A Begonia Rex (Begonia rex-cultorum) is also called a Painted-Leaf Begonia, Fancy-Leaf Begonia, or King Begonia. This is a colorful, perennial, flowering plant that originally came from India. Today there are hundreds of hybrid varieties of the Begonia rex sold in stores throughout the world.
Begonia Rex Description
Most begonia plants are grown for their lovely flowers, though some have pretty leaves as well. A Begonia Rex, is grown for its large, colorful, patterned leaves rather than its small, pink and white “winter” flowers. The leaves come in a variety of shapes such as oval, spear-shaped, heart-shaped, and star-shaped. The leathery, ruffled, or puckered leaves can be as small as ½ inch or as large as 10”-12;” though the average leaf size is usually 4”- 6” wide and 5”-7” long. It’s the dramatic color combinations on the leaves that sets ta Begonia Rex apart from the usual green- leafed houseplant. Splashes, swirls, spots, and stripes of red, pink, silver, purple, bronze, green, yellow, orange decorate the leaves.
Begonia Rex Varieties
Some on my favorite Begonia Rex varieties are:
Begonia Metallica, is a bushy, upright begonia with metallic, dark green leaves and red veins.
Begonia Iron Cross, sometimes called a Begonia masoniana, has a distinctive dark burgundy, almost brown design in the center of it leaves that resembles a German iron cross.
Begonia “Tiger Paws” or “Eye Lash begonia” has white, eye lash looking hairs on the edge of chocolate colored leaves with bright green paw prints on them.
Begonia Cleopatra or Begonia Maphil has medium-sized, smooth, glistening, bronze leaves.
Quick Care Tips
A Begonia Rex is a little difficult to care for especially if you are new to houseplants, but don’t give up. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
High humidity is a must to keep the beautiful leaves looking good.
A Begonia Rex needs bright indirect light most of the year and morning sun in the winter.
The leaves look faded when the plant is root-bound in a small or is sitting in too much direct sun.
A Begonia Rex likes to be warm at all times.
A Begonia Rex plant is a slightly poisonous plant and toxic to small children, cats, dogs, and other pets. Read more about common houseplants that can be dangerous in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants
How much light does a Begonia rex need: A Begonia rex plant needs s great deal of bright, indirect light, but no direct sun during the spring, summer, and fall. During the winter, when the light is weaker, it likes a few hours of direct morning sun. If the stems of a Begonia rex become long and straggly, it means the plant is stretching for more light. The edges of the leaves turn brown when the plant is getting too much light. Since a Begonia rex does not bloom very often, it grows better in less light than some other begonia plants and can even grow under fluorescent lights.
How to water a Begonia rex: A begonia rex plant likes to be evenly watered, but hates to be over-watered. Wait to water until the top 30%-50% of the soil has dried out before you water. During the winter, when the plant is dormant, water even less. keep in mind the the soil at the bottom of the pot is always wetter than the soil at the top of the pot.
How to fertilize a Begonia rex: Start to feed a Begonia rex in the spring as soon as new growth appears. Fertilize every two weeks with a balanced plant food diluted to ¼ the recommended strength. Feed less in the fall and and not at all in the winter.
Best temperature for a Begonia rex: This is a plant that likes to be warm all of the time so be careful to avoid cold drafts in the winter. A Begonia rex can be damaged if the temperature goes below 60°F (15.6°C). The leaves can also be damaged by large temperature swings.
How much humidity does a Begonia rex plant need: This plant requires high humidity to grow well but avoid providing it be misting the plant. Misting can cause powdery mildew on the beautiful Begonia plant leaves. You can increase the humidity be grouping your plants together to create a mini greenhouse effect or by placing your Begonia rex on a wet, pebble tray. Be sure the plant is sitting on the pebbles and not in the water.
Does a Begonia rex flower: The small, pink or white flowers of a Begonia rex usually appear during the winter; they are quire inconsequential in comparison to the gorgeous plant leaves.
Begonia rex plant pests: Mealybugs can infest the area of a Begonia rex plant where the leaf joins the stem or the stem joins the rhizome. Use Neem Oil or a diluted insecticidal soap to treat the problem. Read more on how to identify and treat mealy bugs in the Glossary of the website.
Begonia rex plant diseases: Because Begonia Rex plants like high humidity, they are especially prone to bacterial and fungal infections such as Botrytis Leaf Blight. Bottom leaves and stem sections are affected first with blackish, soggy, leasions. Treat the problem with a systemic fungicide; provide good air circulation around the plant; remove dead leaves immediately. When the soil is kept too wet, root rot develops and will kill the plant if not quickly taken care of.
Best soil for a Begonia rex plant: Use a loose, well-aerated soil that drains quickly for a Begonia rex. Using this type of soil prevents over- watering and root rot.
What size pot for a Begonia rex: A Begonia rex plant likes a large, relatively shallow pot so the rhizomes ( a modified, under the soil plant stem that sends out roots and shoots from the nodes on the rhizome) can easily spread out.
How to prune a Begonia rex: Aggressively prune a leggy Begonia rex to keep it bushy and full. Leggy stems are usually the result of insufficient light. Rotating a potted Begonia rex, whenever you water the plant, keeps the foliage growing in a balanced manner.
How to propagate a Begonia rex: A Begonia rex is propagated using stem and leaf cuttings. You can read more about these propagation techniques in the Glossary of the website.
Does a Begonia rex need a resting period: A Begonia rex plant becomes dormant and rests in the winter months. During this time, reduce the amount of water you give the plant do not fertilize.
Poisonous Plant Info
Is a Begonia rex a poisonous plant: A Begonia rex is a mildly poisonous plant with a #1 toxicity level. These plants are especially toxic to cats and dogs.
The vibrant colored leaves of a Begonia Rex start to fade and look bleached when it is getting too much direct sun. Do not put a Begonia where it gets a southern or even a western exposure. Move your Begonia Rex to an eastern exposure and the new leaves will be fine. There is nothing you can do for the old damaged leaves.
The best way to get powdery mildew off of your Begonia Rex is to remove the diseased leaves on the plant and any dead leaves in the soil. Spray the entire plant with a Fungicide, keep the leaves free of moisture, and provide good air circulation around the plant.
You can easily propagate a Begonia Rex from stem and leaf cuttings and also by dividing the rhizomes.