The Begonia type has about 900 species. It was discovered in the West Indies in 1689 by Father Plumier (1646-1704 or 1706), a French botanist, during a trip organized in these regions by the intendant Michel Begon. Today, the Rex Begonia (King Begonia) includes several hybrids obtained through a mix between the rex begonia and other species of begonias. The plant usually forms a small shrub 30 cm (12 in.) high and wide. The flowers, often hidden by the leaves, are without interest.
The rex begonia is cultivated mainly for the original motifs that its leaves form and which present unexpected drawings. These are usually cordate, that is to say heart-shaped. A great variability of foliage shapes and colors is now available on the market. First, the leaves can be two-colored or three-colored, with shades of green, red, brown and silver. Some are serrated and variegated, while others are marginalized. Most are embossed. There is something for everyone.
Where to plant them?
- They can be grown in the ground or in pots indoors and outdoors during the summer season.
- In an outdoor pot, the rex begonia foliage is wonderful. They can mix with each other or complete an arrangement.
- In a flowerbed, they are perfect companions for plantain lilies, lungworts, primroses (as at the Reford Gardens) or New Guinea touch-me-nots.
Tips for maintenance
Rex begonias require light, but no direct sun. Outside, they will therefore prefer shade or partial shade.
The soil must be allowed to dry between watering. A soil saturated with water can cause root rot. We must also avoid wetting the foliage and especially the core of the plant, not to promote the development of fungal diseases. We can place a saucer of clay balls under our growing pot if it is too hot or our atmosphere is dry: when watering, we then pour just enough water so that it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot. The atmosphere will then be relatively high without soaking the plant. If the tips of the leaves turn yellow, the cultivation atmosphere is too dry.
A slight addition of fertilizer to the water every month is enough.
The room temperature should not be too hot or too dry. The rex begonia doesn’t react well to high temperatures during its winter cultivation in the house, by withering.
The rex begonia can be grown outdoors when all the risk of frost has passed.
A few suggestions
Great American Cities™ series
Developed by Progenitor and marketed by AmerInnova, this series presents shiny foliage colors. These begonias are hybridized so as not to go dormant for a long time in the winter, during short days. They are vigorous all year round. This series’ cultivars are therefore without history, versatile and easy to grow.
A few beautiful cultivars:
- ‘Albuquerque Midnight Sky’
- ‘Charlotte Chiffon’
- ‘Hilo Holiday’
- ‘Mini Portland Picotee Pink’
- ‘New York Swirl’
- ‘Seattle Twist’
Rex Begonia ‘Escargot’ (Rex Begonia ‘Escargot’)
Rex Begonia’s ‘Escargot’ green and silvery leave pattern forms a spiral reminiscent of the appearance of the shell of a snail (escargot). This begonia’s evocative name is enough to attract us to buy this beautiful plant. The plant can grow 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 in.) high and 30 cm (12 in.) wide.
Rex Begonia ‘Fairy’ (Rex Begonia rex ‘Fairy’)
This cultivar’s silver leaves, a selection marketed by Proven Winners, are veined with green streaks, creating a very successful contrast. This begonia can reach 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 inches) high and about 37 cm (15 inches) wide. It is part of the Fancy Large series.