Nicknamed “the showboats of the begonia world” by The American Begonia Society “Rex Cultorum Begonias ” are a must for anyone willing to flex their creative muscles by adding more texture and vibrant colors to their space. Especially if you want to introduce some jewel-toned accents to your otherwise green botanical decor.
Discovered in 1856 among a shipment of orchids from Assam, India, to England, rex begonias have been gathering admirers ever since. Despite being a versatile group of plants with leaves that take on many shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns Rex begonias also comes with a blemished reputation. Why? Well, many have struggled to keep them afloat, especially indoors, with most of them ending up in the compost pile faster than you can say: “Look at this breathtaking plant I got yesterday!
What a strange and frustrating predicament – you just bought the damn thing a couple of days ago. Watered it once or twice (depending on the season) and things have unfortunately taken a turn for the worst. The once vibrant foliage has been replaced with faded, crispy leaves and the new growth is weak and feeble. Despite your best efforts, here you are – watching helplessly as the glimmer of light turns off and the door is sealed shut before you while a voice cries out in the distance “Game Over.”- Wait, what?
By the way, the first person to get that movie reference and comment it down below wins a virtual cookie from yours truly 😉.
IN-DEPTH CARE GUIDE
Now, let`s go a little in-depth!
Bright indirect light (bright shade, if kept outside during the summer months, especially if your climate is dry and hot). Never direct light since the foliage can burn. An easy way to know if your Rex begonia needs more / less light is to look at the foliage and growth habit. If the leaves begin to brown or appear burned, (keep in mind that this might happen if your plant is not well-watered) then this is a tell-tell sign of sun damage. However, if your plant has developed a leggy growth habit and the leaves are getting smaller and smaller you may want to give it more light, either by placing it on a brighter window sill or by supplementing with some grow lights.
Tolerant to low humidity, however, depending on where you are in the world, you have the following options: a humidifier (we get really dry and hot summers here, so that works best for the plants), or you can place your plant on a tray of wet pebbles or use humidity mats. – Please do not mist your Rex Begonia, wet leaves can develop bacterial leaf spot, botrytis, or mildew.
Keep the soil slightly moist but never soggy. Water thoroughly but make sure that the pot has drainage, no one likes rotten roots. Chose whatever soil mix works best for you but remember that bog conditions work for carnivorous plants, not for Rex Begonias. Find the sweet spot, I check-up on mine about once a week. If the upper soil level is dry then I water thoroughly and if not then I will check again in 1 or 2 days. Struggling with how to tell if the plant needs watering or not, a moisture probe takes the guesswork out of the equation.
The main nutrients that you should be focusing on are Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and potassium (K). Keep your begonias happy and well-fed during the growing season, they will thank you for it in the long run 😋 just don`t overdo it because you will burn them.
- Soil Mix
I did touch on this a little but it is always best to specify. The key to a thriving Rex Begonia is that the fine root system is not water clogged. So when repotting always chose a well-draining soil mix, this is vital. If you are a novice to their care here is a pro tip: If you have just bought one don’t be too quick to repot – let it adjust to its new home for a month or two. Find a nice decorative pot and let your new plant acclimatize to its new environment, so don`t stress it out by messing with its roots and moving it into a new planter.
Regarding “Houseplant Toxicology” The Rex Begonia is not pet-friendly, it contains Soluble Calcium Oxalates which can cause kidney failure (in grazing animals), and vomiting, salivation in dogs/cats. The most toxic part is underground. – ASPCA(n.d) – “Begonia”
Since I am the proud and eternally devoted servant of one majestic little meow meow, I keep my Rex begonias either on shelving he can’t reach or inside a closed terrarium.
- ASPCA(n.d) – “Begonia”.