Arguably the finest and showiest of all indoor plants, for those who master the art of growing Begonia rex!
It is not the easiest of plants to grow long term, but the information below will get you well on the way to those spectacular leaf markings and colours.
There are many different varieties of Begonia rex, and most are sold without specific labels – depending upon the foliage colours to do the selling. There is often a good display of the different foliage types in most good florists or garden centres. DO NOT buy one that has been displayed outdoors or from open air markets.
The Plant: Begonia Rex is usually grown for its elegant, showy leaves, which are large and have a variety of colour combinations. The red leaf stems are brittle, and the leaves damage easily if knocked accidentally, or caught by a strong draught/flapping curtain.
Its needs: Begonia Rex enjoys a position with good light, but not in direct sun or deep shade. Rich but open potting mix, kept moist during growing season.
Care: Regular dilute feed with a foliage specific-fertiliser. Humidity is essential to prevent leaves from drying out, but avoid watering leaves, which could promote mildew growth or various disfiguring leaf spots.
Begonia Rex 'Fireworks' © David Hughes 2008
Powdery mildew is sometimes a problem with the foliage. This is best prevented by keeping in a well ventilated – but not draughty – position.
Leaf spots – sometimes large – are normally as a result of water splashes, or direct bright sunshine.
Foliage collapse is basically a watering problem – or feeding when the compost is dry. Over-watering usually results in lack-lustre foliage followed by total collapse of the plant.
The stems – especially lower down – can be subject to grey mould. Avoid drenching the base of the plant, and regularly remove faded leave.
Mixed seed can be bought and normally provides a wide range of colours, but difficult to keep young plants unless grown under glass.
The best way to obtain a clone of a favourite plant is either by leaf cuttings, or simply laying a leaf on a bed of compost in a heated propagator, and cutting through several leaf veins. This will induce small plantlets which can then be grown on.
In spring, take leaf cuttings, and/or split rhizomes, (the tough fibrous roots). Powdery mildew may require treatment.
Good for: Growing in shallow containers, excellent colourful foliage plants. If flowers are not ‘your thing’, this will brighten a bleak corner. Subtle beauty.