When Rex Begonias were discovered by chance growing in the sheath of an orchid in a flower show, it gave rise to Begonia rex culture, a group of hybrids with flashy, even metallic patterned foliage rivaling any artist’s work whether it be glass, pottery, or fabric design. Some of them are easy to grow such as B. ‘purple petticoats’, B. ‘merry Christmas’, B. ‘fireflash’, B. ‘kitty’, B. ‘tornado’, and B. ‘odyssey’. Others seem a bit finicky. Spiral-leafed hybrids seem to be more difficult to grow than those with non-spiraled leaves, but well worth the effort.
Begonia rex needs humidity and very good light, but not direct sunlight. They don’t like to grow in plastic pots where their roots suffer from lack of air and drainage. They like light organic fluffy soil containing peat moss, vermiculite, and/or perlite contained in organic potting soils. They should never be repotted in the fall.
Begonia rex should be fertilized heavily in spring with a balanced slow release or liquid fertilizer around an 8-8-8 formulation or 1/3 strength of a 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer. Fertilize less frequently in summer and none at all during fall and winter. Prune or nip periodically to induce growth from the base. Propagate new plants using leaf wedges to produce strong, compact plantlets. Since they are susceptible to fungal disease, spraying often with an organic fungicide (Safer makes one), is helpful to growing these beautiful plants well. Give them a try!