If your begonia plant is wilting, drooping or dying, it means there is an environmental factor that is causing it stress. The first step toward saving your begonia is to correctly diagnose exactly what is causing the stress in the first place. When you have figured out the reason your plant is dying, the treatment can be faster and more specific.
The first steps you need to take to save your dying begonia are to check whether the soil is soggy, check that the plant’s pot has drainage holes, assess the plant’s location and humidity level, check the type of soil it is planted in, and check for pests or infection.
In this article, we will discuss the possible reasons your begonia is dying, and how to save it.
Why is my begonia dying?
One of the most common reasons for a begonia dying is overwatering. You can forget to water your begonia for a few days and it will be completely fine, but overwater it and it may lead to the plant’s death. It is much better to ensure proper watering techniques for your begonia from the start than to have to salvage an overwatered begonia.
Begonias prefer their soil to be a little moist most of the time, but it should never be soggy. If the soil around the plant’s roots is always waterlogged, little to no oxygen will be able to reach the roots, and oxygen is essential to the plant’s survival. Essentially, the roots will drown and die. The dead roots will rot, making them vulnerable to pests and infections, which in turn will help the rot to spread up the plant’s stem and leaves, until the entire plant dies.
An overwatered begonia will have yellowing leaves, beginning at the base. You may also see brown leaf tips despite the plant’s location having good humidity. The leaves may start to drop off, and they will feel soft and mushy.
You can save your overwatered begonia by gently removing it from the pot and checking its roots for rot. If there are roots that are brown or black, remove them with a sterile pair of scissors.
Repot the plant using soil that is well-draining. You can make your own mix of one part perlite to two parts regular gardening soil. The perlite will help keep the soil aerated and allow oxygen to get to the roots. Use a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to flow out.
Place the plant in a part of your house that has bright but indirect light and do not water it immediately after repotting. Wait at least one week to give the roots enough time to recover from the trauma of pruning and replanting.
Water the plant only when the top two inches of soil are dry. If you touch the soil and the top two inches are still damp, wait one or two more days and check the soil again.
As mentioned above, begonias are slightly drought-tolerant, but that does not mean that you can neglect to water the plant all the time. Underwatering can also lead to the begonia dying.
You can check whether your begonia is underwatered by feeling the soil. Press your finger down into the soil a few inches; if the soil feels dry, the plant may be underwatered.
Save your underwatered begonia by soaking the soil until you can see the excess water flowing out of the bottom of the pot. Make sure all of the soil in the pot gets wet so that all of the roots can get water. After a few days, your begonia should bounce back and recover.
Avoid underwatering your plant by checking every couple of days whether it needs water. Touch the soil and if it is dry, water it. You can also simply lift the pot to check how heavy it is, because dry soil is much lighter than wet soil.
Another reason your begonia may be dying is if the plant is still in the process of acclimatization. Most plants become stressed when transported from one place to another, but begonias seem particularly prone to the effects of changes in their living conditions.
If you buy your begonia from a local nursery, remember that the nursery probably has a greenhouse where the plant was grown in ideal conditions. When you take the plant from the only habitat it has ever known and into a place where the light, humidity and temperature are all different, it will result in the plant becoming stressed. It is also possible that the plant was not properly cared for in the store, and those problems will become more apparent once you have had the plant at home for a few days.
Help ensure smooth acclimatization by buying your plant from sellers that you know maintain good cultural techniques. Choose plants that look healthy, even if they might be more expensive than discounted plants that are not as healthy-looking. When you take the plant home, make sure you do not expose it to extreme temperatures. It is normal for some of the plant’s leaves to wilt due to the stress; you cannot save those leaves and it is best to just prune any dead foliage off.
Diseases can also severely damage your plant. Begonias are prone to diseases such as fungal and bacterial leaf spot, blight and Pythium rot. These diseases can have rapidly-developing symptoms and the plant may look like it is dying in as little as one to two days.
Symptoms of disease in begonias include collapse of the plant, brown and black spots on the leaves, collapsed petioles and soft black stems.
Often these diseases are present in a compromised plant, such as an overwatered one.
Save a diseased begonia by isolating it from the rest of your healthy plants. Remove any affected foliage using a sterile knife or scissors. Remove the plant from the soil to check the roots for rot and remove any rotten roots. Rinse the remaining healthy roots and spray them with fungicide before repotting the plant.
Make sure you take these measures as soon as you suspect disease, because the earlier you act, the higher the chances of a full recovery.
Begonias like to be in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures inside our homes are well within that range, but if you keep your begonias outside, they can be exposed to temperatures that are lower or higher than they prefer. However, an indoor plant can still be affected by temperature if they are placed in a spot within range of an air conditioning vent, a drafty window, or a radiator. These drafts can be enough to cause temperature stress in your plant.
Avoid exposing your begonia to extreme temperatures by keeping a digital thermometer near your plants. These thermometers can record the current temperature as well as the highest and lowest temperatures for the day. Use this data to know when to relocate your plant to a better location.
One instance when your begonia may appear to be dying, but is not actually dying, is when it has been recently repotted. Repotting is very stressful for a begonia, more so than most other plants. Begonias are known drama queens and will wilt after they are repotted.
Help your begonia through this stressful time by making sure every other aspect of its living conditions is close to perfect. You can try to fashion a makeshift greenhouse by hanging a plastic sheet over the plant to increase the humidity. This reduces the plant’s water loss and helps it recover faster.
A handful of pests do not inflict that much damage on a begonia, but if the infestation goes unnoticed and becomes severe, it can be fatal to the plant.
Check your begonia regularly for the presence of pests so you can catch any infestation in its early stages. You can do this while watering the plant. Look out for damage to the leaves such as holes, mottled yellowing, and irregular yellow or brown spots.
Before treating the begonia, isolate it away from your other plants to keep the pests from spreading. Use rubbing alcohol or neem oil on the plant once a week to get rid of the insects. Treat the plant weekly for a month to make sure that all the insects have been killed.
Low humidity can have a great effect on your begonia’s overall health. This is more apparent in places with an arid climate and if the begonia is kept outdoors. It can cause the plant to become dehydrated and even make it more susceptible to pests.
Keep the humidity levels around the plant at around 40%. If the humidity where you live is low, you can increase it around your begonia by grouping the plant together with your other tropical plants. You can also place a dish of water near the plant or simply mist the plant with water every once in a while.
Your begonia may be dying due to one or several of the following reasons: overwatering, underwatering, acclimatization, disease, temperature, transplant shock, pests or humidity. These factors cause the plant stress, resulting in a decline in its health.
The best way to save your begonia from dying is to pinpoint the exact reason it is dying and address it specifically. Begonias can be quite finicky, but as long as you provide them with conditions as close to ideal as possible, they should be fine.
Image: istockphoto.com / prill