Rex Begonias, – King of the houseplants
Rex Begonias make beautiful houseplants because of their attractive foliage. There are different varieties, with different growth habits. Some varieties grow horizontal across the soils surface and others grow upright. The beautiful foliage can be textured and varied, coming in shades of green, red, purple, silver and often times a combination of colours. The foliage also comes in different shapes and sizes such as the Spiral leaf which is a very unique looking plant. The flowers of the Rex begonia are tiny and grow on stems that rise above the foliage. The plant is not grown for its flowers, as the beauty of the plant lies in the foliage.
The Rex begonia is grown from a rhizome, that grows just below the soil’s surface. It is a shallow rooted plant that grows well in a shallow container. It likes even, warm, temperatures so keep it away from outside doors, vents etc. Place it in an area where it will receive bright light but not direct sunlight that can burn the leaves. Rotating the plant will help keep the plants growth even, as plants tend to grow towards light.
High humidity is also important for a healthy plant, so placing it on a large pebble tray that has some water in the bottom of the tray will increase the humidity around the plant. Often times if the tips of the leave turn brown it could be a sign of low humidity. It prefers a well-drained, light airy soil.
The plant is usually killed by overwatering rather than under watering. Allow the surface of the soil to go dry between watering, and when you give the plant water, use room temperature water and avoid getting the foliage wet, as this can cause powdery mildew. Because the plant is susceptible to powdery mildew never mist the leaves. Water around the crown of the plant to avoid crown rot. Fertilize the plant every 1-2 weeks in the spring and summer when it is actively growing, with an all purpose 20-20-20 at one-quarter the strength. Over the winter months when the plants growth slows down cut back on the fertilizing.
Maintenance includes removing finished flowers, and dead leaves, so that the soils surface remains clean and the plant looks neat. It is not a fast growing plant and will need to be repotted infrequently. It is time to repot when the rhizome reaches the side of the container it is planted in.
Rex begonias are not the easiest plants to care for but well worth the effort!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road ( closed for the season)