Why does my Begonia Maculata (Polka Dot Begonia) have brown leaves?

Last Updated: April 1, 2022

Hands down the plant with some of the coolest leaves, the Begonia Maculata (or Polka Dot Begonia as otherwise called) is pretty famous for its stunning dotted leaves. However, if your Polka Dot Begonia has started to develop brown foliage, then there is definitely an issue that needs to be resolved. Unhappiness can display itself as entire leaves turning brown, but it can also crop up as brown leaf tips, edges or patches across the plant. To diagnose the issue and figure out what is causing the brown leaves on your Polka Dot Begonia, we will guide you through each of the causes below. 

Dry soil is a common cause of brown leaves

Although it won’t die on you suddenly if you forget to water it every once in a while, consistent underwatering can begin to cause brown leaves on a Polka Dot Begonia plant. The leaves will look quite light brown in colour, and be dry and crispy to touch. 

It’s important that you are sure underwatering is the cause of the brown leaves on your Polka Dot Begonia, as giving your plant more water when it doesn’t need it, will only cause more problems. To be sure that a lack of water is the issue, check the moisture levels in the soil. You can either do this by taking your Polka Dot Begonia out of its pot and inspecting the potting mix. This will also allow you to see if there is any damage to the root system. However, if your plant is quite brittle and you don’t want to risk damaging it more by removing it from the pot, you can simply using a moisture meter or the chopstick/finger methods to check the moisture levels. 

If you find that your Polka Dot Begonia’s soil is very dry, water it a little every other day for a week. Your first instinct might be to drown it in water but this can actually be harmful to your Polka Dot Begonia if the soil goes from one extreme to the other. Instead, you want to reintroduce frequent watering for a week or two and this should revive your Begonia. 

Although the brown leaves won’t miraculously switch back to their usual colours, adjusting your watering schedule going forward to ensure your Polka Dot Begonia gets more moisture, should prevent more from turning brown. 

If you’re still struggling to remember to water your Polka Dot Begonia enough, then maybe you should invest in an affordable self-watering pot, these handy pots take all of guess work out of watering and make everything so much easier!

Low humidity levels can cause brown leaf tips

If the leaves on your Polka Dot Begonia are turning brown from the tips and edges inwards, then dry air may be the culprit. This can be especially bad during winter, as we have the heating on and the windows closed so it’s something we need to more conscious of during that time. 

Although we could never reach tropical levels of humidity in our home, there are a few things we can do to help raise the humidity and stop the brown leaf tips.

  1. Mist the leaves on your Polka Dot Begonia regularly

    This is a great habit to get into to for a lot of your plants as it is great for their overall health as well as for the humidity level. Mist the leaves using a spray bottle a few times a week. One thing to be cautious of though is to never mist in the evening as the cold air at night will mean the leaves are a lot more likely to rot if damp.

  2. Shower your Polka Dot Begonia

    A really easy way to boost the humidity is giving your plant a shower. Although this isn’t a long-term solution, it’s a great way to instantly boost the humidity. It’s also a great way to get rid of any pests that may be secretly living on your plant. Pop your Polka Dot Begonia in the shower and wash down the leaves with very very low water pressure.

  3. It might be best to move your plant to a new room

    Some rooms in your home will have a naturally higher humidity level than others. For example, the kitchen and bathroom tend to be higher as the steam released from showers and through cooking increase the level of water vapour in the air. If you have good lighting in those rooms then move your plant in there if it is suffering from a lack of humidity. This should avoid any further brown leaf tips!

  4. Invest in a humidifier

    If you are looking for a more long-term solution for your Polka Dot Begonia then buying a humidifier is a great option for you.. They are also thought to help with getting better sleep and clearer skin so it’s not just a good investment for your plants. This is the humidifier we use from Amazon and our plants love it!

Intense direct sunlight can burn the leaves

Your Polka Dot Begonia could be in an area where it’s getting a little too much light and this is why you are seeing brown patches forming on the leaves. Polka Dot Begonia plants have VERY delicate leaves, so are easily scorched if they receive too much intense light. If this is the cause, you’ll notice the side facing the sun developing more brown patches and spots. 

This one is quite an easy fix however, as you just need to find a spot for your Polka Dot Begonia that doesn’t receive any direct sunlight. These plants don’t like to be moved around a lot though, so make sure to track how the light changes throughout the day before placing your Polka Dot Begonia there.

Your Polka Dot Begonia might be stressed

As we mentioned above, Polka Dot Begonia plants are very sensitive when it comes to a change in their environment. They hate being moved to a new spot and will more often than not show some signs of unhappiness. This can come in many forms, one of which being brown leaves. If you have recently moved house, moved your plant to a new spot, repotted your plant or if there has been a sudden change in any other environmental factors, then this might be the cause of the brown leaves. 

As long as the care your plant is receiving and the environment in which its living are suitable for your Polka Dot Begonia, then this stress/shock shouldnt last long. If after a week you are still seeing new brown patches or spots develop, then this is a sign there might be another cause.

Low temperatures can also cause brown leaves

Cold temperatures and drafts can also be very harmful to your Polka Dot Begonia. Not only do cold temperatures mean the potting mix will be slower to dry out, but it can kill your plant’s cells and cause brown foliage. 

Make sure your Polka Dot Begonia is not placed near doors or windows that may be drafty. Even though the temperature of your home may be perfect for your Polka Dot Begonia and it is receiving a lot of sunlight, the drafts coming in from outside may be colder and harm your Polka Dot Begonia’s health and cause the leaves to turn slightly brown. Also watch out for AC vents that can cause this issue in summer. We recommend buying a digital thermometer to keep track of the different temperatures in your home to ensure things are right for your Polka Dot Begonia.

Those are the most common causes of brown leaves on Polka Dot Begonia/ Begona Maculata plants. As these plants have such delicate leaves, it’s important that you solve any issues quickly to prevent them from affecting your entire plant. If the issue persists, then you might want to think about propagating a healthy part of your plant, in incase your mother plant doesn’t make it. This makes sure that you will still have a beautiful Polka Dot Begonia to care for. 

Check out our Polka Dot Begonia care guide to learn more about how to keep your plant happy and healthy.

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