How to Cɑɾe for Rex Begonias

Among the various types of begonias, Begonia rex is one of the most beautiful and dramatic plants. Sometimes called painted-leaf begonias or fancy-leaf begonias, these plants are known for their variegated leaves. They frequently have large leaves (up to 6 inches long) that are brightly colored in various shades of green, red, silver, and even purple.

These plants are grown almost exclusively for their foliage—their blooms tend to be small and less showy and many growers pinch off blooms to maintain breathtaking leaf displays. If planting outdoors, do so in May after frosts, but plant anytime indoors. With a moderate growth rate, rex begonias may grow to less than 12 inches in a year.

WARNING

The rex begonia is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.1

Common Name Rex begonia
Botanical Name Begonia rex-cultorum
Family Begoniaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 12-18 in. tall, similar spread
Sun Exposure Part shade to full shade
Soil Type Porous
Soil pH 5.7-6.2 (more acidic)
Bloom Time Not grown for flowers
Flower Color Not grown for flowers
Hardiness Zones 10-12 (USDA)
Native Area Northeastern India, southern China, and Vietnam
Toxicity Toxic to animals

General Rex Begonia Care

  • Rex begonia (Begonia rex-cultorum) is a semi-tropical perennial plant normally grown as an outdoor container plant or houseplant. If planted in the garden (a relatively rare occurrence), rex begonia is grown as an annual in all but the warmest climates.
  • Because these are primarily foliage plants, careful cultivation is important to realize their full beauty. Use a porous potting mix in a relatively shallow pot, feed the plant regularly, and keep the plant moist, but avoid over-watering.
  • It can be challenging to find just the right conditions for rex begonia to display its best leaf color. Ideal daytime temperatures are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, nighttime temperatures around 60 degrees, and a constant humidity level around 50 percent.
  • Provide the plant with plenty of bright indirect sun, but keep it out of direct sunlight and rotate frequently to expose it to equal light on all sides.

Light

Rex begonias like bright, indirect light year-round. Because they are not aggressive bloomers, they can tolerate less light than other begonias and will thrive under fluorescent lights.

Soil

Airy, light, fast-draining soil is best for rex begonias.

Water

Rex begonias require regular water, but be careful not to overwater them. They thrive on humidity but be careful if misting leaves that they don’t stay too wet and encourage powdery mildew.2 Let the soil surface become dry to the touch before watering. But don’t let the soil become overly dry or the plant will begin to wither. The soil should be watered to feel slightly, but evenly moist.

Temperature and Humidity

Rex begonias do best in moderate temperatures (60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and moderately high humidity (around 50 percent). Growth will slow in freezing temperatures and some types of begonias go into a dormant period during the winter due to lack of light.3 As with other begonias, the rex and other foliage begonias prefer the same humid, gentle environment in which understory ferns thrive.

Fertilizer

Use liquid fertilizer weekly at quarter strength or at half strength every two weeks.

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