new growth comes up.
Rhizome cuttings are a type of stem cutting. Unlike cane, shrub and other stem cuttings however, you don’t have to worry about nodes or bloom scars. Rhizome cuttings can be made any length. In the illustration above the rhizome is cut into two inch sections. Most rhizomes can be rooted directly into your potting mix without any special considerations. The rhizome is fleshy and can easily maintain itself until roots and leaves form. Some more delicate varieties such as rexes may do better if rooted in an enclosed container though. Long rhizomes can even be rooted in water like you would any stem cutting. They are slightly more prone to rotting in water though since they are so fleshy. Although leaf cuttings on rhizomatous types will give you more plants in the long run, rhizome cuttings will give you a new plant faster. It’s a good method for those that just want another plant or two and aren’t worried about producing larger numbers of plants. The rhizomes don’t have to have leaves to root and grow. When using the tips of rhizomes remove the largest leaves, they’ll probably fall off during rooting anyway. Make sure the rhizome has good contact with the rooting medium but not buried more than half way. Tip cuttings from rhizomes can be rooted upright with the cut end stuck one half to one inch into the rooting medium.
Leaf and Wedge cuttings
Many types of begonias will start from leaf cuttings. These are mainly rhizomatous, rexes, and tuberous begonias. With nearly all begonias you can root a leaf, but only certain types will then send up a new plant from the rooted leaf. With begonias other than the three types mentioned, consult with other growers about specific plants that may start from a leaf. Exceptions to the only rhizomatous and tuberous starting from leaves rule, are begonias such as B. luxurians and some of the mallet type canes.
Types of leaf cuttings
All parts of the leaf are capable of rooting and forming a new plant. The only requirement is that the leaf portion contain a main vein. There are three main types of leaf cuttings. A full leaf cutting, wedge cuttings, and cone cuttings. If your purpose is to create a number of plants, you may choose to do wedge cuttings since you can make many wedges from a single leaf. If your purpose is just to propagate a couple of new plants for yourself, you may choose to just use whole leaf cuttings. Cone cuttings are slower than regular whole leaf cuttings but since more veins are exposed to the rooting medium, the resulting plant is much fuller.
There are several basic requirements needed for starting leaf cuttings. You need warmth, good light, humidity, and a sterile moist medium.
Light and warmth
This is best provided by using fluorescent lights. A light stand, besides providing constant good light, also provides suitable warmth. Any area you can keep reasonably warm will work however. If not using lights, you need an area with bright light but no sun. Since leaves need to be rooted in covered containers, any sun will overheat and cook the cuttings. Under lights, you can keep the lights as close to the top of the container as possible. Leave the lights on for at least 14 hours a day. You can leave them on continuously if desired.
Most leaf cuttings need covered containers to root in. The purpose is to keep the humidity high and also to keep the medium sterile. The container can be as simple as a clear plastic cup covered with saran wrap for single cuttings or an expensive tray with a clear dome. You can even root leaf cuttings in zip lock bags. If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse, you can root leaf cuttings out in the open under a misting system. Even in a greenhouse though, you may choose to use covered containers for ease of use.
I know several growers that root in zip lock bags with individual bags for each cutting. One grower I know stapled the bags to the wall in out of way places during warm weather. For especially rare or hard to grow varieties, I usually do provide those cuttings their own container. I put the rooting medium in a small pot then put the pot into a zip lock bag after the cutting is in it.
Trays with domes or clear sweater boxes work very well. You can even use aquariums left over from your fish experiments. There are also a myriad of different clear sandwich or food containers to choose from.
You can either use the medium directly in the tray or use individual pots of medium for each cutting then set in the tray. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Just filling the tray with medium is easier and can be refilled over and over. However, in my experience if you root this way you end up with parts of the tray and different varieties of begonias growing at different rates. You usually end up with half of the tray potted up already and the rest still waiting. If you propagate continuous and keep refilling the tray as you take things out, it will work fine though. Another disadvantage is getting or keeping the medium to the correct dampness without being too wet. It’s also hard to keep the cuttings separated by variety as they grow unless you’re careful to make clear separations and labeling.
Using individual small pots for each cutting works well because you can move cuttings from box to box as needed. If you’re using several boxes as things get potted up, you can recombine the slower rooting cuttings into one box. The disadvantage is that it is more time consuming filling all the individual pots and making separate labels for each. If you don’t mind the added time, it’s the better method though.
Rooting mediums for leaf cuttings
The most commonly used medium for leaf cuttings is perlite. It is already sterile and holds the correct moisture without staying too wet. Its only disadvantage is you have to check often to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Any medium such as peat moss, vermiculite and combos will work fine as long as they are made or kept sterile and kept to the right degree of moisture. I have used all the various mediums with good success but find perlite the easiest and best to use.
Another less common medium for rooting cuttings is called Oasis(TM). This is similar to the Oasis used for floral arranging but comes in form specifically for rooting cuttings in. It is made a size to fit the most common tray size. It has individual one inch cubes with a hole in the center of each to insert the cutting in. The Oasis can be cut easily to fit any container though. Don’t try using the floral Oasis for this purpose, it isn’t made for rooting cuttings like this other product is. The oasis is soaked in water till it has soaked up as much water as it can, then drained. It already contains fertilizer so nothing needs to be added to the water. It’s already sterile so also doesn’t need to have anything extra done to sterilize it. I have used it successfully many times and it works especially well for wedge and small cuttings. It was designed so that after the cuttings are rooted you cut the cubes apart and plant the cube and all in your potting mix. This design however doesn’t work for begonias. If the cube is left on the cutting the plant will usually not thrive or die later. The cube either wicks water to the surface of the mix so causes a dry spot, or stays too wet and causes the plant to rot later. Examination of the roots on plants that failed showed that the roots all stayed in the oasis instead of growing out of it into the mix. For this reason, you must remove all the Oasis from the rooted cutting before potting them up. This usually results in some root loss, besides being time consuming. However it is easy to use so does have its uses for some growers.
Other items you’ll need
One item you’ll need is something to cut the leaves with. You can use a knife, scissors, or pruners. The best cutting tool to use is a razor blade. There are several reasons. Using a new blade means you have a sterile utensil that doesn’t have diseases from your plants outside. If you use your pruners, you’d have to sterilize them. The main reason though is because it makes a very clean precise cut. If you use scissors or pruners they don’t cut cleanly and crush the edges of the cutting. This makes the cutting less able to draw up water. Using the razor blade cuts cleanly without crushing cells along the edge.
You’ll also need something to sterilize the cuttings with. It doesn’t matter how sterile your medium is if the cuttings you put into have spores of disease on the leaf surface. The most common disinfectant for using on cuttings is a five percent bleach solution. I have also heard of using a peroxide solution but haven’t personally tried that. I have also sterilized cuttings by dipping them in a fungicide mixed to the recommended strength on the bottle. I let them dry, then rinse with water before using. Make sure to wear gloves. You can also use Physan(TM) following the directions on the bottle. I usually spray my tray of cuttings with a fungicide after they are done just to make sure nothing was missed.
Whole Leaf Cuttings
A whole leaf cutting consists of a leaf with a portion of the leaf petiole (a petiole is the stem-like structure that holds a leaf to the plant stem). You should leave the petiole about one half to one inch long for rooting. When taking the cuttings leave the petiole long until just before you’re ready to put it in the medium so that the cut is fresh. Leaving the petiole too long won’t hurt anything. However, it will take longer for the plantlets to come up after rooting since they’ll have to come up from deeper in the medium.
In the illustration on this page you can see a whole leaf. The best leaf cuttings are young leaves but any leaf will work such as damaged leaves you have to remove anyway. If the leaf is small you can just cut the petiole and insert it into the rooting medium. Larger or damaged leaves you should cut down as in the illustration leaving a round center of the leaf with the petiole. The remaining part of the leaf can be discarded or used for wedges. The reasons for cutting the leaf down is that it takes up less space in the tray and because the petiole will have less leaf to support. The cut down leaf will have less leaf surface to transpire from so the petiole won’t have to provide so much water. Even if making wedges or cone cuttings, save that middle portion as an extra cutting. On difficult varieties, that portion will usually root, even if your wedges fail.
Whole leaf cuttings can be started without enclosed containers for some of the sturdier varieties. You can leave the petiole slightly longer and root them in small jars of water. You can also fill the small jar with perlite and add water. The second method does support the leaf better. You can also use pots of perlite set in a shallow tray of water. If you use any of these methods, don’t cover the container since the cuttings will usually rot with all that water if covered. It does take practice and experience to find out which varieties of begonias will work with which methods.
Wedge cuttings are the easiest way to start many plants at a time with the least plant material. It’s especially useful for rare begonias or begonias that only have a couple good leaves to use. In the illustration you can see how to cut a leaf into wedges. A wedge is simply a portion of leaf with a vein in it. You can make your wedges as small or as large as you like. Smaller wedges may not survive if your conditions are less than perfect. I usually make my wedges about an inch or inch and a half long.
For wedges, conditions must be as sterile as possible. As stated earlier in this chapter, a razor blade is the best utensil to use for cutting. Perlite is the best medium for rooting wedges. Add a very slight amount of fertilizer so the plantlets have some food when they start to grow. You can fill a tray with perlite and premoisten. When perlite is wet it becomes very solid. I use a knife or plant label to make rows of small slits in the perlite the right size to fit my wedges. The wedges can be touching or overlapping so don’t be afraid to pack them closely. Usually about half an inch to and inch apart works well. Try to insert the wedge as upright as possible. Also make sure to label carefully and keep different varieties separated. Try to mix the tray up so that varieties that aren’t a similar color aren’t next to each other so they don’t get confused later. They do require a covered container.
Wedges may take a couple months to form roots and plantlets. Check the moisture of the medium regularly to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Misting occasionally with a weak fertilizer for foliar feeding will help them along. You may want to leave the cover opened slightly till they dry off a little before closing tightly. Using distilled water will make sure that you don’t introduce any diseases into your sterile environment.
As soon as little plantlets have come up and are large enough to handle they can be potted up individually into small pots. The illustration at the top of this pages shows the new plantlets coming up from a leaf cutting and wedge cutting. For the first transplant they should remain in a covered container. Treat them as you would seedlings of the same size. Once they have filled the small pot and are ready to transplant again, you can harden them off and move to other locations.
Cone cuttings are similar to wedge cuttings. You cut the center portion out of the leaf but instead of cutting it into sections, you leaf it whole. You wind it around to form a cone and insert into your rooting medium. Make sure to also put some medium inside the cone. On the next page are illustrations showing how to do this.
The advantage to cone cuttings is the full plants you can get from this type cutting. Plantlets will come up from all the vein ends along the bottom of the cone resulting in dozens of shoots. If left together, they quickly grow into one full plant. They can also be separated or cut apart to make many smaller plants after rooted and plantlets have formed.
On all the various leaf cuttings discussed in this chapter after plantlets have formed you can either pot up the cutting along with the plantlet or you can remove the plantlet and use the cutting over again. Some cuttings will send up plantlets several times before they run out of energy if reused.
Mallet and Heel Cuttings
These types of cuttings are not commonly used but they do have purposes. There isn’t much difference between the two and the mallet has less chance of errors or rotting so you shouldn’t use the heel version unless you have a specific purpose.
A mallet cutting will allow you to make a type of leaf cutting from plants that ordinarily won’t start from leaves. Since the leaf cutting contains a portion of the stem with a growth bud it can be used for any type of begonia. It’s mostly useful for creating as many plants as possible of a certain variety. Say you have a cane with one stem that has several nodes with good buds. If you propagate by stem cuttings you might only get one or two cuttings. By using mallet cuttings you may get a dozen, depending on how many nodes and leaves there were. Varieties of canes that drop their leaves easily may not be good candidates because the leaf may separate from the stem before the mallet roots. Treat mallet cuttings as you would whole leaf cuttings following the same procedures. After rooting a shoot will grow from the bud on the cutting.
Begonias: Propagation by Leaf
Propagating begonias is actually quite simple and easy. This can be done by tip cutting, by rhizome, or by leaf cuttings. Rooting tips (the plant tops) is simple, and can be done in much the same way as rooting tip cuttings for other plants (see, for example, the lesson on kohleria). Sections, of begonia rhizomes (that thick, scaly, stem that grows along the soil surface) is also easy and can be done in much the same was as for other rhizomatous plants (see, for example, the lesson on rhizomes elsewhere on these pages).
Rooting begonia leaves is much the same as rooting violet leaves but, in some ways, is easier.
First, fill a pot with your rooting mix. Ours is basically our normal potting mix with a lot more vermiculite and perlite. The point is, make sure this mix is very loose and porous. Don’t pack the soil in the pot. When moistened, the soil should not sink on it’s own, but can be easily pressed down with your fingers.
Add enough (lightly fertilized) water so that soil is moist, but not soggy.
Here are some tools that will come in handy. A cutting board. This can be as simple as a piece of wood or sheet of hard plastic. You can find a good one at your area craft store or office supply store. A sharp knife or razor. We use modelling knives (“exacto” blades) or scalpel. Begonia leaves are thin and paper-like, so to cut them easily and neatly, you’ll need a sharp knife.
Tweezers are also handy, since they will allow you to grasp the leaf parts more easily than you can with your fingers. Also, have some way of identifying your cuttings–a plastic plant label works fine.
Using your sharp knife, cut your begonia leaf into sections. The center section, where the leaf petiole is attached, will be rooted much like a African violet leaf.
The outer parts of the leaf can be cut into “triangles” or wedges. Each of these leaf wedges can then be rooted as you would a leaf without a petiole. Begonias will root easily–like streptocarpus, almost any part of the leaf, placed in soil “cut-side” down, will root.
Much like we would an African violet leaf, we trim the petiole at a 45-degree angle (cut side up), about 1/4″ from the base of the leaf blade.
The remaining leaf sections are cut into wedges. You’ll notice that many of these don’t even have petioles. We will root them, however, with the center or inside, of the leaf down into the soil–on this variety, the yellow “eye” of the leaf tells where the center was (not all are this obvious).
Root the begonia leaves much like you would an African violet leaf. Press them into the soil petiole (leaf stem) side down, or center-side down (for the wedges without petiole attached).
Gently firm soil around base of each (don’t “press” hard). Label your pot!
Once you’ve rooted your begonia leaves, place the pot and leaves into a clear container (a plastic baggie works well) and place where it gets some light (but not hot, intense light).
In a couple of months, you’ll begin to see plantlets sprouting from your cuttings. When they are large enough that you can confidently separate them, they can be potted individually into their own pots.
Tip On Propagating Begonias From Cuttings
Begonia propagation is an easy way to keep a little bit of summer all year long. Begonias are a favorite garden plant for the shaded area of the garden and because of their low light requirements, gardeners often ask if it’s possible to keep the cheerful little plants overwintering indoors. You certainly can, but annuals often suffer shock when brought in from the garden or the plants grow leggy after their summer outdoors. Why not use your garden plants to start whole new plants for your winter window sills by propagating begonias?
Begonia Propagation Info
The three most popular types of garden begonias are the tuberous types, which are large leafed and sold either growing in pots or as brown tubers for do-it-yourself planting; the rhizomatous, commonly called Rex begonias; and the old fashioned wax, which are known as fibrous rooted. While professional growers use different methods for begonia propagation for each of these types, we home gardeners are fortunate that all three types can be easily duplicated trough begonia cuttings.
It’s easy to propagate begonias with simple cuttings and every experienced gardener tweaks the basic methods to suit their own talents. There are two basic ways to propagate begonias through begonia cuttings: stem and leaf. Why not try them both and see which one works best for you?
Begonia Propagation from Stem Cuttings
My mother, bless her, could root just about anything by cutting 4-inch stems and placing them in a juice glass with an inch of water. She’d sit the glass on the windowsill over the kitchen sink so she could keep an eye on the water level and add more as needed. In a little over a month, her begonia cuttings would be sprouting tiny roots and in two they’d be ready to pot. You can try this method for rooting begonias, too. There are drawbacks, however. The stems sometimes rot, especially if the sunlight is too direct, leaving a mushy goo in the glass; and tap water contains traces of chlorine, which can poison the young shoots.
For me, a more sure fire way of propagating begonias is to plant those four inch begonia cuttings directly into a growing medium. Rooting begonias this way gives me more control over the moisture content of the container. Use mature stems for cutting, but not so old they’ve become fibrous or woody. Cut just below a node. Carefully remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem. If you happen to have rooting hormone on hand, now is the time to dip the cut ends into the hormone. If you don’t have any, that’s okay too. Begonia propagation is just as easy without it.
Make a hole in your planting medium with a dibble stick (or if you’re like me, use that pencil sitting on the counter) and insert your stem into the hole. Tamp down the medium to hold the cutting upright. Rooting begonias aren’t fussy about the medium they’re grown in as long as it’s light and retains moisture.
Tips on Propagating Begonias from Cuttings
Many gardeners prefer to create a mini hothouse when they propagate begonias to keep the soil evenly moist. You can do this by covering the pot with a plastic bag or with a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off. A favorite of mine is to line your pot with a plastic bread bag with a few holes poked in the bottom for drainage. Fill with soil, plant, lift the sides of the bag up and secure with a plastic tie. You can regulate air flow and moisture by opening and closing the bag.
Propagate Begonias from a Single Leaf
For the larger leaved plants, begonia propagation can begin with a single leaf. With a sharp knife, cut a mature leaf from the plant where the leaf meets the stem. Now clip the cut end into a point. Follow the directions above only bury the petiole (leaf stem), not the leaf. Rooting begonias this way will give you a whole new plant grown from the roots that develop at the end of the petiole.
Whether you use these methods for a windowsill garden or to grow your own flats for next spring’s outdoor planting, or even to save that begonia stem that has been sacrificed to the wind, propagating begonias through stem or leaf is an easy way to save money and show off you green thumb.
Above: Like ‘Iron Cross’, this begonia has thick, pebbled leaves.
And finally, feeding is vital to get the foliage looking at its best. Booman advises feeding with a soluble houseplant feed once a month, April through August, at a concentration of 180 parts per million nitrogen. Nitrogen is all-important for leaf production, and although rex begonias do flower, you can pinch out or snip off the flowers when they come in winter to chivvy the plant into putting all its energy into leaf production.
My Favorites: Begonia rex
Above: One of these plants is not like the others. How did a succulent crash this party?
If you’re ready to give your heart away to a rex begonia once more, which of the hundreds of varieties produced by breeders in the past 100-plus years should you choose?
Booman has been working to breed rex begonias with good salt tolerance, a tendency to hold their leaves over winter, and novel leaf pattern or intense leaf color. Booman’s Great American Cities cultivars, including the scarlet-splashed ‘Chicago Fire’ and ‘Omaha Beefsteak’ with large blood-red leaves around a black center, and the ‘Beach Cities’ series including multicolored ‘Cancun Christmas’ with mid-size leaves, are definitely worth seeking out.
The Royal Horticultural Society in the UK carried out extensive trials in 2006, giving the coveted Award of Garden Merit to 25 of the dozens of varieties they grew. Here are the three AGM varieties the testers liked best.
- ‘Carolina Moon’: The leaves spiral inward to a reddish-purple center surrounded by a pale metallic green band, and another thin band of reddish-purple at the toothed edges.
- ‘Escargot’: Bands of olive green and lighter silvery green set around a pronounced central spiral.
- ‘Sea Serpent’: Jagged-edged leaves of the darkest purple with bright red splotches.
- Finally, on my shopping list for my newly revived rex begonia collection are the silvery, blushed ‘Pink Gin’; the large-leafed ‘Emerald Giant’ with a dark green center surrounded by bands of silver, pale green, and dark green; and ‘Tornado’ with dusky black leaves with silver and pink markings. Wish me luck.
And if all doesn’t go well? Despite its trickiness, Begonia rex is absurdly easy to propagate, and you can make several plants from a single leaf.
See more of our favorite tropical plants in Tropical Plants 101 and more indoor plants with exotic foliage in Houseplants 101. For more inspiration:
- Fiddle-Leaf Fig Trees: A Field Guide
- How to Make an Orchid Bloom Again
- Philodendrons: A Field Guide
- How to Keep an Indoor Citrus Tree Happy
- Succulents & Cacti: A Field Guide
- Maui Beach Cottage with a Tropical Garden
- Orchids 101: A Field Guide
Finally, don’t miss Best Houseplants: 9 Indoor Plants for Low Light.