One of the most beautiful and unusual plants that you can grow is the begonia rex. There are many varieties to choose from, and all feature unusual leaf patterns and fantastic colors.
They make great houseplants that will add a real tropical feel to any room, and you can grow them in your garden, too.
Here are just a few of the most beautiful varieties you should try growing at least once, as well as how to look after these beautiful plants.
Let’s get started.
At A Glance: What You Should Know About Rex Begonias
While there are many begonia varieties to choose from, some of the most popular and most striking fall under the begonia rex type (see also Foliage Plants With Beautiful Leaves).
These are grown ornamentally all over the world, and often form part of plant shows and competitions, prized for their beauty.
While they do have a reputation for being tricky to look after, once you understand where they work in your home or garden, they will thrive for years to come.
Most of these stunning plants come from the subtropical parts of Africa and Asia, and as you might expect, they like to be warm, in a humid environment.
These plants are not a fan of direct sunlight, and will tolerate shade, and need well-draining, acidic soil in order to thrive.
As long as you get the conditions right, rex begonias do not need a lot of care otherwise, and they are fairly robust when it comes to pests and diseases, too.
One thing that you will need to watch out for, however, is being too generous with the watering can. These plants need the soil to dry out in between waterings, otherwise the roots will rot.
Begonia Rex Varieties You Should Grow At Least Once
There are a huge range of varieties to choose from, and these plants are among the most diverse.
While they are capable of producing flowers, they are grown for their fantastic and unusual leaves, and some enthusiasts cut off the flowers to divert the plant’s energy into growing the foliage instead.
Begonia Rex ‘Blueberry Sorbet’
This is a medium-sized begonia ranging between 15 and 30cm tall, which features silvery leaves that have a purplish tint in the middle, and pink to red areas, too.
It’s a great option if you can’t decide between a red-leaved rex begonia, and a silvery one, as it features both.
Begonia Rex ‘Emerald Giant’
If you’d prefer a begonia that shows off different greens, you can’t go wrong with ‘Emerald Giant’. It looks fantastic as part of any shady border display.
The foliage is a deep, dark green in the middle, surrounded by a minty hue, and then its rich emerald namesake shade at the edges.
It will grow to about 60cm high and wide, and produce eye-catching pink blooms.
Begonia Rex ‘Escargot’
One of the most popular types of rex begonias is ‘Escargot’, instantly recognizable for its spiral-shaped leaves that look like the curve of a snail’s shell, which are deep green, chocolate, and silvery in different places.
It looks perfect indoors, but also works as an unusual outdoor plant in shady conditions, working well against hostas and ferns.
This particular begonia prefers partial shade, and will grow anywhere between 15 and 30cm tall and wide.
It’s also a winner of the Award of Garden Merit, bestowed by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Begonia Rex ‘Fireworks’
Another award winner, ‘Fireworks’ is a fantastic plant which features dark purple to burgundy centers, a flash of silver, and purple bordered leaves.
This particular variety grows fast, which makes it perfect for any bare shaded corner of your garden, or as a beautiful houseplant.
It grows slightly taller than most rex begonias, able to reach 40 to 45cm tall and wide.
Begonia Rex ‘Flamenco’
If you prefer begonias to be mainly silver, ‘Flamenco’ offers silvery hues in abundance, with red veins accenting the leaves.
‘Flamenco’ is more compact than other begonias, reaching a modest size of 20cm tall.
Begonia Rex ‘Martin Johnson’
Arguably one of the most beautiful plants on this list, ‘Martin Johnson’ features maple shaped leaves with ruffled edges, and typically silvery to purple in color which can change with age.
It is a delicate plant so keep it away from drafts, frost, and direct sunlight. It can reach a maximum height of 35cm, and if you get the growing conditions right, it will treat you with a magical display year after year.
Begonia Rex ‘Plum Paisley’
One of the most colorful plants on this list, ‘Plum Paisley’ features shades of green, pink, and even blue in the right light, with white splotches.
Begonia Rex ‘Red Kiss’
A small-leaved begonia which is no less dramatic is ‘Red Kiss’, thanks to its pink and deep red leaves with a metallic sheen.
It also stays compact, so it’s a perfect choice for plant enthusiasts with little room to work with.
Begonia Rex ‘Red Tango’
‘Red Tango’ is a plant that produces a lot of leaves, with dramatic dark and ruffled edges, hints of silver, and deep, dark red centers.
Begonia Rex ‘Rumba’
If you’d prefer a red begonia that features a deep ruby red, you can’t go wrong with ‘Rumba’. It features dramatic and deeply veined leaves in dark green and red.
It’s a fairly small begonia, reaching about 20cm tall and wide.
Begonia Rex ‘Salsa’
One of the more forgiving rex begonias, ‘Salsa’ is a good choice for beginners, without compromising on looks.
It features silvery foliage in shades of deep red and green, and likes bright but indirect light, perfect behind a filtered window of a bathroom where there’s plenty of humidity.
Begonia Rex ‘Solar Flare’
If you’re a fan of fall colors, ‘Solar Flare’ may be the begonia for you. The leaves are the perfect picture of fall, with shades of bronze, orange, and red.
Each new leaf starts off red and deepens into orange.
Begonia Rex ‘Spitfire’
While ‘Spitfire’ is not the tallest plant on this list, it’s one of the most beautiful. It features reddish to pink leaves with silvery green borders, and will make an excellent houseplant or shade-loving display.
Begonia Rex ‘Tornado’
While all rex begonias are dramatic and beautiful, ‘Tornado’ combines the spiral-shaped drama of ‘Escargot’ with purple-black leaf borders, with hints of pink veining.
It also helps that this plant is one of the most forgiving rex begonias.
Begonia Rex ‘Yamileth’
Featuring silvery leaves with hints of burgundy and green, ‘Yamileth’ has an understated beauty that works well with any planting scheme.
How To Keep Begonia Rex Plants Happy
Grown across the world as beautiful houseplants and dramatic garden statements, it can be easy to add it to your must-grow list, only to find out that it is more difficult to take care of than you thought.
Rex begonias are known for being temperamental, especially if you live somewhere colder, forcing you to grow them inside.
It doesn’t help that homes are largely too-dry and not bright enough for these beautiful plants, but there is probably an area that will suit these finicky beauties.
Here’s how to keep these dramatic plants happy, both indoors and outdoors.
Sunlight And Position
If you’re growing rex begonias outside, they need dappled shade, or an area where sunlight won’t burn their leaves.
As these plants don’t cope well with low temperatures, you may have to bring them inside a greenhouse or conservatory for the winter.
If you’re growing them indoors, keep them away from drafts and direct sunlight, but give them the brightest spot you can.
This may seem like a contradiction, but it’s worth noting that the lowest lit position in your garden is usually still brighter than your brightest windowsill in terms of the rays your plants need to grow properly.
Temperature And Humidity Requirements
While rex begonias like a lot of humidity, do not mist the leaves, as this will make the plant drop them. Avoid wetting the crown of the plant, too.
They won’t do well in very dry atmospheres.
To help raise the humidity, place them near other plants that like similar conditions, and this will create a micro-climate of sorts, making it a little easier to keep your begonias happy.
When it comes to temperature, it’s worth knowing that rex begonias are not frost hardy, and the bare minimum temperature that they will tolerate is 55°F (or 13°C).
When To Water A Rex Begonia
Rex begonias like plenty of water, so they do need good drainage, but it’s worth noting that they are susceptible to root rot, so make sure that the soil dries out in between watering.
You will also need to reduce the watering frequency in winter when temperatures are lower and the rex begonia isn’t putting out as much growth.
When To Feed A Rex Begonia
During the growing season, rex begonias benefit from a high nitrogen-rich fertilizer every two weeks. This will keep their leaves vibrant.
How To Propagate Rex Begonias
The easiest way to propagate a rex begonia is to take leaf cuttings during summer. A single leaf can produce more than one new plant, so it’s worth doing!
Choose a young and healthy leaf, and cut it at the base. Cut off the stalk, as you won’t need it.
Turn the leaf over onto its underside, and make a few cuts along the main vein of the leaf. Then grab a tray of flat, damp compost, lay the leaf on top, and literally pin it to the surface of the soil.
The new leaves will grow out from the cuts of the original leaf, as long as you put the tray somewhere warm with plenty of moisture.
Once they are big enough, you can separate them as you like, or keep them as one plant.
This method works for any rex begonia, but can work for other types of begonia, too.
Common Problems To Watch Out For When Growing Rex Begonias
Root rot and powdery mildew are the main villains to watch out for when it comes to plants that like high humidity.
Make sure there is plenty of airflow between any plants you have grouped together, and avoid watering the leaves or the crown of the plant.
When it comes to pests, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites are the usual culprits, and luckily, all are fairly easy to sort as long as you spot them quickly.
Always take a look at the tops and the underside of the leaves every week or so, so you can spot an infestation before it fully sets in.
If your rex begonia starts to look sick, but you have no idea why, it’s worth taking a cutting from a healthy leaf just in case the plant doesn’t make it.
That’s not to say that any treatment won’t work, but it’s always nice to have a back-up plant.
Remember, if you keep your rex begonia healthy, a small pest infestation will not bother your plant too much, especially if you catch it early, and you’re also unlikely to see any diseases develop.
Rex begonias are fantastic plants that do well both inside and out. These are unusual beauties that will provide a lot of drama and color into any space, and as long as you get the growing conditions right, you will be treated to fabulous displays all year round.