Begonias – How to Grow Begonia Plants

Begonias – How to Grow Begonia Plants

Begonia 15°C (60GB). South East Asia.

The king of the begonias, grown entirely for its colourful foliage, is Begonia rex. Blended into or overlaid on the green wrinkled leaves can be found a kaleidoscope of colours red, pink, silver, cream, grey, lavender and maroon.

Although plants may be encouraged to grow to 60 cm (2 ft) in height and 60 cm (2 ft) in diameter in ideal conditions in the greenhouse, they are usually seen as much smaller plants decorating windowsills and in mixed arrangements with other plants. It should be grown in semi-shade, out of reach of gas fumes and kept in an outer container filled with moist peat.

Mildew on leaves, which appears as white circular spots, is one of the most troublesome problems and is most prevalent in surroundings that are dank and airless. So a buoyant humid atmosphere and reasonably light conditions are needed, but strong sunlight must be begonia rex avoided. A peaty soil is essential and it should be kept moist, but never soggy wet.

Raising New Begonia Plants

Raise new Begonia. rex plants by slitting the veins on the undersides of a mature leaf in places before placing it on a mixture of peat and sand.

It may be necessary to peg the leaves down with hairpin-shaped wires, or by placing small pebbles on top of the leaf. Alternatively, the stronger and older leaves may be cut up into 2·5 cm (1 in) squares and simply placed on moist peat and sand. This is a fascinating means of propagation, but it is extremely important that the propagating medium must at no time dry out as the small leaf sections will quickly shrivel up and die. Moistness of a happy medium should be the aim, as leaf sections will also rot readily in very wet conditions.

Another beautiful begonia is B. masoniami, with its remarkably patterned leaves rather than gorgeously coloured foliage. The noticeably bright green leaves, with pointed tips, have superimposed a distinctive, curious purplish-black cross reminiscent of the German award.

So close is the resemblance that this species has become known as the ‘Iron Cross’ begonia. It is slower growing than Begonia rex, but its cultivation is much the same. Contributing to its beauty. It has fleshy, red-pink stems, which contrast magnificently with the brilliant green foliage. It is one of the finest of the begonias.


Begonias are usually divided into three groups according to the rooting systems. Tuberous begonias are barely represented among house plants, although popular as greenhouse subjects, but both rhizomatous and fibrous-rooted ones are admirable house plants. Although they have a reputation for difficulty, the majority of house plant begonias will be found easy to cultivate. The one thing they will not tolerate is gas fumes.

They like a shady position and to be kept on the dry side, but not too dry, thus they do well if the pot is put into a second, larger pot filled with damp peat.

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Among the most popular of begonias grown for the sake of their leaves are Begonia rex. All varieties are rhizomatous and spread outwards, seldom exceeding 10 inches in height, although they may be as much as 12 inches or more across.

They have the usual asymmetric triangular leaf and, although variegation in colouring goes through a metallic olive green, silver grey, dark red and mixtures of these shades, Begonia rex are seldom sold as named plants, leaving the customer to choose the one preferred. There is sometimes a flower of rather dirty pinkish white, not decorative, and better removed when it appears. Too low a temperature during winter induces mildew.

If it can be detected in time affected leaves should be removed and the plant moved to a warmer situation.

Begonia masoniarza is a handsome plant, until recently known as ‘Iron Cross’. It is hardier than one imagines, not a quick grower and treatment is similar to B. rex.

Begonia haageana used to be seen frequently in cottage windows, and will tolerate more light than many other begonias. It looks at its best with light behind it, as the red underside of the leaves will shine through to great advantage.

It soon makes a large plant, but it is necessary to stop it at regular intervals during the growing season or it will become leggy. The plant is hardy and easy to grow. Flower panicles of pinkish-white are produced in summer.

Begonia ’Abel Carriere’ is fibrous rooted, with heart-shaped, glossy leaves, silver coloured with thin dark green zones along the veins. The underside is purple. Stopping should be done early and side shoots should also be stopped to produce a bushy plant. The small red flowers are produced from the leaf axils. Apart from making certain that the leaves are not scorched by sun, it is an easy plant to grow.

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