The Painted-Leaf begonia aka Rex begonia [reks be-GON-yuh] with their large, colorful leaves help make them perfect indoor plants for the window garden.
People often refer to ‘REX” it as the “showboat” and ‘King Begonia” due to the multi-colored leaves.
While rex begonias, are widely available, there are hundreds of hybrids available of the (Begonia Rex-cultorum group) since the initial discovery of the species in northern Assam, India in 1858.
These rhizomatous begonia plants are typically grown as houseplants or summer outdoor plants.
They are considered a difficult tropical plant to cultivate but is worth the effort, thanks to the showy leaves.
Rex Begonia Care
Size and Growth
Painted-Leaf begonia may reach a height of 10″ to 26″ inches. It produces oval or heart-shaped fancy leaved begonias with interesting coloration.
The leaves are large and multicolored. The outer edges of the leaf may appear dark green while the inner parts are a mixture of pink and white.
Shades of red, purple, bronze, black, and silver may also appear.
Begonia leaves are often six to 12 inches across. While it’s an evergreen plant, it may shed several leaves during the colder months.
Flowering and Fragrance
Although the begonia Rex is a flowering plant it is not grown for its flowers as the leaves are much more attractive.
In the middle of summer, it may produce a cluster of small pink flowers.
While the flowers are lovely, they take nutrients from the plant, weakening the leaves.
Removing the blooms when they appear helps keep the leaves healthy.
Light and Temperature
In USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, Rex begonias can grow outdoors year-round, enjoying the heat of the summer.
In cooler areas, bring them outdoors in the summer and placed indoors in the fall.
Some people find that the painted-leaf begonia is difficult to care for, struggling to find the right balance of light and temperature.
The ideal summer temperature is 74° degrees Fahrenheit while the perfect winter months temperature is 64° degrees Fahrenheit.
The plant needs plenty of bright indirect light but not direct sun. The bright UV rays may scorch the leaves.
Begonia Rex also likes high humidity. Try to maintain a relative humidity reading above 50%.
Light misting may be needed as most homes have humidity levels between 30% and 40%.
Learn more on growing Rex Begonia under artificial lights
Watering and Feeding
Water frequently throughout the summer, ensuring that the soil never dries out completely. In the winter, water the plant sparingly.
The begonia Rex doesn’t need plant food in the winter but benefits from diluted water fertilizer during the active growing season. Feed once per month during warm seasons.
Soil and Transplanting
Grow Rex using a rich potting mix with fast drainage. It should remain moist but not soggy.
Transplanting may be needed if Rex begonias outgrows its container.
Otherwise, leave it in place and freshen the topsoil.
Repot in the first quarter of the year in shallow pots, which is also the best time to propagate.
Large, shallow pots allow the rhizome to spread.
Maintenance and Grooming
Remove withered or dead leaves to keep plants looking good and encourage new growth.
As mentioned, the blooms may take nutrients from the plant. When the flowers appear, remove them.
You may also like our article on –> Annual Shade Plants
How To Propagate Rex Begonia
Propagation is possible from:
- Stem cuttings
- Leaf cuttings
- Sections of rhizome
At the start of spring, cut off the entire leaf, a rhizome, or a portion of stalk containing one or two leaves.
- Use a combination of perlite and peat moss for the potting soil.
- Ensure that the soil is evenly moist.
- Plant the stem or leaf cutting or rhizomes in the soil.
- Cover the containers with plastic and cut holes for ventilation.
- Keep the plant at a temperature, between 75° – 78° degrees Fahrenheit.
- The new plants should start to grow roots in about three to four weeks.
- After the roots appear firm and the plant grows two or three new leaves, transplant the young plants into their own containers.
Painted Leaf Begonia Rex Pests or Diseases
There is a wide range of disease problems to pay attention to, including:
- Root Rot
- Dried leaves
- Stunted growth
- Powdery Mildew
- Gray Mold
Root rot is often caused by too much water – overwatering. Trim rotted parts away and reduce water frequency.
Dried leaf tips indicate underwatering. Keep the soil moist but not soggy and remove the withered leaves.
Dry brittle leaves indicate low humidity and dry air. Provide more humidity and good air circulation.
Stunted growth typically occurs due to a lack of nutrient in the soil.
The begonia plant craves a nutrient-rich potting like a peat moss based African violet mix.
Use liquid plant food once per week and then transplant the plant in the spring.
Powdery mildew appears as white deposits on the stems and leaves.
Slightly reduce watering and move the plant to a brighter location after trimming away the infected areas.
Gray or brown patches indicate gray mold. Brighter light and less humidity may solve the issue. For severe mold, use a fungicide.
Uses For Rex Begonia
In warm regions, the short painted leaf begonia rex looks great under larger plants and make beautiful hanging baskets in the shade.
In cooler areas, the painted begonia is often grown indoors as a house plant in shallow pots under fluorescent lights, making it easier to enjoy and move this variety of houseplant to different areas in the home throughout the year.