Begonia darthvaderiana is one of the rarest begonias in the horticulture hobby.
While this plant is expensive and hard to find, its care is relatively simple for experienced plant keepers. Simply follow our Begonia darthvaderiana care guide and your new plant will be flourishing in no time!
What is Begonia darthvaderiana?
Discovered in the rainforests of Borneo in 2014, this eye-catching beauty has dark brown or black leaves with green along the edges and red flowers. Its dark coloration is what inspired scientists to name it after the Sith Lord.
Also known as the Darth Vader Begonia, this species is not the only one named after a Star Wars character. A similar plant discovered in the same area was given the name Begonia amidalae after Queen Amidala. If you are a Star Wars buff, you may want to add both plants to your collection.
Typically kept inside due to its rarity, Begonia darthvaderiana flourishes in temperatures between 70-75 degrees and does not tolerate much in the way of fluctuations.
How to Care for a Darth Vader Begonia
While this plant could be kept outside, I would not recommend it. It is quite rare both in the hobby and in its natural habitat. The risk of temperature fluctuations or insect damage is really too great for such a fragile, hard-to-find plant.
Temperature and Climate
Native to the understory of the rainforest in Borneo, Begonia darthvaderiana thrives in high humidity and temperatures between 70-75 degrees. It’s not recommended to let temperatures around the plant drop below 65 or above 80, as this could cause plant stress which could lead to damage.
Be sure to keep your plant away from vents in your house as both hot and cold air will dry out your plant and could cause it stress.
If your house has very low humidity, you have a few options:
You can keep your plant inside a large terrarium. If you choose this method, you want to make sure that your plant will still get plenty of airflow to prevent fungus. A small clip-on fan is a great way to keep the air flowing.
A pebble tray is another great way to raise the humidity around your Begonia darthvaderiana. Choose a tray that is a few inches bigger in diameter than your pot. Place pebbles in the bottom of the tray. Then fill the tray with water to just below the surface of the pebbles. Set your plant pot on top of the pebbles and refill the tray as needed. As the water evaporates from the tray, it will provide your plant with a good amount of humidity.
While humidifiers can be rather expensive, they are a great option for keeping indoor plants happy. Place one in the vicinity of your Begonia darthvaderiana and it will be one happy houseplant.
Group plants together
If you have a large collection of houseplants, you can group them together in a spot in your house. Plants release water regularly through a process called transpiration. By grouping them together, you can create a more humid microenvironment in your house.
As understory forest inhabitants, Darth Vader begonias have evolved to utilize less light than some other flowering plants. The ideal lighting setup for Begonia darthvaderiana is a few hours of morning sunlight in a north or east-facing window, then the rest of the day in indirect light deeper in your house.
If you aren’t able to commit to moving your plant twice a day, you can also place it a few feet from a well-lit window or use a grow light.
You can purchase a grow light at most hardware stores and it is relatively inexpensive, so many plant hobbyists find this to be the simplest answer to providing light for their plants.
Keep an eye on your begonia as it grows. Symptoms of too much light are crispy brown leaves that appear burnt. Symptoms of not enough light are leggy growth toward the nearest light source and dull leaves.
Water is a make-or-break element in Begonia darthvaderiana care. Too much water can lead to root rot and plant death and not enough water can lead to a stressed plant that is more susceptible to pests and other diseases.
A good watering schedule is paramount to caring for any begonia species, particularly the Darth Vader begonia. I water my begonias roughly twice a week during the growing season and once a week during the winter.
Before watering, always check the soil of your plant. You want the soil to stay damp but not soggy or wet, so test the soil with your finger. If it is close to being dry, you are good to water. If it is still wet, you should wait another day or two.
If you find your plant is regularly wet when you go to water, it may be in too big of a pot, the wrong soil, or not getting enough sunlight. Check all three of these things and try to remedy the issue before your plant succumbs to root rot.
When watering your Darth Vader begonia, you can either bottom water by placing your plant’s pot into a bucket or bowl of water and allowing it to slowly absorb, or by top watering. If you decide to topwater, be sure to avoid getting water on your plant’s leaves as they are prone to developing fungus. If you do get water on the leaves, no worries, simply dab them dry with a paper towel.
Begonia darthvaderiana needs very well-draining soil to prevent root rot and fungus development. If you decide to mix your own soil, you can use a mixture of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and coarse sand. If you prefer to use a bagged mix, I use 1 part Fox Farms Ocean Forest to 2 parts perlite. Either one should work perfectly fine.
It is recommended you fertilize your Darth Vader begonia once a month in the spring and summer and every 2-3 months in the fall and winter. I recommend using a liquid fertilizer designed for house plants at half strength.
If you don’t think you will remember to use liquid fertilizer, or if you simply want something simpler, pelleted fertilizer is another great option. The pellets last 6-9 months, so simply measure them out in the spring and sprinkle them on the surface of your plant’s soil. With each watering, a bit of the fertilizer will wash down to the roots.
Unlike some other houseplants, begonias are not fans of being root-bound. To keep your plants happy and healthy, it is recommended you repot them either every year or every other year into a pot that is 1-2 sizes larger than their current pot.
It is common for the roots of Begonia darthvaderiana to reach out of the drainage hole of your pot, so if you notice this be sure to repot as soon as possible.
A drainage hole is a must when choosing a pot for your begonia and, if you don’t mind the aesthetic, terra cotta pots can provide extra aeration your plant will love.
Be sure to be gentle when repotting your plant. The roots of begonias tend to be fragile, so simply do your best to shake off old dirt and then place it into its new pot.
Propagating Begonia darthvaderiana is rather simple once you get the hang of it, but can be tricky for beginners. Due to the rarity of the plant, I would recommend practicing on similar begonia species before trying your hand with darthvaderiana.
There are two methods of propagation for this species. Leaf cuttings and plant division.
To propagate your plant via division, you will want to split your plant in half when repotting. This method is only successful on more mature plants and does pose a risk to both the mother plant and the new plant. Be sure to use sterilized shears when separating the plants and try not to do much damage to the root system.
To propagate via leaf cutting, you will want to choose a large healthy leaf that ideally has at least 3 inches of petiole. The petiole is the part of the leaf that extends from the leaf to the main stem of the plant. You will then take the leaf and place it on the same soil the mother plant is in. Cover the pot with plastic wrap and wait. Check the soil every week or so to be sure the soil is still damp, but in roughly a month you should have a baby plant with roots and a few leaves.
Pruning isn’t strictly necessary for Darth Vader begonias, simply remove any yellowing or leggy leaves and you should be good.
If however, you want your begonia to maintain a certain shape, you can prune it as needed. Try not to take too many leaves at one time and keep an eye on the health of your plant after pruning.
Common Pest (and Diseases)
The most common diseases that affect Begonia darthvaderiana are root rot and fungus.
Both are preventable with a good watering schedule and diligent observation, but even the best plant keepers can end up making mistakes. So, if you end up with one of these diseases, don’t be too hard on yourself.
To treat root rot, remove your plant from its pot, gently rinse the roots, and then use sterilized shears to remove any blackened dead roots. As long as there are some healthy white roots, your plant should be able to recover. Repot it in fresh soil and resume caring for it as described in this article.
Treating fungus is a bit harder. If you catch it early, you can remove the affected leaves and then remove the plant from the pot. Rinse the roots and place the plant in fresh soil. Make sure you pat the leaves dry after you are done, and be extra diligent when watering so that the leaves don’t get wet and the soil doesn’t get too saturated. Unfortunately, if you don’t catch it early and there is fungus on most of your plant it will be very hard to save. You can try the above method, but there is a good chance you will lose your plant.
Is Begonia darthvaderiana rare?
Begonia darthvaderiana is one of the rarest begonias. It was discovered in 2014, so it hasn’t been in the hobby long, but it is relatively easy to care for and propagate. This means it will likely become more readily available in the future as more growers are able to work with it.
Why do begonia leaves melt?
The most common cause of melting leaves in begonias is overwatering. While these plants do need quite a bit of water, they are more susceptible to root rot and melt than most other houseplants. If your plant’s leaves are suffering, you may need to remove it from its pot and check its roots, cut off any blackened dead roots and then repot it in new soil.
Is Begonia darthvaderiana hard to care for?
The Darth Vader Begonia is relatively easy to care for. Due to its price, I wouldn’t suggest it for someone new to the hobby, but if you have successfully kept a few other begonias, you can probably handle this rare beauty.