The Strawberry begonia is not a begonia at all but a designated species of the Saxifraga genus. It is a charming low growing plant with round, pleated leaves that sends out runners or stolons with tiny planets on each end! This is a perfect houseplant that can be kept on a table or hung over a windowsill and gives me all the vibes of an old English garden.
The Strawberry begonia is extremely easy to care for and forgiving. This post highlights all of the important aspects of Strawberry begonia care!
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The Royal Horticultural Society, the UK’s most prominent gardening charity, reserves its “AGM,” or Award of Garden Merit, for plants that grow well under UK conditions and have significant decorative or utilitarian value. Plants that have been designated with this special award are easy to procure, easy to care for, and especially beautiful to look at. If you’re new to the plant-keeping hobby, you should consider the Strawberry begonia. Not only is it beginner-friendly, it is a proud AGM recipient.
The Strawberry begonia, also known by its scientific name, Saxifraga stolonifera, originates from the temperate region of East Asia and can still be found in the wild across China, Korea, and Japan. Therefore, it has a preference for cool temperatures but isn’t very frost-hardy. With mulching in the winter, the Strawberry begonia can be grown successfully outdoors. However, many people choose to keep this plant indoors to enjoy its contrasting foliage of green leaves, white veins, and red runners.
Ironically, the Strawberry begonia is neither a begonia nor a bearer of strawberries. Instead, it is considered a perennial herbaceous plant that produces no fruit but flowers in the summer. The Strawberry begonia flowers feature white, pointed petals, two of which are strikingly longer than the rest. The unique blossoms and delicate leaves make this plant one of the world’s most popular ornamental plants.
- Common Name: Strawberry Begonia, Creeping Saxifraga, Strawberry Geranium
- Scientific Name: Saxifraga stolonifera
- Mature Size: up to 2 feet tall
- Sunlight: bright, indirect light
- Water: when top 2 inches of soil is dry
- Soil: well-draining, or rocky soil
- Temperature: 55°F-75°F
- Propagation: plantlets/new offshoots
- Hardiness Zone: 6-9
- Toxicity: non-toxic to humans and pets
Growth Pattern and Habits
The Strawberry begonia grows in a rosette-like pattern with round, scalloped leaves. The leaves are slightly hairy and are often marked with silvery-white veins. When the lighting conditions are adequate, there will be some reddish shading on the undersides of the leaves.
In its natural environment and when well cared for, the Strawberry begonia spreads by sending out tendril-like runners. It tends to stay relatively low to the ground except for the flowering season, when the stems of a Strawberry begonia’s flowers bloom and grow several inches taller than the rest of the plant.
If you live in US planting zones 6-9, you can successfully grow a Strawberry begonia outdoors as an attractive groundcover for your garden. Alternatively, try keeping it in a hanging planter, allowing the runners to drape over the edge.
This plant grows relatively quickly, with the fastest rate of growth occurring in the summer. Because of this detail, your Saxifraga stolonifera will require regular pruning. With sterilized shears, trim away dead leaves and stems along with overgrown, trailing runners. Wait at least a full month before you prune again to keep your plant healthy.
Another consequence of the Strawberry begonia plant’s growth rate is that it requires yearly repotting. Every spring, transfer your plant to a pot that’s at least two inches larger in diameter than the previous pot. Plants that start looking dry and woody in the center are old and expected to die soon. When this happens, you can replace it with a propagated clone.
Be prepared to be dazzled by the Strawberry begonia’s flowers that bloom in the spring and early summer!
The Strawberry begonia has a strong preference for shade but still requires diffused bright, indirect sunlight. To provide the best Strawberry begonia care in a domestic setting, choose a sunny area that doesn’t receive direct sunlight exposure.
The east or west side of your home would be a great location for this plant. Too much direct sun will scorch the leaves and cause them to turn dry and brown. If you notice these symptoms on your plant’s leaves, it’s a good indication that your plant should be moved.
On the other hand, your Saxifraga stolonifera will grow extremely slowly or not at all if it doesn’t receive enough light. It may also have dull, pale leaves and poor contrast between the leaves and runners. This happens because sunlight is the key ingredient for triggering photosynthesis, the metabolic process that enables the plant to grow by turning energy into fuel. If your plant looks dull or stunted, move it to a location with better light exposure, such as a room with a larger window.
The Strawberry begonia is naturally a fast grower and requires frequent watering as a result. When watering your Strawberry begonia, add just enough water to saturate the soil without making it soggy. Then, wait for the top two inches of the soil to dry out before you water again. Your plant will consume more or less water depending on the season, so always test the soil between watering sessions.
Like many other plants with hairy leaves, the Strawberry begonia can be susceptible to fungal growth if its leaves get wet. Generally, the fungus will appear as light, powdery spots on the leaves, which will grow and overtake the plant if left unchecked. To prevent the proliferation of fungus, use a watering can with a narrow spout, which allows you to reach under the leaves to pour water directly onto the soil.
In its native environment, the Strawberry begonia plant can grow in many types of substrate including clay, moss, and even rock. It can be pretty forgiving as long as its other needs are met. In general, the plant needs an equal balance of moisture retention, nutrients, and drainage.
The Strawberry begonia enjoys a neutral, well-draining soil similar to what would be found in a temperate forest. In most cases, a general-use potting mix will suffice.
Expert Tip – You can give your soil a slight drainage boost by mixing in some orchid bark, pumice, or coconut coir. Make sure to pair your soil with a pot that has drainage holes.
Temperature and Humidity
Plants in the genus Saxifraga prefer cooler temperatures, and the Strawberry begonia is no exception. The recommended range is 50°F-75°F, but the plant can tolerate occasional dips below 50°F, though is not considered frost hardy. On the other hand, the plant is not likely to survive being exposed to temperatures above 75°F. Due to this, most people find it easier to raise this plant indoors, especially during the late spring and summer.
Expert Tip – If you are able to plant your Strawberry begonia in the ground, be sure to choose its positioning carefully. Avoid any area of the garden that receives direct sun during mid-day, to avoid scorching from strong rays and intense heat!
This plant will also thrive in your home’s natural ambient humidity. Air that’s too dry will dehydrate the plant and cause the leaves to become brittle. Meanwhile, too much humidity can increase the risk of fungal infection.
To strike the right balance and to give your Strawberry begonia great care, keep the humidity below 40% while keeping an eye out for dry leaves. If your plant begins to look dehydrated, try providing a tiny humidity boost with a pebble tray. Avoid humidifiers or misting, which can cause water to accumulate on the leaves and trigger a potential fungal infection.
During the spring and summer when flower buds emerge, your Strawberry begonia plant will benefit from regular treatments of fertilizer. Once a week during the growing season, use a balanced, liquid fertilizer that’s formulated for houseplants, making sure to dilute it to half-strength before feeding your plant.
You can also opt to use a slow-release pellet-based fertilizer, applying it once a month. Avoid fertilizing in the winter, which can cause an overabundance of salt in the soil as the plant becomes dormant for the season.
Strawberry begonia propagation is relatively easy thanks to the strawberry-red runners used by the plant to spread over the ground. As the runners grow, they’ll produce clusters of new growth called “plantlets.” When environmental conditions are favorable, the plantlets will eventually grow roots and establish themselves as freestanding plants.
By understanding how it spreads in its natural environment, you can mimic the same conditions to bring about new plants through Strawberry begonia propagation.
- Your Strawberry begonia will be ready to propagate when it has several runners bearing multiple healthy plantlets.
- Prepare a few small pots with some well-draining soil and place them next to the mother plant.
- Pick up a plantlet and gently push it into the top of the soil of one of the new pots, leaving it attached by the runner to the mother plant. If necessary, pin down the runners with a paperclip to keep the plantlet in place.
- After your plantlets are arranged in their new pots, keep the soil dampened with water until roots form, which should take 2-3 weeks.
- Once the propagated Strawberry begonia plantlets have rooted, you can cut the runner with a pair of sterile shears and raise the clone as an independent plant. A young Strawberry Begonia plant can also make a thoughtful gift for a friend.
To increase the chances of successful Strawberry begonia propagation, wait to propagate until the spring or summer. This is the plant’s active growth season, which is when it’s most likely to react to environmental changes. In all likelihood, your plant will regularly overwhelm its pot with dangling runners and plantlets, giving you many opportunities for propagating.
Brown leaves on a Strawberry begonia are a sign of underwatering or scorching from sunlight. To correct this issue, evaluate your plant’s light exposure and watering schedule. Keep your plant away from direct sunlight as much as possible, and never let the soil dry out completely between watering sessions.
Root Rot and Fungal Infections
When a Saxifraga stolonifera is overwatered, it may develop root rot or a fungal infection. If you’re using a well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes, then you may need to adjust your watering schedule.
To prevent root rot, always test the soil for dryness before adding more water to the pot and regularly discard water that has collected in the drainage tray. If any water splashes onto the leaves, promptly wipe them off. Any leaves that have become infected with fungus should also be pruned to prevent the issue from spreading to other leaves.
The Strawberry begonia is an attractant for mealybugs and aphids. Keeping this plant in ideal environmental conditions is the best way to prevent pest infestation. By keeping it well-watered and healthy, your plant will be better equipped to defend itself against pests and recover from possible infestations.
Signs of pests include poor growth and unexplained lesions on the stems or leaves. You may also be able to see the pests with your naked eye. If you notice signs of pests on your plant, prune off any affected leaves and remove visible insects, if possible.
To most effectively remove visible insects, use an alcohol soaked cotton ball. Then, apply a solution of organic neem oil once a week until your plant’s condition improves.
Expert Tip – Only spray your Strawberry begonia with neem oil at night as it can make its leaves more sensitive to the sun!
The Strawberry begonia isn’t known to be toxic to humans or animals. In fact, the leaves are sometimes used in traditional Japanese cuisine. The plant contains quercetin, which is a compound found in many bitter-tasting greens like kale and spinach.
I would however, still keep this plant on an elevated surface, away from curious mouths to avoid any possible issues!
The fast growing Strawberry begonia is a treat to have. Strawberry begonia care is uncomplicated and effortless. It is the perfect plant to gift anybody whether they be a master gardener or an amateur plant enthusiast! Enjoyable both as a houseplant or outdoors, the Strawberry begonia and its flowers put on an impressive show.