Q: I have a number of begonias in my houseplant collection and I’m interested in propagating them. What is the best way to do this?
A: Whether you grow begonias indoors or outdoors, there are several different ways to propagate them. Most varieties are successfully propagated from leaf cuttings (taken in early summer) or stem cuttings (taken in spring). Tuberous begonia varieties can also be propagated by spring division.
The good news is that they’re all relatively simple, and will reward you with more of these amazing plants for free.
How to divide begonia by taking leaf cuttings
Taking plant cuttings this way may seem unusual, but it is a good option for many indoor begonias grown for their attractive foliage, such as Begonia rex. “You can use a leaf or whole sections,” says gardening expert Tony O’Neill. “If using clips, make sure each contains the main vein.”
- “Start with a healthy begonia—ideally mature and disease-free,” says Tony.
- “Fill a pot with a mixture of perlite and peat moss. Make sure the pot has good drainage,” he adds.
- Remove the newly mature leaf using clean, sharp shears or shears.
- Cut the stem, then make small cuts across the main veins, each about an inch apart, advises the Royal Horticultural Society. This encourages root growth, explains Tony.
- Place the leaf, vein side down, on the prepared potting mixture. “Use staples to pin the leaf to the soil,” Tony says.
- Water the pot lightly, then place the pot in a location with bright, indirect light, Tony continues. “Consider using plastic wrap or a plastic bag to create a little greenhouse effect, which keeps in moisture.”
“You should see new growth within a few weeks to a few months, which indicates successful propagation,” says Tony.
Tony O’Neill is an accomplished horticulturist, author, and educator. With a passion for simplifying gardening practices, he has inspired a wide audience through his popular YouTube channel and website SimplifyGardening.com. Tony’s expertise empowers individuals to grow thriving gardens and connect with nature.
How to divide begonia by taking stem cuttings
Taking stem cuttings is a popular propagation method used on many plants, including rubber plants, monstera and pothos. This technique can also be used with begonias – it’s simple once you know how:
- “Cut a healthy stem below a leaf node, ideally 3-4 inches long,” says Tony.
- “Remove the bottom leaves, keeping one or two leaves on top,” Tony continues.
- Insert the stem into a pot with well-draining soil. It is recommended to bury about half of it.
- As with propagation by leaf cuttings, water them lightly, then place them in a warm location with good, but not direct, sunlight.
“You should continue watering the cuttings once the top half of the soil is dry,” says houseplant expert Vladan Nikolic. “New roots will form in 2-3 weeks.
“To check if roots have formed, you can gently pull the stem of the cutting,” he adds. If they have, you will feel some resistance.
How to propagate begonia by division
Many begonias grown outdoors are of the tuberous type. Once they start growing, in the spring, they can often be divided to create new plants. Gardening expert John Negus shares his step-by-step tips:
- Bring a sharp knife, make sure it is sterilized, then cut the tubers into large, sprouted parts.
- Cover the cut edges with rooting powder (such as Bonide Bontone II Rooting Powder from Amazon, which has good reviews).
- Leave the wounds to dry for half a day to prevent any infection from developing.
- Plant the tuber parts, pit side up, in seed trays containing sandy compost. Water it and accelerate its growth at a temperature of about 61 degrees Fahrenheit.
John has been a garden journalist for over 50 years and regularly answers readers’ questions Amateur gardening magazine. He has also written four books and given numerous lectures over the years on gardening.
Most important tip: Division is a useful way to free-range other plants, including many outdoor perennials, indoor spider plants and peace lilies. Just make sure each divided section has a good system of roots attached.
Is it possible to propagate begonia by seeds?
Some species of begonia, including wax begonia, can be propagated by seed, but be aware that the seeds are very small.
Sow them on top of a seed compost (such as Espoma’s Seed Starter Premium Organic Potting Soil Mix from Amazon) in trays in late winter to early spring. Cover with a clear plastic bag, plastic wrap, or damp dome and mist if necessary to prevent the soil from drying out. Keep it warm with good lighting, then place it carefully when it is large enough to handle.
Is it possible to propagate begonia in water?
If you choose to propagate begonias from stem cuttings, they can be placed in small pots of clean water instead of soil. This is a fun way to watch the roots as they form. Just be sure to avoid common water propagation mistakes for the best chances of success.
“New roots will form after 2-3 weeks in ideal conditions,” says Vladan Nikolic, houseplant expert. When the roots grow to 2-3 inches, it’s time to plant the stem cuttings in soil, he adds.
Once you’ve finished propagating your begonias, why not propagate more for your other houseplants too? Patience and juicers are easy options to try. You’ll soon have lots of beautiful new plants to add to your interior scheme – and any additions make great gifts.