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With the colorful foliage of rex begonia as well as the ease in caring and maintaining it, it is no longer surprising to see it being one of the most popular and interesting indoor plants available right now. It is very easy to maintain and cultivate even with its exotic looks.
Let’s familiarize ourselves with this perennial houseplant, which is also known as Begonia rex, through this article.
Quick Facts About Rex Begonias
- Common name: Rex begonia
- Botanical name: Begonia rex-cultorum
- Type of plant: Herbaceous perennial
- Type of soil: Porous potting soil
- Sunlight exposure: Partial to full shade
- Mature size: 12 – 18 inches tall with the same spread
- USDA hardiness zones: 10 to 12
- Bloom time: Summer
- Flower color: Pink
- Color of foliage: Multicolored
- Color of leaves: Bright colors, including green, silver, red, and purple
- Growth rate/habit: Fast/compact
- Native area/Origin: Southern China, Northeastern India, Vietnam
- Special features: Fantastic and dramatic foliage, shade-loving, compact form, easy care and maintenance
- Gardening style: Cottage, tropical, contemporary
Rex Begonia (Begonia Rex-Cultorum) Description and Features
Rex begonia (Begonia rex-cultorum) refers to a semi-tropical plant, which is typically grown and cultivated as an indoor houseplant or an outdoor plant placed in a container. Commercially sold rex begonias are among the B-rex species varieties that were naturally cultivated in some locations in Eastern Asia.
When cultivated in gardens, which is often rare, you can expect the rex begonias to grow as annuals in every climate, with the exception of the warmest season. The begonia rex is also considered the most eye-catching and beautiful out of the different varieties of begonias.
Also referred to as fancy-leaf or painted-leaf begonias, the begonia rex is also recognized for its showy and truly attractive leaf coloration. The leaves are quite large that can get to six inches tall. The leaves come in bright colors, ranging from green, silver, red, and purple.
Another special and unique feature of these houseplants is the foliage. As a matter of fact, the begonia rex is grown and cultivated by many because of its foliage. It actually has blooms but those are less showy and kind of small.
With that, a lot of those who are into gardening and have this species in under their care tend to pinch off the blooms once they come out to retain the great-looking leaf displays. Also, note that some variations of rex begonias become dormant once the freezing weather comes.
How to Plant your Rex Begonia?
One thing to take note of when planting the begonia rex is that the ideal planters and pots for it are those that are shallow and wide. These containers can provide the plants with sufficient room for growing rhizomes.
Also, note that it thrives well when you use a well-draining pot. One great choice is a clay pot that has drainage holes. It also tends to survive perfectly well when placed in a hanging basket.
The most appropriate size is dependent on how small or big the rex begonia is at the moment. Note that the rhizomes require room for growth, so make sure to provide at least an inch of space around the plant’s root ball. This will support its outward growth.
It is also important to repot the rex begonia every year. This will provide additional room that the rhizomes can use to grow and make the entire rex begonia happy.
Growing and Caring for Rex Begonia
For the begonia rex to grow healthily and happily, ensure that you meet its growth and care requirements. These include:
The rex begonia needs bright, indirect light the entire year. Note that it is one of those plants that do not bloom aggressively. With that said, it can handle less sunlight compared to the other variations of rex begonias. You can even expect them to survive when cultivated beneath fluorescent lights.
As for soil requirements, the most appropriate for your rex begonia is a fast-draining, light, and airy one. It has to be rich and light, too. If you plant and grow rex begonia to the ground directly, then pick a well-drained and moist location.
Add mulch, too, as it can help in shading the roots. When planted in a pot, ensure that you pick one with sufficient drainage holes. Use a peat-based potting mix when planning to cultivate the plant in a container.
The best temperature for the rex begonia houseplants is moderate, around 60 to 70 degrees F. Also, note that the growth will slow down during freezing temperatures. Some variations of rex begonias even become dormant when the winter season comes because of insufficient sunlight.
The rex begonia needs a moderately high level of humidity, approximately 50%. Similar to other begonias, it favors a similar gentle and humid environment wherein the understory ferns survive.
The rex begonia needs to be watered regularly. However, you should still avoid overwatering it. A wise advice is to water once the soil becomes dry to the touch, but avoid waiting too long to the point that the plant begins to wilt.
Lessen watering frequency once its dormant stage during the winter arrives. Water only once you notice its surface completely drying out. Also, remember that while rex begonia needs humidity, spraying or misting its leaves results in spotting and powdery mildew.
It would be best to cluster the plants for them to build their humid environment. Another thing that you can do is to fill a pebble tray with water as it can help in providing steady humidity.
It also helps to nourish your rex begonia using the right fertilizer. The best one is a liquid fertilizer used every two weeks at half strength or every week at quarter strength.
Pruning your Rex Begonia
The rex begonia also requires regular pruning considering the fact that it ca reach up to several inches tall. What you should do is trim diseased or dead leaves down to soil level or primary stem. It is crucial to do the pruning as when rex begonias create and develop woody and old stems, they also tend to build scraggly bare spots.
Once that occurs, just clip the stems off. After just a short while of doing so, you can expect new stems to sprout together with new and fresh leaves.
How to Propagate the Rex Begonia?
While it is totally okay to cultivate the rex begonia from seeds, note that those are so small that it would take a long time for them to mature and turn into rhizomes. With that in mind, it would be much better and easier to propagate the rex begonia if you clip just one leaf that has a section of stem attached to it.
Put this cutting in water and wait for the roots to begin growing. Once you notice a quality set of roots developing, you can prepare the potting soil where you can let the cutting grow. Ensure that the leaf remains until you notice small and new leaves sprouting.
Cut the first leaf off once that happens. You can expect this new plant to mature in just two months or so. It is also possible for the cuttings to root if you plant them directly in a mix composed of perlite and moist peat moss. Make sure that this cutting remains moist until there are new sprouting leaves.
Cut the original one. After that, transplant the new specimen in the appropriate pot containing fresh potting soil.
Despite being easy to care for, rex begonias are not immune to certain diseases and pest infestation. The most common ones that affect these plants are:
Mildew, bacterial leaf spot, and botrytis
These issues often result from constantly wetting the leaves. Root rot may also occur when caring for your rex begonia in wet locations. To prevent the mentioned issues, make sure to grow it in well-drained soil.
Water it regularly but sparingly, too. If you are living in a flood-prone area, then it would be best to grow the rex begonia in pots. That way, you can easily bring it inside or under a shelter whenever necessary.
Aphids, caterpillars, and mealybugs
These pests may also infest your rex begonia. You can often solve this problem by using insecticidal soap as a spray for the pests. Put a slug bait close to the plant, too, to get rid of snails and slugs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you care for a rex begonia indoors?
Rex begonia care indoors requires you to remember the importance of its preference to relatively cool temperatures, humid conditions, and moist soil. One thing you should provide the plant is bright indirect light.
You can still expose it to direct sun but only for a short period. During intense heat, you may want to use sheer curtains as a means of diffusing direct sun. You may also put it in a spot that is several feet away from a sunny window.
Also, ensure that you give it enough warmth as it is classified as tropical. An aerated and quick-draining soil is also necessary for preventing overwatering and root decay.
How much sunlight do rex begonias need?
You can expect the rex begonia to thrive well when placed in a spot that has ample and indirect sunlight. It would be beneficial for this plant to be turned regularly as this will ensure that all its foliage will receive light evenly. A quarter turn weekly to maintain the even growth of your rex begonia would be great.
Can rex begonia be planted outside?
You can see the rex begonia being naturally grown and planted in indoor containers, but that does not mean that you can’t grow it outdoors. As a matter of fact, you can grow and cultivate it in your outdoor garden in months that are frost-free.
If you are in a place without frosts or the freezing season, then you can grow your begonia in the ground the entire year. Just make sure to choose a planting site in your green garden that has partial shade. The location also needs to have soil, which drains well. It should also have a low risk of getting waterlogged.
Does a rex begonia bloom?
Yes, the rex begonia blooms. Note, though, that despite having the ability to bloom flowers, many say that the primary attraction of such plants is the ornate and beautiful foliage.
Is it necessary to repot the rex begonia?
Yes, it is. You need to repot it every spring to make sure that it will continue to have adequate soil for growth. Note, though, that this plant wants to be a bit pot-bound.
In that case, you should prune gangly and large ones so they will form into shape. You may also want to rotate potted rex begonias as doing so will ensure that the plants will remain stocky and full.
How long can rex begonia live?
In most cases, you can expect the rex begonia to live for around 2-3 years. You should also focus on propagation if you want the original rex begonia to produce more plants.
Is the rex begonia toxic to pets and animals?
Yes, it is. The rex begonia is particularly toxic to dogs, cats, and grazing animals. It may even cause grazing animals, such as horses, to experience kidney failure, and dogs and cats to vomit after exposure.
Is the rex begonia an annual or perennial?
In most cases, the rex begonia is frost tender. You can treat it as an annual outdoor or grow it indoors in a cool climate. Generally, though, it can be classified as a perennial plant.
What are the hardiness zones for rex begonia?
As a clump-forming, tender, and rhizomatous perennial, the rex begonia is hardy only in zones 10 to 12. With this zone, it is normally cultivated as a houseplant.
The rex begonia is indeed an incredible plant for a shade garden, whether indoors and outdoors. It is a beautiful and interesting plant with its wide variety of begonia foliage as well as attractive flowers, making it perfect for those with a green thumb.
Regardless if you decide to grow the begonia rex beneath trees, in a yard that does not receive direct sun or a hanging basket, you will surely enjoy its great color and texture during its entire growing season.