Caring for Rieger Begonias

Caring for rieger begoniasRieger Begonias are one of my favorite indoor flowering plants. Their many-petaled blossoms come in colors that remind me of delicious candies; clear pinks and salmons, bright yellows and oranges and deep, velvety reds. The large blooms are contrasted nicely against lush, deep green leaves.  But best of all, they can easily bloom for 6 months indoors with proper care.

I care for Riegers almost the same way as I care for African Violets. I provide them with bright, indirect light. (I find placing them just off of an east facing window works great. ) I water them when the soil feels dry to touch, giving them enough water to moisten the soil, but being careful not to leave the plant in standing water. (They really hate wet feed). For feeding I like using a liquid African Violet fertilizer every other week at half strength. Plants enjoy our indoor temperatures as long as they are kept away from indoor heating. They also prefer a bit of extra humidity so placing them on a tray filled with gravel and water increases the humidity around them. I don’t like to mist them as I find they are a bit prone to powdery mildew.


Batik begonia by Les Serres Fortier

Occasionally the blooming stems can get heavy as they grow and bloom, so staking might be necessary. I also keep a watchful eye for aphids and whitefly and treat with an insecticidal soap at the very first sign of them. I continue to pinch spent blooms until they are done blooming. At that time I pinch back all the bloom stems to where the majority of the leaf growth begins, the plant will take a rest for about a  month and then I’ll get another bloom out of it. Not quite as spectacular as the first, but still lovely.

After the second bloom, you can cut back and wait for your begonia to bloom again, or you can take leaf cuttings. Leaf cuttings are a fun way to make more plants and not at all difficult to to do. (Jon Van Zile does a good job explaining how to do that here.) But I’ll be honest, I have limited space and finding a spot where the begonia can regrow after being cut back or cuttings can root is difficult. Plus, I miss my showy bouquets of flowers. So after the second bloom, I compost the parent and pick up another one. When you consider the cost of one begonia and its length of bloom against what you would pay for cut flowers during that time, it’s still a pretty good deal. Also, it means I can get a different color. And just look at all the colors out there.


Glory Pink begonia by Les Serres Fortier


Blitz begonia by Les Serres Fortier

More photos of gorgeous begonias can be found at Les Serra Fortier’s Flickr page. All photos by Les Serres Fortier used under Creative Commons licensing



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7 comments for “Caring for Rieger Begonias

  1. Linda Schwartz
    at 2:14 pm

    Hello Kat,

    I have a Rieger Begonia that I took inside before the frost came and at first it seemed to be doing well, but now it is dying. It is the first time I have ever had this plant. I have geranium that I have been growing inside for a few years and they are happy and bloom periodically. I also have African Violets that are happy campers too. I think I might have had the Begonia in a bad spot, too much sun. Can you give me the fundamentals of how to grow them inside?


    • Kat
      at 7:39 am

      Hi Linda, Are you positive it it a Rieger Begonia and not a tuberous begonia? They look very similar except one had tuber. The tuberous ones normally die back at the end of the season so that might actually be the issue. If not, the instructions in the blog are for inside growth.

  2. Jan Trauth
    at 10:08 am

    I am leaving on vacation and have 3 Rieger Begonia’s in pots on my covered front porch, I stick my finger in the soil and if it is try I water the pots until it runs out the bottom then I know they are thoughly watered. I have asked a friend to water when I am gone for 5 days which should not require but one or two waterings but don’t want to give her a bunch of orders how to not get leaves wet and not to water to much. What should I do?

    • Kat
      at 5:57 am

      Hi Jan,
      I am not sure where you are located but watering once or twice in 5 days sounds about right. Plants can tolerate a little error when it comes to getting leaves wet occasionally and a bit of overwatering for a short time. I would tell her to water if the soil feels dry on her visit and to water thoroughly. Just make sure to empty out any excess water when you get home and it should be fine.

  3. Jeff
    at 10:19 am

    Thank You Kat
    I have killed several Rieger Begonia’s over the past year, but I am not sure if I am over watering them or I just don’t have them in a good place for the proper light? Anyway your article has given me the best information I have found yet on growing these plants in my home, so since I am not a quitter I just bought a new plant today and I am going to give it another try. Ha Ha

    I am an avid gardener since a boy, but my gardening skills are limited to outdoor veggies and flowers and houseplants are brand new to me.

    Thanks for the great tips

  4. Lisa Taylor
    at 1:48 pm

    Hello Kat! I love, love Rieger Begonias!!! I have bought many over the years & they all seem to rot at the base. I am an avid flower grower & have worked in 3 plant nurseries. I just can’t figure out what I am doing wrong! I water from the bottom so the plant can soak up the water from underneath instead of watering from the top. Same way I do my African Violets. Please help!!!

    • Kat
      at 9:36 am

      Lisa I find the soil really needs to start to dry out before watering or they will rot. You can see how fleshy the stems are, they hold a lot of water. Also good air circulation helps. So this means not setting them in a decorative pot that is several inches above the soil level and not sticking the plant in a corner if possible.

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