The Strawberry Begonia

A name can reveal a lot about a “someone” or a “something”. But sometimes a name can playfully throw those who hear it quite far off-track. Take the name Strawberry Begonia.  Strawberry… no. Begonia… no. Beautiful plant with a prolific growing habit... yes, yes.

Looking at this fairly compact plant, one can see how the common name Strawberry Begonia was first applied to Saxifraga stolonifera. Like a Begonia, this plant has fleshy, succulent-type stems. It is as if one could tap a tiny hole into a stem, and a gush of cool water would result. And like a Strawberry plant, its rounded leaves and growing habit would understandably get some of us looking for a red berry or two. I have to say that the plant also reminds me of an African Violet in many ways, with stems and leaves that have miniscule hairs on them and growth that stays close to the soil… or a Geranium, based on some of what I have already mentioned.

Mistaken identity aside, Strawberry Begonia plants are wonderful for those who want their wealth to multiply. With a propensity for sending off runners, Strawberry Begonia holds the alternate name, Mother of Thousands—a plant lover’s dream… a gift giver’s dream. From one, many….

Occasionally, I need to say that a plant is difficult to tend. But there is no way for me to exaggerate the needs of the Strawberry Begonia, for it requires very little. 

Strawberry Begonia is a perennial that I would use as a houseplant. But I know it can also have a thriving outdoor life if planted in the appropriate Hardiness Zones. This attractive plant likes bright, indirect light. It grows best in loose soil. And it likes to be watered when the top layers of the soil it grows in dry out. 

One perhaps surprising note is that Strawberry Begonia would prefer to be cool rather than hot. Despite its somewhat tropical look, gardeners would do well to place it away from indoor heat sources. Beyond that, the only real caution with this plant is to avoid dousing its leaves, as their surface fuzz tends to hold droplets that might compromise the health of the leaves. And for the health of pets, do not allow parts of the plant to be nibbled.

Strawberry Begonia is grown for its greenery, not flowers. Still, growers may see diminutive white flowers on their plants, around once per year. But for me, the plant’s propensity for sending out runners prompts the most attention. I like flowers, but those charming runners… they are really all I need to see to fall in love with this plant. Mother of Thousands, indeed it is.

Now, on to the babies and simple tips on how to propagate Strawberry Begonia… When I see a runner that looks ready to “take off” on its own, I lift it onto some planting medium—either soil at the base of the mother plant or sandy, loose soil in a small dish on the side—and I take care to ensure that the “line” that ties baby to mother remains intact. With the same care that is given to the mother plant, this “baby” will begin to set roots. (I ensure it gets good indirect light.) Once it appears to have enough roots for stability, the newly rooted plant can be gently divided from the mother plant with a clean cut—ready to become a gift for a friend, a new plant for another room in the home, or a companion plant to the mother plant.

Strawberry Begonia” has called to mind different things for me. But I know for sure that it is a plant with a lot to offer. Be kind to the Mother of Thousands. The gifts she will give are multi-fold.

 

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