Strawberry begonias (Saxifraga stolonifera) are popular shade plants with red, green, and silver leaves. The plants produce pink flowers in the spring. Strawberry begonias grow wild in moist areas of China, Japan, and Korea. The plants are perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 8 and grow as annuals in cooler climates.
About Strawberry Begonias
Strawberry begonias have a distinctive leaf shape that looks like a strawberry. And since the leaves are so pretty, you can use them as an indoor plant or grow them outdoors in the summertime.
The leaves of strawberry begonias, Saxifraga stolonifera, are kidney-shaped and often have silver markings. They grow on long stolons (stems), which trail across the ground and make this plant ideal for hanging baskets. When grown in hanging baskets, the stems can grow up to 3 feet long.
In spring and summer, strawberry begonias produce small white flowers that rise above the foliage on 6-inch stems. But it’s the beautiful foliage that makes this plant a gardener favorite.
Strawberry begonia grows outdoors only in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, although it can be kept as a houseplant elsewhere. This succulent plant has thick, fleshy leaves that stay green all year round and produces pink flowers in spring and summer above its lush spread of foliage. The plant’s roots are small rhizomes, which are underground stems that produce new plants as they spread.
Types of Strawberry Begonia
The two types of strawberry begonias vary in appearance, but both produce edible berries. However, the taste may not be what you’d expect from a strawberry.
- Alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is a smaller species. The plants grow up to 8 inches tall and spread up to 20 inches wide and produce small, juicy fruits that taste like pineapples. The foliage resembles the leaves on an alpine strawberry plant with lobed edges and serrated leaf margins. The flowers are small and white and appear in late spring or early summer, similar to those of a strawberry plant. Alpine strawberries can be grown indoors or outdoors and do best in full sun to partial shade locations. These plants prefer rich soil that drains well and grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 8.
- Beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) is a creeping, mat-forming strawberry native to coastal areas in western North America. Like other strawberries, beach strawberries thrive in well-drained soil and need full sun to partial shade. They are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10. In addition to their pretty, edible fruits, beach strawberries have attractive leaves that resemble begonias with silvery markings on the undersides. These plants are low maintenance and don’t require much care beyond occasional watering and trimming.
Growing Strawberry Begonias
The leaves on a strawberry begonia are very sensitive to light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves and cause them to turn brown and die. The plant does well in partial sun or shade. If you place it in direct sunlight, make sure it is only for an hour or two in the morning. This will ensure that your plant gets enough sun without damaging it.
During the summer months when the plant is outside and getting natural light, water your strawberry begonia every day or every other day so that the soil is constantly moist. During the winter when you bring it inside where there is less natural light, you can water it once every three days as long as you keep it in a humid place like a bathroom or kitchen.
In early spring, apply liquid fertilizer every two weeks until late summer when growth slows down.
Caring for Strawberry Begonias
Light: Strawberry begonia thrives in bright, indirect light. It should not be left in direct sunlight, especially during the hottest days of summer. While this plant likes bright light, it can scorch if left in direct sunlight for too long.
Water: The Strawberry Begonia requires even moisture but does not like to sit in water for long periods of time or be constantly wet. Allow the top half-inch of soil to dry out before watering again. You can tell when a strawberry begonia needs water because the leaves will start to curl and feel slightly soft or limp.
Temperature: Strawberry begonia likes warm temperatures ranging between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and about 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Propagating Strawberry Begonias
The best way to propagate strawberry begonias is by division of the runners. This is best done in spring or summer when you can separate the plants from their mother plant, repot them into new containers, and place them in bright light but not direct sunlight where they will develop roots quickly and grow into new plants.
Here are some of the steps you can follow when cultivating Strawberry Begonias:
1) Cut off one of the runners from your strawberry begonia plant using sharp scissors. Ensure that you cut off a runner that has at least three leaves attached to it.
2) Mix equal parts of coarse sand and potting soil in a small container using a spoon. Place the mixture in a sunny location to allow the soil to warm up for several days before planting your runner from the strawberry begonia plant.
3) Dig a 4-inch hole in the center of your container using your fingers. Place the runner inside of this hole so its roots are facing downward and
Pest and Disease Control
There are two main ways of preventing pests and diseases:
- Grow resistant varieties of plants.
- Keep plants healthy.
To get started, it is important to know which pests and diseases affect your strawberry begonia plant.
Pests that affect strawberry begonias include aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites. Diseases include rot caused by Rhizoctonia fungi or Pythium fungi, white powdery mildew caused by Oidium sp. or Podosphaera sp., and leaf spot caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides.
The simplest insecticidal soap is nothing more than a 2% soap solution. To make this at home, you will need:
Liquid Dish Soap (Dawn or liquid castile soap are good choices) – make sure you’re not using detergent!
Using a 2% soap solution is a general recommendation for controlling most soft-bodied insects such as aphids, mealybugs, young scale crawlers, whiteflies, psyllids, and mites.
You can increase the concentration to 3-5% for more stubborn insects such as scale or harder-bodied insects like beetles or stink bugs. Don’t go higher than 5%, because you can cause damage to the leaves of your plants.
Another problem a gardener might encounter is powdery mildew. It is often mistaken for a mold or fungus growing on your strawberry begonia plant. Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus that attacks plants that are growing in poor conditions. The best way to combat powdery mildew is to provide your strawberry begonia with a little TLC so it can grow strong and healthy.
The first step in controlling powdery mildew on your strawberry begonia plant is to move it out of the full sun into partial shade. Bright sunlight can cause the foliage of your plant to become stressed and susceptible to infections such as powdery mildew. If you have your strawberry begonia planted on the ground, you may need to supplement it with water during hot weather when the rainfall isn’t adequate for its needs.