The plant Begonia darthvaderiana is named after one of the most famous villains of pop culture.
This is a plant with Vader-like glossy black leaves and glowy green edges. Read this comprehensive guide on how to take care of this unique, alien-looking Begonia all by yourself.
What Is Begonia Darthvaderiana?
Begonia darthvaderiana is a plant with the most striking black or dark brown leaves with serrated fluorescent green edges. The upper leaf surface is glossy under bright light. It produces equally gorgeous deep red flowers during the blooming season. This species was only recently discovered in 2014.
Begonia Darthvaderiana Care
When caring for this plant, keep the soil moist but not runny by watering when the top two inches are dry. Don’t allow any direct light on the plant. The ideal temperature range for darthvaderiana is from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the ideal humidity range is around 80 percent. Feeding is important during the growing season, and we recommend using an orchid fertilizer.
You must go through the rest of this guide to learn more about these care needs.
– Light Requirements
Your Darth Vader Begonia needs only partial and indirect light at most. It can never tolerate direct sunlight. Even a few hours’ worths of exposure will develop ugly splotches all over its leaves. Occasionally, the damage might be so great as to obliterate the whole leaf.
Here is a brief guide on how best to place this plant for the optimum light conditions.
Keeping Darthvaderiana Indoors
If you are growing this plant inside your living space, select a room with windows. Depending on the side the window is facing, different forms of light will enter the room.
Because a northern side window doesn’t receive any direct light, you can safely place your plant near it. The southern side window receives only harsh direct light, so keep your plant far away from it.
The east and west windows only receive direct light during the early morning and evening hours. If your plant is placed here, you can try pulling curtains over the windows during the morning hours.
Keeping Darthvaderiana Outdoors
Growing darthvaderiana outside in the garden is a bit risky. You must look for a shaded spot where you can place this plant. Either place it in a shaded patio or directly under a larger plant.
You can also place decorative parasols over the plant to keep the sun away. Any wall facing the north also blocks all direct light, and you can safely place your plant next to it.
Artificial Grow Lights
Both LED and fluorescent growth lights are equally effective for growing the Darth Vader plant. Fluorescent lights are more potent, but we recommend LED lights more.
LED grow lights are not only cheaper but also more energy-efficient. They also consume less electricity and produce less heat.
– Water Requirements
Darthvaderiana, like similar plants such as Begonia chlorosticta, enjoy being in constantly moist soil the most. Water this plant if the soil dries up two inches from the top. However, you must be careful not to make the soil runny with water. This plant is also easily susceptible to fungal diseases.
Below are some tips regarding watering that you must have in your arsenal.
Check if the Soil Is Dry
The finger test is the quickest method to check if your soil has dried. Place your finger within the soil up to the knuckles. If it feels dry through and through, it’s time for some water.
The second method is to use a pencil or a stick instead. Insert it within the soil only two to three inches deep. Do not put it near the center of the pot to save the roots from any potential damage.
The most professional and sure-shot way to determine the moisture level of your soil is to buy a moisture meter. Any reading below 7 is a green signal to go ahead with the watering.
How To Water
Deep watering is the way to go for this plant. This means you use a large volume of water each time because this plant loves water. The water beam should be directed towards the soil, sparing the plant altogether. This technique should be coupled with pouring the water slowly with a steady hand.
The water will seep through the soil and start pouring out of the pot from the bottom. Slowly taper off and then stop watering.
– Soil Requirements
The soil requirements of this plant are simple. A soil that is rich in nutrients, as well as drainage, grows the healthiest begonias. The roots need space to grow and absorb nutrients and water. It is best if the soil has many air pockets too.
You need a regular potting mix and then add one part perlite and peat each. Perlite is an inorganic rock that adds porosity and space to the soil. It also serves to absorb water and prevent it from accumulating.
Peat moss or sphagnum moss is the organic constituent of your begonia soil. It breaks down after some time. That is why regular feeding is a must for begonias.
– Temperature Requirements
The Darth Vader Begonia likes a warm environment all the time to grow. Its ideal temperature range is very narrow, ranging from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The plant suffers damage when the temperature goes above and below this range and starts wilting and drooping. The most dangerous thing can happen when the plant enters an indefinite state of dormancy after exposure to lower temperatures.
Here are a couple of steps you need to follow to maintain the perfect temperature around this plant.
- During summertime, darthvaderiana can be safely grown in your garden or outdoor patio.
- You will have to move them indoors when temperatures drop around the fall.
- Within a room, if you keep the air conditioning running all the time, then it is best to move this plant someplace warmer. Your kitchen or washroom would do just fine.
- Don’t place it directly near cold air drafts from vents or windows.
- If your region experiences very cold nights even during summer, it is safer to close the windows at night.
– Humidity Requirements
Some studies have shown that this plant likes as much as up to 80 percent humidity in the air around it. This is not surprising since most famous Begonias, such as begonia rex, love humid air moisture levels.
If your indoor living space lacks this much humidity, don’t sweat. We have two quick fixes given below.
A pebble tray is a DIY solution to low humidity inside the house. Take a shallow gardening tray and place large, evenly sized pebbles on it for the pot to rest. Fill the tray with clean water and make sure the pot doesn’t come in direct contact with water. Otherwise, your plant will be very susceptible to a fungal attack.
The water will evaporate all day long and increase the humidity around the Darth Vader house plant. For hygiene purposes, it is best to change the water every three to four days.
A humidifier would make your life so much easier. The latest ones available in the market are so cool with many different options. You can choose from a variety of price options. Have your humidifier run full time in the room with begonias in automatic mode.
It will shut off by itself when the desired levels are reached. Similarly, its sensors would pick up when the humidity is falling again, and the machine would start back up. You won’t have to lift a finger to turn it on or off.
– Fertilizing Requirements
Fertilize this Begonia every month during the growing season from March to September. For the rest of the year, there is no need for any feeding. Orchid fertilizer works the best for almost all Begonias, whether they are darthvaderiana or begonia amphioxus.
Read some essential tips regarding how to fertilize Begonias properly up ahead.
- The orchid fertilizer should be diluted to one-third of its concentration by adding filtered water.
- Around 10 to 15 minutes before pouring fertilizer on the soil, deep water the plant. In fact, why don’t we carry out fertilizing right after watering the plant?
- The fertilizer should never be poured directly over the surface of the plant. This can cause chemical burns within seconds.
- If you feel that your leaves have started turning yellow despite good watering, then overfertilizing might be responsible. Hold back on feeding the plant for a while.
Grooming a plant means keeping it in tip-top shape. You need to wipe your gorgeous darthvaderiana leaves clean every week. The accumulation of dust on the leaves looks terrible and also decreases their air exchange ability.
The second most important thing is to regularly prune the plant’s old, diseased stems and foliage. Also prune the branches that are growing in awkward directions and ruining the shape of your plant.
Pruning has the additional beneficial effect of promoting more growth at the cut ends of the stem. Just be cautious not to use infected gardening tools while pruning your plants.
You can deadhead Begonia, but it is not an absolute necessity. Deadheading is when you prune the flowers off your plant after the bloom period is over. Begonias usually drop their flowers themselves when their time is up. This is unlike other flowering plants, which need constant deadheading as part of their grooming.
If you do deadhead your darthvaderiana, clean your pruning instruments first. Take 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, rub it on the instrument, and then wash it off with water.
All Begonias do pretty well when they are grown in pots. This is because their roots naturally prefer to be kept in a root-bound state. They like it when they are kept in a bit clustered position within the soil and the pot.
When potting Darthvaderiana, you need to choose a pot that is not too large. As a general rule, the pot’s diameter must be no more than two inches from your plant’s root balls.
The pots you need to get for your Darthvaderiana should be clay or terracotta. These are porous at a microscopic level and help with water evaporation and air circulation. Plastic and ceramic pots don’t have this property, so they are only the second-best option.
– Winter Care
If they are taken care of all year long, then Begonias will definitely keep coming back year after year until their lifespan runs out. How you take care of the plant during wintertime is particularly important. This is when most begonias, including Darthvaderiana, undergo dormancy. You will need to decrease the frequency of watering and fertilizing during this time.
It is also best to move begonias indoors during the winter dormancy period. Taking care of these minor points will ensure that this plant returns the next spring with a healthy bloom yield.
Begonia darthvaderiana propagation can be carried out using two methods, either you use root divisions or you go for leaf propagation. The most suitable time for propagation is from early spring to early summer.
Learn all about both methods below.
– Root Division Propagation
Root division is the most common method by which this plant is propagated by professionals worldwide. You can coincide propagation with when you are repotting the plant.
You can read each step of this process below.
Remove the Plant From the Soil
Watering the soil deeply makes it easier to remove the plant from the soil. Take a rake and remove the soil from the top layer by layer. Uplift the plant slowly, taking great care not to damage the fragile roots.
Your roots will be covered with soil that needs to be washed off. Don’t use water at too great a pressure; only use it at low pressure. Then lay it down on a newspaper sheet so it soaks water from the roots.
Separate the Roots To Be Propagated
Take a close look at the roots and see if any diseased ones need to be cut off, then untangle the number of roots that you want to propagate. Each root must also come with its stem and leaves.
Some roots untangle quite easily while others must be cut off with sterilized shears. Take great care not to damage the roots during this process. You can report the rest of the plant as whole back again.
Plant the Roots
Now is the time to plant these separated roots within the soil. You must have a pot and soil prepared beforehand. At first, fill only half the pot with soil. Place the separated root in the center of the pot and then fill the rest with soil.
– Leaf Cutting Propagation
You can use the gorgeous black leaves of darthvaderiana to grow a brand new plant. This method is equally effective and doesn’t need you to cut a whole stem off. You can carry this propagation out in just four simple steps.
Take the Best Leaf Cutting
The best leaf for propagation is one that is neither too old nor too young. Go for a reasonably-sized leaf that is healthy and disease-free.
When taking a leaf cutting, you should cut at least three inches of petiole along with the leaf. This is important because most of the growth cells are within the petiole.
Prepare the Cutting
The next step is to dry the leaf by keeping it on tissue paper for some hours. Then dip the petiole of the said leaf within the rooting hormone.
Prepare Your Pot
Pour gravel at the base of your chosen pot, then fill the rest of the pot with the right mix of soil for a Begonia plant. Create a hole right in the center of this soil.
Plant the Cutting in the Pot
The last step is to insert your cutting petiole into the hole you have created. The rest of the leaf should lay on top of the soil, then take this pot over to a shaded, warm and humid area.
Darthvaderiana begonias are generally fuss-free plants, but they can occasionally suffer from mildew, root rot, and leaf yellowing. Is your plant currently suffering from any of these problems? If yes, then this upcoming section is for you.
– Powdery Mildew
Powdery mildew is a fungal infection that is common among darthvaderiana. It is not a particularly harmful disease but will destroy your plant’s entire aesthetic. Overwatering the plant is the primary reason that mildew attacks the plant. You might be misting this plant too much, as the water droplets on the plant attract the fungi that cause this disease.
Signs of Mildew
When mildew begins to manifest, pin-point white spots appear over the surface of the leaves. There might be so many of them that powder has been sprinkled over the plant.
These white spots also grow in size and merge. As we mentioned, mildew doesn’t kill your plant. However, its powdery hyphae do stop light from reaching the leaves properly.
Natural Ways To Get Rid of Mildew
Since mildew is a benign infection, you should try treating it with natural methods.
- Buy 100 percent natural neem oil as it is a potent anti-fungal. Rub a few drops of it over the affected leaves every third or fourth day of the week.
- Take one teaspoon of baking soda from your pantry. Mix it in one gallon of water and then spray it every week.
- Vinegar is also a natural anti-fungal right from your kitchen. Dilute it to half its strength before spraying it over the leaves.
– Root Rot
Root rot is one of the worst things to happen to your plant. Once it attacks your plant, it is only a matter of time before it destroys it whole. You can say this is almost like the Darth Vader of all your begonia problems.
Find out everything about root rot in Begonia and how to tackle it below.
What Causes Root Rot?
Root rot has three primary causes when it comes to Begonias: overwatering, improper drainage, and waterlogging. The first is if you are overwatering your water when you keep watering the soil without regard to how dry or moist the soil already is.
The drainage of the soil is equally important. If your soil is too compact and close together, it tends to collect water.
The same goes for your pot. If it doesn’t have an adequate hole for water drainage, water keeps collecting in the soil. Waterlogging then serves as the breeding ground for fungal attacks.
Classic Signs of Root Rot
Root rot is hard to miss when it is affecting your plant. Some of its classic tell-tale signs are given here.
- The first thing that happens is that leaves become swollen and begin to droop under their weight.
- Next, rot spots begin appearing over the younger leaves. These spots are yellow in the beginning and irregular in outline. Over time, they increase in size and start turning brown and black.
- If you move a bit closer to the plant, you will notice that the plant also smells of rot.
- The roots of the plant are white and firm when healthy. Root rot causes them to turn flimsy, brown, and mushy.
How To Stop Root Rot
First, you must take the infected Begonia out of its pot to treat the root. Then get rid of the old soil and the pot indefinitely. Lay it on some newspaper to soak up the water.
Take some snippers and cut off all the plant’s most severely affected black parts. Cut no more than one-third of the plant in one setting.
You also need to spray the plant with a fungicide. This spray needs to be applied every week for two months. You can substitute chemical fungicides with neem oil as well.
– Yellowing of Leaves
Yellow leaves can be due to several reasons. The most common reason is, of course, overwatering. The plant will absorb the extra water from the soil, interrupting its absorption of nutrients. The young leaves will start turning yellow from lack of food.
Underwatering also causes leaves to turn yellow. You can easily tell what the actual cause behind yellowing is. If the plant is underwatered, the leaves will be thin, wrinkled, and wilting. Otherwise, they will be plump and water-soaked.
Begonia leaves also turn yellow from exposure to direct sunlight. In such a case, the leaf edges will begin to turn brown too. Leaves that turn yellow from sunburn rarely get better, unlike yellowing that occurs from improper watering.
This was quite a long article to go through in one go. That is why we have summarized the most pertinent begonia care points below.
- Darthvaderiana plants need only filtered light to carry out photosynthesis.
- The right way to water this plant is to allow the topsoil to dry then deep water it.
- Make sure the drainage of your soil and pot is perfect. This plant is quite prone to mildew and root rot.
- If you want to propagate this plant, try the leaf cutting or root division techniques.
Darthvaderiana is no doubt a most enigmatic species of Begonia, but its reputation for being a difficult plant is completely unwarranted. Using the tips above, you will have no problem with this plant at all!
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