57 (March/April 1990, pages 59 - 60)
by Mary Weinberg
(dye-pet-al-ah) was first discovered in
Bombay, India in 1826 by H. H. Johnstone, and
first described by Graham in 1828. It was
introduced accidentally into the U.S. as B.
'Mrs. W.S. Kimball' in 1913. It is in section
Haagea and has 30 chromosomes.
B. dipetala is a
thick-stemmed begonia. Its stem is erect and
tapering, greyish brown in color. Leaves are
medium-sized, grass green, obliquely ovate,
semi-cordate, acute at the tip, and have a red
sinus with the red radiating down indented
veins and fading into green. Leaves are
minutely pustulate, having white spots at the
tip of pustules with a short white bristly
hair coming from the center of each pustule.
Both staminate and pistillate flowers have two
tepals, the female ovary has three subequal
wings, flowers are on semi-erect peduncles
that tend to droop as they age. Flowers are
white tinged with pink. B. dipetala
blooms February through September.
In early literature, B.
dipetala is described as being a variety
of B. malabarica. Now it has been
determined to be a separate species.
It is a good thing we
know that B. dipetala came from the
Bombay area, as India has three types of
climate including very large areas of arid
land where almost nothing grows. Bombay is on
the west coast of India, located close to the
Western Ghats range of mountains. This area
has a very heavy annual rainfall, over 80
inches, and in some areas up to 400 inches
annually. The rainy season is from July to
October. The soil in this area is described as
alluvial (soil consisting of sand and mud
caused by flowing waters). Temperatures in
this area average 68 degrees F. in the cold
season (Nov.- Feb.), to 86 degrees F. during
the hot season (March- June).
I have had B.
dipetala for several years, and recently
acquired another plant from a Robin member who
was moving. Both plants were kept outside in
the summer greenhouse from early June until
mid-September; they put on many leaves which
gave them a rounded appearance. When fall came
I brought them inside, putting my first and
smallest plant in the upstairs light garden
(cool conditions in the fall) and the larger
plant in the basement light garden (very warm
condition in the fall). The plant in the warm
basement atmosphere continued to thrive and
did not lose leaves, while the plant in the
upstairs light garden lost many of its lower
leaves. I think this demonstrates very well B.
dipetala's preference for warm situations.
B. dipetala is
very compact in its growth habits, growing to
a height of about 18 incher. It does not
branch readily; its main stem is rough in
texture and very thick at the base. It can be
used very successfully as a subject for
dipetala likes bright light, but like most
hairy begonias it must be protected from the
hot midday sun. Give filtered light during
this part of the day.
dipetala likes a warm environment. 65
degrees to 80 degrees is an ideal range, but
it can tolerate temperatures slightly higher
or lower than the ideal.
Humidity: 50% to
60% is good. It does not need terrarium care.
Use a very porous mix for good drainage. Pot
in clay pots; they are best for the
thick-stemmed begonias, as they allow for
evaporation of water through the sides of the
Water: Do not
water until the surface of the growing medium
feels dry to the touch. Water well, letting
water run out of the bottom of the pot. Do not
let pot stand in water for more than a few
This article first
appeared in the Chicago Begonian, December,
1984. It was reprinted with the author's