The Painted-Leaf begonia, aka Rex begonia, with their large, colorful leaves, help make them perfect indoor plants for the window garden.
People often refer to “REX” as the “showboat” and “King Begonia” due to the multi-colored and bold 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 northeastern India in 1858. It has also been found in Vietnam and Southern China.
This plant is native to tropical regions of northeastern India, southern China, and Vietnam.
These rhizomatous begonia plants are typically grown as houseplants or summer outdoor plants.
They are considered a difficult tropical plant to cultivate but are worth the effort, thanks to the showy foliage.
Begonia Rex Quick Care Tips
- Botanical Name: Begonia rex
- Common Name(s): Painted-Leaf Begonias, Rex Begonia
- Synonyms: N/A
- Pronunciation: reks be-GON-yuh
- Family & Origin: Begoniaceae family, native to tropical regions of northeastern India, southern China, and Vietnam
- Growability: Easy to grow
- Grow Zone: 10-11
- Size: Grows up to 10″ to 26″ inches tall and wide
- Flowering: Blooms in the summer with small pink or white flowers
- Light: Prefers bright, indirect light
- Humidity: Requires high humidity levels
- Temperature: Thrives in temperatures 74° degrees Fahrenheit in summer and 64° degrees Fahrenheit in winter
- Soil: Rich, fast-draining soil mix
- Water: Keep soil consistently moist but not waterlogged
- Fertilizer: Feed with diluted quarter-strength liquid fertilizer during the active growing season
- Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to Ppowdery mildew, root rot, botrytis, gray mold
- Propagation: Propagate through stem cuttings or leaf cuttings, or rhizomes
- Plant Uses: Used as a houseplant, hanging baskets, or in shaded outdoor areas as a ground cover or container plant.
Rex begonia care indoors requires you to remember the importance of its preference for relatively cool temperatures, humid conditions, and moist soil. One thing you should provide the plant is bright indirect light.
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.
These rhizomatous plants have large and multicolored leaves. 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.
The flowers are insignificant, but with leaves like these, who cares? Rex begonias headline the show for months on end in any shade garden, especially when grown in containers.
It may produce a cluster of small pink flowers at bloom time in the middle of summer. 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.
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.
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 place them indoors in the fall. 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.
Some people find the painted-leaf begonia 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.
As for humid conditions, the Begonia Rex also likes high humidity. Try to maintain a relative humidity reading above 50%.
Light misting may be needed as most homes have 30% and 40% humidity.
Learn more about growing Rex Begonia under artificial lights
Watering and Feeding
Water frequently throughout the summer ensures 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 quarter-strength liquid fertilizer during the active growing season. Feed once per month during warm seasons.
Soil and Repotting
Grow Rex using a rich, fast-draining soil mix. It should remain moist but not soggy.
Repotting or transplanting may be needed if Rex begonias outgrow its container. o prevent them, keep the plant well-trimmed and remove dead leaves from the surface of the planting mix.
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 the 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 fungal 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 nutrients 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 systemic fungicide.
Uses For Rex Begonia
The short-painted leaf begonia rex in warm regions looks great under larger plants and makes 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 houseplants to different areas in the home throughout the year.