begonia pavonina

Begonia Pavonina Overview and Care Guide

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Dubbed in the houseplant world as the Peacock Begonia, this rhizomatous species from Malaysia grows shimmering, gorgeous, iridescent blue leaves. The incredible versatility and beauty of the Begonia Pavonina (its formal name) make this plant a highly coveted variety that is perfect for growing in a terrarium, greenhouse, or indoors.

Suppose you’re adding this to your collection. In that case, it is best to equip yourself with this comprehensive begonia pavonina care guide to get you started on the right path to growing this exotic Southeast Asian charmer.

Begonia Pavonina Overview

Growing along streams in the rainforest and higher elevations of Malaysia, the Begonia Pavonina belongs to the Begoniaceae family. Due to the low light conditions of their natural habitat, the Begonia Pavonina species grows and develops shimmering iridescence leaves to help them survive in the dark.

Other common names of the Begonia Pavonina include Peacock Begonia, Catfish Plant, or simply the Blue Plant.

What makes the Begonia pavonina a fascinating plant is its stunning leaves that change colors depending on the amount of light in the room. Botanists have studied its iridescence foliage that seems to be from another planet.

Plant scientists believe that the unusual leaves of the Begonia pavonina have adapted to the low levels of sunlight growing in the dim rainforests and higher elevations of Southeast Asia. They eventually evolved to produce iridescent azure leaves that extract more energy from what low light it gets from their native environment. 

Light pink and white flowers bloom throughout the year on this plant. 

FamilyBegoniaceae
GenusBegonia
Common NameBegonia Pavonina
Other Known NamesPeacock Begonia
OriginMalaysia
LightLight Shade, indirect sunlight
WateringOnce or twice a week. Allow getting fairly dry between watering
SoilWell-draining soil
Temperature55 and 75 degrees F (24°C)
Humidity50% to 80% humidity level
PropagationStem cuttings
Re-PottingEvery 1 to 2 years
Pests and DiseasesSusceptible to mealybugs, aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, thrips, fungal diseases and root rot
ToxicityContains insoluble oxalate crystals that are toxic to animals.

Begonia Pavonina Features

The peacock nickname of this tropical plant comes from its attractive iridescent blue sheen colors that remind one of a peacock’s unfurled blue features. The captivating iridescent characteristic of the leaves will be visible when the light hits them at a certain angle.

Due to the begonia pavonina predisposition towards high humidity levels, this plant is perfect for terrarium or greenhouse cultivation.

Height

Upon maturity, a begonia pavonina plant can reach from 16 to 25 inches in size. The miniature size of the plant makes it perfect for small spaces in your home.

Leaves

The Begonia Pavonina produces heart-shaped deep green or greenish-brown leaves and sometimes change to blue iridescence leaf color. Plant scientists said that the stunning leaves change color from deep green to shimmering bright blue color leaves helps the plant to survive in the dark.

When the Peacock Begonia plant is grown in a low light room, the plant’s instinct takes over to enhance light absorption and photosynthesis for an energy source. When the light illuminates the surface of the green leaves at different angles, they give a specific bluish tint. The leaves show an attractive iridescent blue sheen to them. 

Each mature leaf of the Begonia Pavonina is about 3 to 5 inches in size.

Flowers

Although the plant is primarily grown and prized for its stunning foliage, the Begonia Pavonina plant also produces light pink flowers in the spring and summer.

Toxicity

There are over 1000 Begonia varieties out there, and all of them are considered not harmful to humans. However, insoluble oxalate crystals are found in the foliage of the plant. These crystals contain a harmful level of toxicity that is detrimental to animals.

Keep your Begonia Pavonina plants out of the reach of your pets, especially cats and dogs.

Deer and rabbit resistance

Due to the plant’s toxicity, the Begonia Pavonina variety belongs to the list of plants that deers and rabbits don’t find so tasty.

Begonia Pavonina Care Guide

Adding the Peacock Begonia to your collection will level up your standing in your immediate houseplant circle. You will also have a striking piece of home décor that will sure to spark conversations. If you follow this Begonia Pavonina care guide, you will soon have a thriving indoor plant that shimmers in the room.

Ideal Growing Place

The Begonia Pavonina plant loves to grow indoors or outdoors with high humidity and air movement. It is perfect to be grown in a terrarium or humid greenhouse. This Begonia variety is happiest in temperatures between about 55 to 95 degrees. It thrives better in slightly alkaline soil.

Water 

Overwatering is the primary killer of the Begonia varieties. The Begonia pavonina requires moderate watering. I recommend watering the plant once or twice a week. Be sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy from too much water.

Avoid overwatering as this can lead to root rot that can kill the plant. Frequency depends on the amount of sunlight it receives and the temperature of the room.

The summer season is when the Pavonina plant is in its growing season. During this period, the plant needs more water and fertilizer.

Go easy on watering during the fall and winter seasons. In the winter, the Peacock Begonia plant goes into dormancy. It does not need too much water during this time. Once every 2 or 3 weeks will be enough. The cold weather slows down water absorption and evaporation.

In the spring and summer, you can go back to water it once or twice a week. But you may need to increase the watering routine up to 3 times a week in the height of summer or on the hottest days. 

To check when to water your pavonina plant, you can use a moisture meter. Stick the device in the potting soil, and it will show you the precise digital reading. For beginners, or for being precise, it makes things simpler.

You can also use your finger by sticking it down 1 to 2 inches into the soil. If it feels dry, it is time to water. Otherwise, if the soil is wet, you may wait 1 to 2 days before checking back again.

Sunlight 

Growing in its natural environment, the Begonia pavonina species grows under a thick canopy of trees with indirect sunlight. Direct sun exposure can burn out the delicate leaves of the plant. I suggest placing the plant in a well-lit south or north-facing window where the sunlight does not directly reach the Begonia.

As much as possible, give the plant enough light and sufficient exposure to shaded or indirect sunlight. Artificial light will not suffice. The blue iridescence effect on the leaves will not be as apparent without natural light.

Temperature 

The ideal temperature levels for the Begonia Pavonina range between 55F (13C) and 75F (24C). Cool nights are the best, with temperatures between 54F (12C) and 64F (15C).

The Peacock Begonia thrives at a moderate temperature. It dislikes hot temperatures all the time. Hot summer nights can put a lot of stress on the plant’s foliage. It cannot survive freezing temperatures.

Soil 

The Begonia Pavonina loves moist soil. Therefore, planting this Begonia variety in well-drained soil is crucial for its healthy growth. A rich mixture of sphagnum moss and perlite is an excellent option. It allows the water to percolate quickly, ensuring that the water does not sit in the soil. Otherwise, the excess water will make the soil soggy and can suffocate the plant.

Soggy soil or overwatering can also cause fungal diseases and root rot. The former can cause damage to the stems and leaves if left untreated. Root rot can quickly kill the plant.

Humidity 

Keep the humidity level for your Begonia pavonina plant between 50% to 80%. This plant loves moisture in the air. So make sure to enhance the humidity level around the plant on dry days.

To improve the humidity level and air movement, you can do any of these methods below:

  • Use a pebble-water tray under the pot. Fill a shallow pot with water and add some pebbles to it. Keep the water level below the pebbles. Place the pot on top of the pebbles.
  • Using a humidifier
  • Mist the plant’s foliage with a spray bottle
  • Group the plants to increase humidity.

However, avoid keeping the foliage from staying wet for long as this can attract pests.

If you want to be sure you have optimal humidity at home, get an inexpensive digital hygrometer. The device can instantly show you the humidity level. After that, it is a matter of adjusting to get to the right humid conditions you need for the plant.

Fertilizer

The Begonia pavonina plant loves a buffet of plant food. For best growth, you can feed the plant once every two weeks during the growing season.

You can feed with a balanced liquid fertilizer with NPK values of around 20-20-20. To avoid overfeeding and burning the plants, you can dilute the fertilizer at reduced strength. High concentrated fertilizers will cause salt residue build-up that will cause root burn.

You can use either synthetic or organic fertilizers available in the store. Synthetic products are cheaper but highly concentrated. Just be sure to dilute it. Organic fertilizers are better but more expensive. It also offers a better range of plant nutrients for faster growth.

Pinching

The Begonia Pavonina is a fairly fast grower houseplant. Pinching or pruning it can help control its size and encourage healthy growth. It can also prevent the plant from developing leggy parts if not occasionally trimmed or pinched.

Use pruning shears or cutting tools to remove discolored or dead leaves from the plant to allow more new growth. Often, this fixes that issue. In addition, this will ensure that your plant is not wasting its nutrients and energy on damaged leaves.

Potting and Re-potting

The Begonia Pavonina requires repotting every 1 to 2 years. As a relatively fast-growing indoor plant, it can outgrow its current pot, and you will need to repot it to a larger planter. Otherwise, the plant’s growth will be stunted and will eventually stress the plant for being constrained in a limited space.

When you notice the roots crowding the plant, this signifies that the plant needs repotting. The ideal time for repotting the Peacock Begonia is during the spring season. Typically, you can use a new pot that is one size or two sizes larger than the current one.

Get rid of the old soil and transplant the Begonia on fresh, well-drained soil.

Growth Zone

The ideal growth zones for the Begonia Pavonina range between USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F) and USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F).

Common Pests, Toxins, Diseases & Other Problems

The Begonia Pavonina plant is vulnerable to common houseplant pests and diseases. With that, this plant requires a little bit of due diligence and attention to keep the Peacock Begonia healthy and looking good.

Common houseplant pests like aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies are the scourge of this plant. Early detection is key to keeping these pests at bay. Therefore, it is best for your Begonia Pavonina to be well-groomed and checked regularly for any signs of these attackers.

You can do a regular inspection at least once a week. If you see any sign of pest, treat the infected parts immediately with neem oil or by spraying with an insecticidal soap solution.

Due to the plant’s natural inclination to high humidity and moist soil, the Peacock Begonia also becomes more susceptible to fungal diseases, infections ad rotting roots. Sitting in water or too much sogginess in the soil is a huge no-no with this plant.

Root rot will destroy the plant’s roots and prevent them from absorbing essential nutrients. As a result, root rot will eventually kill the plant. Avoid overwatering and use well-drained soil to eliminate this problem.

When your Begonia Pavonina is exposed to warm and dry conditions for too long, powdery mildew is another problem to look out for. Mildew’s problem is different than other fungal diseases. In this case, your plant’s leaves will be covered with dusty mildewy spots that will turn them yellow and dry up.

If left untreated, the spores will get blown in the wind and spread the disease to other plants. The effective way to treat the powdery mildew is by applying neem oil on the infected parts. Neem oil is a natural fungicide that works best to combat houseplant diseases.

Be sure to remove the infected leaves to prevent the disease from spreading.

Propagation

The easiest way to propagate begonia pavonina plants is by stem cuttings. I will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to do this.

You can start using sterilized cutting tools or scissors and take a stem cutting from the mother plant. Choose a healthy stem with some nodes and make a cut 4 – 6 inches long with 2 or more leaves on it.

When you are done, you have two choices again to propagate begonia pavonina cuttings better. First, you can allow the fresh stem cutting to root in a container filled with water. Second, you can plant stem cutting into a pre-prepared pot with fresh, well-drained soil.

If you choose to propagate begonia pavonina in water, follow the following steps:

  • Remove the lower leaves from the freshly cut stem
  • Place the stem cutting into a jar or container with water
  • Put the jar in a spot with bright, indirect light
  • Allow a few weeks for the nodes of the stems to develop into roots. Change the water regularly.
  • Once the roots are a couple of inches long, it is time to move the new plant into a pot with a well-draining potting mix
  • Cover the pot with a plastic bag with good ventilation to increase the moisture and humid temperature
  • Take care of the new plant as you would the mother plant.

The good thing about water propagation is that you can easily see the roots growing day by day.

For soil propagation of your Peacock Begonia, the procedure is similar with a few slightly different adjustments.

  • After cutting a stem 4 – 6 inches long with a few nodes and leaves on it, allow the end to dry
  • Dip the end in rooting hormone
  • Plant the stem cutting into a well-draining potting mix
  • Cover the pot with a plastic bag with good ventilation by poking some holes
  • Place your new plant in a bright spot with indirect light
  • Practice mindful watering the first few weeks. Avoid overwatering
  • You see the plant sprouting after a few months.

All you have to do now is cultivate your infant Peacock Begonia like you would the original plant. Overwatering is a killer, especially at this crucial growth stage. Place the begonias in a well-lit spot with a good level of moisture.

Begonia Pavonina Mature Timeline

Week 1: Place your new Begonia Pavonina plants under ideal growing conditions at this crucial stage. This means no direct sunlight and overwatering.

Week 2-3: Moderate watering routine after the upper 2 inches get dry.

Week 4-6: Small roots should start to develop during this period.

Week 12-24: Water the plant once or twice a week. Keep the soil moist but don’t allow the soil to get soggy. During this time, you will see the plant sprouting. You can feed it with a small amount of fertilizer.

Week 24-30: With proper care and attention, your Begonia Pavonina plant at this time will produce thriving, stunning blue foliage and even flowers.

Begonia Pavonina Care FAQ

Do Begonias Come Back Year After Year?

Yes, the Begonia Pavonina plants can come back year after year with proper protection during the winter. However, like most plants from the tropics, this rhizomatous species cannot handle freezing conditions and frost. If not winter-protected, the Peacock Begonia will die.

To ensure that your Begonia Pavonina can survive the winter and come back year after year, you have to protect it from the cold by re-locating it in a warmer spot in your home.

What Is the Rarest Begonia?

There are over a thousand Begonia varieties and countless hybrids and species out there. I consider the Begonia Pavonina as one of the rarest in the Begonia nomenclature, due also to its place of origin. However, the rarest Begonia, the most coveted variety right now, is the Begonia Baramensis, which has a gorgeous dark, almost black leaves with silver color on edge.

Is a Begonia an Indoor or Outdoor Plant?

The Begonia Pavonina plant can be grown both as an indoor or outdoor plant. Just be sure to meet its growing requirements, such as high humidity and indirect light. But, ideally, this plant is a great candidate to be grown in a terrarium or humid greenhouse.

Can I Transplant My Mature Begonia Pavonia?

Yes, a mature Begonia Pavonia needs to be transplanted once it has outgrown its current pot. Otherwise, the plant’s growth will be constrained and stunted. However, you only need to do this when it is only necessary as the roots of this plant are sensitive.

The Bottom Line

Imagine a houseplant that glows a gorgeous, iridescent blue color in your home or garden. Sounds a little exciting, right? That’s what the fantastic Peacock Begonia plants can bring to the table. It’s a genuinely awe-inspiring plant that seems to be taken out of a Dr. Seuss story.

Bringing the Begonia Pavonia plant to your home will surely enrich your houseplant collection. With this comprehensive Begonia Pavonia care guide, you will be more confident of growing this stunning plant in your home.

Last Updated on February 8, 2022 by Gustaf Johansson

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