Would you like to see a really cool plant? Because I would very much like to show you the coolest-looking plant I found. It’s definitely the weirdest plant I’ve bought since the super popular pickle plant succulent that I wrote about a while ago.
This one is called Begonia ‘Ferox’ and I predict it will be the next it plant to populate our social media feeds. Just remember you’ve seen it here first. We’re trend-spotters like that.
Begonia ‘Ferox’ is also called Troll Begonia
Begonia ‘Ferox’ is the new kid on the block in the world of begonia collectors. The Latin name of this cultivar, Ferox, translates to fierce-looking or wild-looking. And it is a real showstopper.
The surface of the leaves is covered in protuberances that remind me of chocolate chip sprinkles. These bumps are called bullae and, in spite of their fierce appearance, are actually quite smooth to the touch.
The underside of the leaves looks just as funky, with the inverted bullae looking like tiny craters covered in red veins.
It’s the untamed growth pattern combined with the rough leathery appearance that inspired commercial plant growers to nickname this begonia “the troll plant.” Or perhaps it’s just good marketing sense.
Is the Troll Begonia a rare plant?
To my understanding, it used to be considered a rare plant a few years ago, when production hadn’t ramped up yet.
As far as houseplants go, Begonia ‘Ferox’ is a relative newcomer to the scene, having been discovered in the wild in China in 2011. In terms of taking a plant from its natural habitat and transforming it into a commercially cultivated houseplant, this begonia is still in its infancy.
Where can I buy Begonia ‘Ferox’ Troll?
Due to its growing popularity, Begonia ‘Ferox’ is becoming easier to find. If you can’t find it in your local gardening center, look for it online. As I’m writing this, I found Troll Begonias for sale from Logee’s, Steve’s Leaves and Mountain Crest Gardens. All of these online stores are reputable plant sellers.
I first spotted this begonia in a plant shop, but I hesitated too long (I may have put myself on a houseplant buy ban.). So by the time I decided I really wanted it and went back to get it – a mere one week later – it was sold out.
So I ordered the Troll Begonia online. It shipped really well and other than a few snapped leaves and loose soil, there was no significant damage to the plant. I placed it in a tray full of water and let it soak up some for a few hours. As you can see, it perked up beautifully.
What kind of begonia is Begonia ‘Ferox’?
Begonia ‘Ferox’ is a rhizomatous begonia. Which is good news, because rhizomatous begonias are really easy to propagate by taking cuttings.
I also found that this type of begonia is more resilient to fluctuations in watering due to how much moisture the rhizome holds. That doesn’t mean you should neglect it. But if you happen to forget to water it for a few extra days, it won’t die. It might, however, look a little bit faint and droopy (very similar to the way a thirsty fittonia behaves.)
What makes the Troll Begonia special?
It’s definitely the bumpy leaves that contribute to this begonia’s very distinguished look. These black bumps end in a pointy tip called a trichome. In addition to the bullae, another weird point in its favor is the apparent unruliness of the leaves. The foliage grows in a spread-out, asymmetrical pattern, kind of like the weird hairdo of a mythical troll.
The leaves of a mature Troll Begonia are between 4 and 9 inches long (roughly around 10 to 23 cm), depending on the age of the leaf.
As the leaves mature, the bullae become more distinguishable. So newer leaves that are growing from a leaf propagation tend to be a bit more smooth.
On the other hand, young leaves that develop straight from the rhizome will grow burgundy-red. On these leaves, the bumps, while already visible, will not be distinguishable from each other until the leaf reaches its mature size.
Another detail that I particularly like about this begonia is the red petiole which makes the plant look very elegant, in spite of its unruly hairdo. Speaking of general appearance, this begonia can reach 12 to 18 inches in height (that’s about 30 to 45 cm).
How should I care for my Begonia ‘Ferox’ Troll?
Ok, let’s get down to the fundamentals of caring for this type of begonia. In the wild, Begonia ‘Ferox’ is a rainforest undergrowth plant in the Guangxi region in the far south of China. This information gives us two clues.
- Troll Begonia loves humidity and
- This begonia doesn’t like bright, direct sunlight.
So in order to keep our Troll Begonia happy, we should do our best to meet these two main demands.
Begonias need humidity
There’s no way around it. Begonias thrive in an environment with high humidity.
In our homes, humidity below 30 percent is considered low. A comfortable humidity level indoors is usually around 30 and 50 percent, depending on the temperature. But aiming for 60 percent humidity or more for begonias is what will keep them happy.
That’s not always easy indoors, especially in the winter months when we’re very likely to turn up the heat in the house.
Here are a few tips that will keep the humidity appropriately high for begonias:
- Place your begonia in the bathroom or the kitchen, where the steam resulting from showering / cooking usually keeps the humidity high;
- Place your begonia in an indoor greenhouse;
- Group the begonia with other houseplants;
- Set your begonia on a tray of pebbles and water.
- Keep the begonia away from sources of dry heat, such as floor vents, radiators, heaters, stoves and fireplaces.
The most common sign that your begonia is suffering from low humidity is when it starts showing signs of crispy, brown leaves. Yes, even the sturdy glossy leaves of Begonia ‘Ferox’ will start withering around the edges if you place the plant near sources of warm air. You can tidy them up (Tracey shows us how in this article.) But for the long-term health of your houseplants, try to fix the issue of low humidity.
What kind of soil does Begonia ‘Ferox’ like?
In its natural habitat, this begonia grows on limestone and calcareous mountain slopes. It gets its nutrients from the natural forest mulch of decomposing leaves and other organic matter. So replicating these conditions will help this begonia thrive.
With that in mind, we should use loose potting soil that’s rich in organic matter and slightly alkaline. If you can find a begonia potting mix that has both porosity and moisture retention properties, all your begonias will be happy campers.
If not, add some perlite or coco coir to your houseplant potting soil. Try to avoid adding “ingredients” that will make the soil more acidic, such as shredded bark, for example.
How much light does the Troll Begonia need?
Looking at the plant’s natural habitat again, we’ll have to remember that begonias don’t do well in direct sunlight. So placing them in a window that gets a lot of direct sun (an east-facing or south-facing window) will only serve to bake them. Moving them one or two feet away from the window should provide just enough light.
Keep in mind that rhizomatous begonias are strong and fast growers, and they do need light to keep growing well. So if you’re looking for a plant that doesn’t need too much light, the Begonia ‘Ferox’ is not the best choice.
How often should I water Begonia ‘Ferox’?
As much as possible, keep the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged. I found the best way to water begonias, especially the rhizomatous varieties, is to water the substrate from below. I place the nursery pot (the one with the drainage holes), in a tray of water and let it soak up as much moisture as it needs.
This method works really well because it means there’s no water pooling around the rhizomes too often. All the moisture comes from below.
And secondly, watering from below lowers the likelihood of me getting water all over the leaves. My water is so hard, it would definitely leave marks on the leaves over time.
Water marks are easy to wipe off on regular houseplants. But the bumpy spikes on the Troll Begonia make this chore a real headache.
How can I clean a Begonia ‘Ferox’?
Speaking of keeping the troll plant nice and shiny …
The easiest way to clean the troll plant, and spiky plants in general, is by using a soft brush. I’ve sacrificed a slanted watercolor brush to really get the job done. You can also use a makeup brush. It only takes a few minutes a month to keep this begonia dust-free.
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