6 Causes of Begonia Crispy Leaves (And the Best Solutions)

If you are a gardening fan, you may have already discovered that Begonias (Semperflorens-Cultorum) have a reputation for being high maintenance. Therefore, if you’ve managed to grow these finicky plants to adulthood and you’re pleased with how they look, nothing is more horrifying than to discover the leaves are suddenly doing their best imitation of a potato chip.

Obviously, this is the last thing you want since these beautiful, alluring plants outshine pretty much of their competition with little effort.

With their attractive foliage, ranging significantly in shape and color, and their broad, heart-shaped leaves, there is little you could add to make them lovelier.

Begonia Crispy Leaves
Photo by Kor!An, CC BY-SA 4.0

This is particularly true with multicolored varieties, which often look like the color was painted in pink, silver, brown, purple, and crimson swirls.

Begonias thrive and produce spectacular flowers in shady conditions that are usually the kiss of death to other flowering plants.

Besides their outstandingly attractive appearance, this is reason enough to solve that crisping problem and maintain your Begonias as long as possible.

What Makes Begonia Leaves Crispy?

Dehydration is one of the top causes of crispy Begonia leaves. In most cases, Begonia leaves that are dry and crinkly should be watered immediately.

Low humidity may also be a culprit, as this plant thrives in warm, humid conditions but not in direct sunlight.

The latter is yet another reason you may discover crinkly, crispy leaves, sometimes even featuring brown spots. Don’t overlook disease either, as several can cause crisp leaves.

1. Lack of Water

If you’ve noticed crisping of your Begonia leaves, you should evaluate the surrounding soil to determine if it is dry. Dehydration quickly causes Begonia leaves to turn crinkly, and it is imperative to water them immediately if this is the problem.

As a general rule, you should water your Begonias two to four times a week, but this should definitely be adjusted depending on the climate and the amount of direct sunlight to which your Begonias are exposed.

In mild climates, they should thrive if you water them twice weekly, remembering to check the soil for dryness regularly. In hot, dry climates, you should water them four times a week, especially during the hottest times of the year.

Begonias should be kept from being watered daily, however, since this can easily lead to overwatering. The exception to this rule is where dragon wings and wax Begonias are concerned since, unlike other varieties, they need up to eight hours of full sun daily.

Because they are typically exposed to more sunlight, they naturally need more frequent watering, so this should not lead to crisping leaves for these varieties. Remembering their temperamental preferences is key with regard to watering all Begonia types.

2. Factoring in Humidity

Begonias grow well in warm, humid temperatures, and therefore, low humidity levels may cause crispy leaves.

This is particularly true for rex Begonias–the most temperamental of all varieties. If dry weather is underway or the weather in your home is humidity-free, this should be remedied. 

Misting, using a humidifier, or adding water to a tray of pebbles near your plants are all ways to increase humidity.

However, polka dot Begonia—Begonia maculata—misting is not recommended for a specific variety. This is because it can lead to a leaf condition called powdery mildew. Once underway, it can be challenging to eliminate.

3. A Word About Heat Stress

As previously mentioned, Begonias are high-maintenance plants and enjoy being temperamental. This sometimes makes it difficult for you to determine what they want.

For example, although they are hot weather plants, they demand very specific conditions regarding temperature: warm but not scorching; humid but no soggy soil; and sunlight, but not too much.

Begonias can become heat-stressed if this delicate balance is not achieved, leading to crispy, dry leaves. The best way to avoid heat stress is to offer your Begonias morning sun exposure, with dappled shade for the rest of the day.

In particularly hot climates, their exposure should be limited to two hours of full sun and shade for the remainder of the daylight hours.

4. Overdoing—or Underdoing—Fertilizer

Finally, crinkly Begonia leaves may occur if you misuse fertilizer. For example, if you overfertilize, salt can build up in the soil, ultimately harming the plant’s roots and leading to crisping leaves.

Similarly, if your Begonias are not fertilized well, the soil will become too sandy, and lack of nutrition is often the result.

The leaves will look crinkly and brown, regardless of whether they are over or underfertilized, so it’s essential to determine which one is the culprit if you believe fertilizer is the problem.

5. Could Disease be the Cause of Crispy Begonia Leaves?

Like all plants, Begonias are susceptible to certain diseases.

If the issues outlined above have all been crossed off your list and you do not believe they are the source of the problem, try to evaluate your Begonias for diseases or pests.

Thrips

Thrips are one of the most common pest problems for Begonias.

These tiny, slender insects have odd, asymmetrical mouthparts and fringed wings. They thrive by puncturing the leaves and consuming their contents.

Sticky traps, Neem oil, and peppermint oil are some great remedies for thrips.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a disease that causes crisping and browning of Begonia leaves. They may also curl and develop white patches.

Eventually, the leaves will die if this problem is not remedied.

Powdery mildew can be stubborn, but the best way to eliminate it is to get to the source, such as overwatering or soggy soil. Once the underlying cause is addressed, the problem eventually abates.

Anthracnose

Anthracnose is caused by fungi and is one of the most common Begonia diseases. In addition to the leaves becoming crispy, they may develop colored spots as well.

These can be white, brown, or gray.

The best remedy is to destroy and remove any infected plants and use a copper-based fungicide or organic solution to lightly spray the Begonias to prevent future infestations.

6. Be Careful With Rover

It’s imperative to understand that Begonias are poisonous to dogs. Kidney failure and other organ problems can rapidly occur if ingested—particularly the roots.

Therefore, only consider growing begonias if you do not own a dog or are sure that the dog can be kept from the plants. It is also wise to keep cats away from begonias. However, these plants are not typically fatal to cats; they may simply make them vomit.

However, it is always wise to err on the side of caution with all pets if you plan to grow Begonias.

Author: Stanislav Lem

Bio:

Stanislav Lem is the founder of Big Time Living, where he provides tips for gardening, traveling and lifestyle. Stan is an entrepreneur, journalist and traveler.
His mission is to provide information to help people become better planters, travel more and live a happy life. His blog has been featured on Huffpost, Yahoo and MSN.
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