The Q&A Archives: Begonias

Question: I inherited my angel wing begonia from my grandmother and I am afraid I am losing the battle to keep it alive. Last summer I did some research on how to treat a begonia and I have follwed it religiously since then. It doesn't get direct sunlight, the temperature is always right around the 62-72 degrees temp. I mixed my potting soil with peat moss and perlite and I use the time-release fertilizer, Osmocote. I have been very careful to not overwater, only watering when the top inch or so is dry. Then I water until the water comes out the bottom of the pot. My begonia is about 3 1/2 feet tall from the soil up with only about 8 leaves at the very top. I don't want to lose this plant. I would really like to take it to someone with a green house and a green thumb to nurse it back to health. Any suggestions for the greater Seattle area? Thank you!

Answer: I think you're doing everything right to make your begonia happy, and it is doing everything right by responding to your good care with new growth. The only thing you're not doing is pinching back the stems on a regular basis. When you pinch the stems, you encourage healthy new growth - both stems and leaves. It's natural for the oldest leaves to drop and the stems to become bare and leggy unless they're pinched back. I know it sounds like it might hurt the plant, but in reality it will help it. So, take a deep breath and pinch back one of the stems, leaving a stub with only 2-3 nodes. In a few weeks you'll see new growth developing at the nodes. Once the leaves are fully formed you can pinch back a different stem. Pinching back gradually will ensure your plant retains enough foliage to be healthy during the process. This may take a while, depending upon how many stems your plant has. During this restoration process the plant will look rather odd, but don't dispair - eventually it will become a lovely and healthy plant.

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