Botanical Name: Begonia rex hybrids
A long-time favorite of house plant lovers, Rex Begonia is grown for its colorful, textured foliage.
These fancy- leafed plants (such as the spiral-leaf, pictured below) produce dramatic, large leaves streaked, veined, or splashed in shades of silver, pink, purple, cream, green, or burgundy.
Tiny, insignificant flowers may grow on tall stems. Pinch them off as soon as you see them to keep the foliage looking its best.
This begonia is rhizomatous, growing from a thick, fleshy rhizome that grows just below the surface of the soil. Repot in spring when the rhizome outgrows the pot. Because rhizomes have shallow roots, a shallow pot will do.
Rex begonia can be difficult to grow because of its need for high humidity. Dry, brittle leaves are a symptom of dry air. A terrarium, Wardian case or glass cloche may be just the solution for your humidity-loving begonias.
These fancy-leafed begonias sometimes drop their leaves and become dormant in the winter. If this happens, cut off the withered leaves, stop watering, and enclose the plant in a plastic bag. Keep it at 60°F/16°C until new growth appears, in approximately 6-10 weeks. Then continue with normal care.
Origin: Southeast Asia and India
Height: Up to 1 ft (30 cm)
Light: Bright light, but no direct sun which can scorch the leaves. Thrives under fluorescent light.
Water: Keep soil evenly moist at all times, but be careful not to overwater because the rhizomes are prone to rot in soggy soil. Avoid getting water on leaves because they may spot.
Humidity: High humidity. If the relative humidity drops below 50%, stand the pot on a tray of wet pebbles, or use a room humidifier. Do not mist because this can cause spots to form on leaves.
Temperature: Average room temperatures 65-75°F/18-24°C
Soil: African violet potting mix works well.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Stop fertilizing dormant plants.
Propagation: Take leaf cuttings in spring or summer. Cut a healthy, medium-sized leaf with 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) stem. Poke stem at a 45° angle in moist half-and-half mixture of peat moss and perlite. Enclose the whole thing in a plastic bag to hold in humidity. Keep the cutting in a warm spot (75-80°F/24-27°C) in indirect light. Leaf cuttings usually root in about 3-4 weeks, but it takes about another 4 weeks for plantlets to form. Pot up each plantlet when it has 3 leaves, and cut away the parent leaf.
Bright light or fluorescent light will help these fancy-leafed plants keep their color and variegation.
There are 100s of hybrids to choose from. Some are upright, but most are low-growing.
Some of the many popular named varieties include: 'Merry Christmas' in red and green...'Fireworks' is stunning with silvery green, black and purple markings... 'Escargot' (shown at left) is popular for its snail-like spiral-shaped leaves.
Dwarf types are ideal for dish gardens and terrariums.
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