The Q&A Archives: Sick Begonias

Question: I have had good luck starting begonia tubers indoors in early March for many years. Last year I had a problem. The undersides of the leaves had a brown scaly appearance between the veins. Out of approximately 30 plants, only a few flowered, and not abundantly like other years. There were very few healthy buds. Some begonias I purchased at a greenhouse had the same problem. I'm actually not sure if the problem originated with the ones I started or the ones I bought. I don't want the same problem this year. Any suggestions?

Answer: This sounds like edema (also oedema), a physiological problem. It is caused by overwatering and is common on begonias and geraniums. The extra water in the tissues causes corklike patches. It doesn't usually kill the plant, but causes stunting and poor blooming. Since it is physiological, it will not spread to other plants. However, if you don't correct the watering, it will spread on the existing plants. Try growing them a bit drier, and make sure your watering is consistent -- not heavy water one time and sparse water the next.

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