I keep very few houseplants these days but Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia) is one I enjoy. I have come across it only twice in my life. The first time was years ago while visiting a college roommate. Her mother kindly shared a cutting with me after I repeatedly admired her unusual plant that sat on the kitchen windowsill.
For five or six years my Beefsteak Begonia thrived but eventually I lost it, perhaps due to cold exposure when ice storms knocked out the electricity or maybe from overwatering. I was sad to lose it, but fast forward several decades later and again I am growing B.’Erythrophylla.’
A woman hosting a garden club event I attended last January had an enormous and beautifully healthy Beefsteak Begonia in her living room. She graciously offered to share a piece of her begonia and before long she handed me some cuttings. Though not as full as hers was, eleven months later my plant is growing well. It is an easy-care, low maintenance plant that requires little water.
This plant sits near the front door where it basks in early morning light and bright indirect light the rest of the day. The hostess who took time out to find me several cuttings said she moves hers outdoors during the summer where it apparently grows bigger and thrives. Summer came and went this year and I did not remember to move mine to the porch.
It is now starting to bloom, something my first Beefsteak Begonia never did. Some types have white flowers and I also have seen pictures of pink ones. These blossoms are white, but are delicately tinged with pink. A December-January flowering period is normal as is late spring/summer and the flowers should persist for a long time.
The leaves of this particular Beefsteak Begonia are much larger than those of my original one, but the striking leaf shape and colors are the same. Leaves are shiny, large and round with green tops, but red-colored underneath. I imagine it was that red that first attracted me. The common name, beefsteak, supposedly comes from the red, round leaves. The plant is also sometimes known by a prettier name, pond lily begonia.
Leaves on this houseplant are translucent so sun shining through them beautifully highlights the starburst pattern of the veins.
B. ‘Erythrophylla’ is a rhizomatous begonia, an early hybrid dating back to the 1840s. It was produced by crossing B. hydrocolylifolia X B. maculata.
I have seen these referred to as rare plants as they are difficult to find in nurseries, but many families seemed to have passed them down for generations. They are easy to propagate. The succulent stems send out adventitious roots. Stems are quite easy to root in water.
Beefsteak Begonia is an interesting houseplant that I am happy to be growing again.