Metal Leaf Begonia – Begonia metallica

Metal Leaf Begonia is an attractive, fibrous-rooted Begonia which grows wild in Brazil. It is cultivated mainly for its beautiful, glossy foliage but has the added summer bonus of large clusters of pinkish white flowers.

This plant grows rapidly, given the right conditions, and soon makes a big plant suitable for large rooms or a heated conservatory. It needs a moist atmosphere, a constant temperature and careful watering. When the plant is subjected to fluctuating temperatures and waterlogged soil, it can suddenly drop all its leaves. Should this happen, cut off the stem tips, raise humidity by mist spraying and keep the plant warm. New leaves will begin to sprout from the stems fairly quickly.

A mature Metal Leaf Begonia can be rather large, up to 1.2m (4ft) high with a spread of 90cm (3ft). It has pointed leaves 10-15cm (4-6in) long which have a beautiful metallic sheen. A profusion of 4cm (1½in) wide pinkish white flowers are carried in large clusters throughout summer and autumn.

Display ideasMetal Leaf Begonia - Begonia metallica

Metal Leaf Begonia makes a wonderful specimen plant for a big room or hallway. Display it in a large pot on a pedestal to show off the leaves and I= hanging clusters of flowers to best advantage. Keep the leaves clean and glossy by dusting them with a soft brush, supporting each leaf with your hand to prevent damage, and avoid using leaf-shine preparations. Contrast the glossy foliage of Metal Leaf Begonia with a flowering Christmas or Wax Begonia to create an attractive display.

Propagation

Propagate by taking cuttings during spring and summer.

1 Take 8-10cm (3-4in) long cuttings from nonflowering shoots. Dip the end into hormone rooting powder.

2 Plant cuttings in individual 8cm (3in) pots containing an equal parts mixture of peat and coarse sand or perlite. Enclose pots in a ventilated polythene bag.

3 Keep out of direct sunlight until new growth occurs in about six weeks, then remove the polythene.

4 After about six months, pot cuttings on into peat-based compost and treat as mature plants.

Pests And Diseases

Yellow patches on the leaves indicate a virus. Treatment: There is no cure and the plant should be destroyed to prevent the infection spreading.

Brown or black spots on the leaves are signs of rot which can result from overwatering or poor air circulation.

Treatment: Drench with a mild solution of fungicide to prevent the rot spreading and move the plant to an airier spot.

White spots on stems and leaves indicate an attack of powdery mildew. Treatment: Spray with a suitable fungicide and carefully remove any dead leaves or flowers as they may be affected. Repeat the treatment at regular intervals until all the white spots have gone.

Sudden leaf drop is caused by fluctuating temperatures and irregular watering.

Treatment: Cut back the stem tips and keep the plant warm and moist. The plant will grow new leaves quite quickly.

Scorched, brown leaf tips are caused by lack of humidity and water. Treatment: Water frequently during hot weather and raise humidity by standing the pot in a saucer of pebbles which are kept constantly damp.

PLANT CARE

Metal Leaf Begonias are sensitive to changes in temperature and they like regular watering. Pinch out growing tips regularly to encourage the plant to bush out.

  • Potting: Use an equal parts mixture of peat and coarse sand or perlite for rooting cuttings. Pot on established plants every spring using peat-based compost.
  • Water moderately during the growing period, allowing the top 2.5cm (1 in) of compost to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering in winter, keeping the compost barely moist.
  • Feeding: Feed with a well-diluted liquid fertilizer once every 14 days during the growing period.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Metal Leaf Begonias need a bright position. An east- or west-facing spot is ideal as this provides good, indirect light.
  • Temperature: Normal room temperatures are suitable during spring and summer but if they rise above 18°C (65°F), provide added humidity by standing the pot on a tray of moist pebbles. Overwinter plants at no less than 13°C (55°F).

Buying Tips

  • Metal Leaf Begonias are available during most of the year from large garden centres and specialist growers.
  • Buy a well-shaped, sturdy plant with glossy, undamaged leaves.
  • With some care, Metal Leaf Begonia will live for many years.

The leaves of Metal Leaf Begonia are large and showy, with a shiny, metallic surface. Plants need a constant temperature and fairly high humidity to flourish.

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