Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia)

Begonia 'Erythrophylla' (Beefsteak Begonia) has shiny leaves, green on one side and red underneath.

Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia) has shiny leaves, green on one side and red underneath.

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.

Begonia 'Erythrophylla' (Beefsteak Begonia)

Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia)

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.

Begonia 'Erythrophylla' (Beefsteak Begonia) Flower

Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia) Flower

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.

Begonia 'Erythrophylla' (Beefsteak Begonia)-starburst pattern formed by veins in the leaf

Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia)-starburst pattern formed by veins in the leaf

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.

Begonia 'Erythrophylla' (Beefsteak Begonia) stems

Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia) stems

Beefsteak Begonia is an interesting houseplant that I am happy to be growing again.

18 thoughts on “Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia)

  1. Cathy

    The leaves look so shiny and healthy. Do you give them any special attention? I don’t have a begonia at the moment, but occasionally buy one for the patio in the summer. I managed to keep one indoors through the winter, but it didn’t last the following summer. I love your photos Susie – can really see the details well. 😀

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      This little plant gets a drink of water sometimes, but no care beyond that. (I should remember to dust it!) Thanks for your comment about the photos Cathy–this turned out to be one of those plants that is difficult to photograph, especially because it is indoors and the lighting was funky. Enjoy your day!

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks Stepheny! I glad you enjoyed this post. I am too much a trial-and-error photographer, I’m afraid. You should see all the photos left on the cutting room floor! susie

  2. paulinemulligan

    Lovely little plant, and a lovely story behind it. Plants given by friends always mean so much more. Unfortunately I am nowhere near as successful with my indoor plants as the ones outside, they have to be really tough to survive with me! The colour and shape of the leaf of your begonia is beautiful.

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Pauline, you’re so right–it’s wonderful to associate plants with special people. I don’t have many plants indoors either. This one is very forgiving of my inattention.

  3. pbmgarden Post author

    I agree P&B, ‘pond lily’ is a more descriptive and more pleasant name. Don’t think I ever would have looked at this plant and thought ‘beef steak.”

  4. nasrin

    I enjoyed very much and appreciate for sharing your begonia’s photo . fortunately I have a pot of this plant which a frient had brought it to me , but I didn’t know the name of that . I took some leaves and also a part of upper stem in housplant’s dirt , they easily rooted and now I’m going to pot them . they are very healthy and happy . I have placed them in front of a southern window and watered them once a week . I’m glad to know my babies name …. thank you Susie.

  5. Cary

    An elderly couple gave me a cutting (actually 3 before I got one to take). Now I have a beautiful plant that appears to be climbing out of its pot. How can I support it as the weight of the leaves on the one tuber is heavy and I’m afraid it will break. The husband is in frail health and I treasure their gift to me. Thanks for your help.

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      These are nice plants, aren’t they? I don’t know the best approach to support the plant. You could try dividing the plant. If it does break, just pot the broken section (can’t remember if I used dirt or water to get mine to root). Wish I could be more help but I do hope you continue to enjoy your begonia.

      1. Cary

        I think dividing or at least planting cuttings will assure that this plant lives on. Someone suggested rotating the plant every time it’s watered. It’s been reaching for the light. That should help! Thanks so much.

      2. pbmgarden Post author

        Mine is very one-sided also because it is too heavy to rotate easily. The person who gave me a cutting said she puts hers outdoors throughout the summer, but I’ve just left it in a sunny spot near the door. Good luck.

  6. Angie

    Is there something to do to get it to bloom. I have one I received that was my grandmother’s after she passed. It is healthy but has never bloomed. It’s been about 3-4 years.

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Mine just finished blooming but had only one stem. My sister’s does much better. It is in a very bright room, lots of indirect light and she probably waters and feeds it more consistently. I was told by the woman who shared it that it doesn’t need a lot of water. She keeps hers outside in summer but I haven’t. Good luck.


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