Begonia bipinnatifida (Fern Leaf Begonia)

Fern Leaf Begonia

Begonia bipinnatifida

Begonia bipinnatifida is a rare and beautifully unique species that’s native to New Guinea. With deep crimson stems and leaf undersides, along with dark – almost metallic – green leaf tops, the foliage on this plant is really striking. Named the “Fern Leaf Begonia” for it’s twice-pinnate growth pattern that creates a wonderful fern-like texture, it’s an exciting addition to a terrarium setup.

The relative rarity of this plant species is matched by its difficulty to grow. Begonia bipinnatifida is known to need high temperatures and humidity to thrive (which is what makes them such great terrarium plants) but they’re particularly sensitive to watering and can be inclined to drop leaves at a moments notice. Arguably a plant more suited for the experienced terrarium grower, but a fun challenge for those willing to try!

At a Glance

Where to Buy Begonia bipinnatifida

See the links below to purchase from reputable terrarium plant shops and marketplaces (may include affiliate links). 

Terrarium Plant Guide

Begonia bipinnatifida Care & Growth

Lighting

For a terrarium plant, Begonia bipinnatifida likes particularly bright, indirect light. Keep out of direct sunlight to protect the foliage, but try to get as much filtered/indirect light as possible to see this plant thrive. Grow lights can be helpful here to maximise the light without risk of hurting the plant.

Watering

Watering the fern leaf begonia effectively can be challenging to get right, as it needs hot and humid terrarium conditions but it doesn’t like to left in consistently moist substrate, and nor does it like water on its leaves.

Try pairing this plant species with other more drought tolerant plants, so you keep the amount of moisture in the system to a minimum, and take care to only water the substrate directly (ideally with warm water).

Substrate

Seeing as Begonia bipinnatifida doesn’t like water constantly around its roots, a substrate with good aeration and drainage is super important. Supplementing with bark, perlite or vermiculite can help.

Temperature & Humidity

A high humidity is key in keeping this plant happy and healthy, and it’s also relatively sensitive to cold too. So, keep your terrarium above 12°C and 70% humidity for the best chance of success.

Growth

Begonia bipinnatifida has a shrub-like growth pattern, and tends to remain quite compact. It’ll occasionally flower with super tiny, bright pink flowers but it’s mostly prized for its foliage.

Propagation

For such a challenging plant to grow, propagating Begonia bipinnatifida is surprisingly straightforward. It should readily root from stem cuttings that you can plant directly back into the substrate.

Varieties & Similar Plants

There are an enormous number of varieties of Begonia on the market, but honestly none quite like this one.  It’s considered a rare plant for a reason, and if you’re looking for a fern-like Begonia then B. bipinnatifida is the only one for you.

Common Problems

Begonia bipinnatifida is a relatively fragile plant, both in constitution and in resilience. It does not like to be moved (or even generally handled) and it’s very sensitive to watering and environmental conditions. Overwatering is definitely the fastest way to kill this plant, so take care to keep the leaves dry at all times and keep the roots in a well drained mix.