Painted Leaf – Begonia rex hybrids

The Painted Leaf, otherwise known as Rex Begonia, comes from Assam, in India. The plants that are available today are hybrids and forms of the variety Begonia rex. These plants are classified as rhizomatous Begonias; they grow from a creeping stem, or rhizome, which acts as a storage organ.

The oval or heart-shaped leaves can be delicately marked or boldly splashed with shades of green, red, pink or purple, or with bronze or silver.

Although it is grown for its foliage, the mature plant may produce small pink flowers from June to September. If left on the plant they will weaken it, so they should be removed.

The Painted Leaf needs a humid atmosphere, especially in the summer. It must be kept cool in winter, and the compost should be kept just moist enough to prevent it drying out.

The plant will grow up to 30cm (12in) in height, and in diameter.


There are many named varieties of Painted Leaf. Attractive forms to grow include: ‘Her Majesty’, ‘President’, ‘King Edward IV’ and ‘Salamander’.Painted Leaf - Begonia rex hybrids


You can propagate your plant by taking leaf cuttings, either by dividing a leaf into sections or by using the whole leaf. For the first method, cut off a healthy leaf at its base. Place it upside down and trim off the edges, then cut it into small squares, making certain each square includes part of a vein. Plant each section vertically in a tray of equal parts peat and sand, so that the part of the leaf that was closest to the stem is in the compost. Water and cover with a piece of glass or polythene. Keep at 21°C (70°F). Remove the cover for at least 5 minutes each day. When new plants have at least 3 leaves, separate them carefully from the leaf section and pot up individually.

To grow new plants from a whole leaf, simply turn the leaf upside down and cut through the thick main vein below each vein junction. Turn it the right way up again and lay it on the surface of the compost. Secure in several places with wooden toothpicks, making certain that each vein touches the compost. Treat in the same way as leaf section cuttings.

Pests And Diseases

The edges of the leaves turn dry, and the whole plant curls up and withers if the plant has been underwatered for some time.

Prevention: Water regularly — generously in summer and sparingly in winter — but even in winter the compost should be kept just moist.

The leaves drop in winter if the temperature is too low.

Prevention: Keep winter temperatures at a minimum of 13°C (55°F).

Stunted growth and small new leaves and shoots are caused by lack of nutrients.

Treatment: Feed the plant with a liquid fertilizer. The plant should be fed every 2 weeks from May to September.

White powdery deposits on the leaves and stems are a sign of powdery mildew.

Treatment: Move your plant to an airy, brighter position (but out of direct sun), and reduce watering. In severe attacks, spray with a suitable fungicide.


It needs some attention. Take care not to damage the leaves when handling the plant.

  • Potting: Repot as necessary in April when the roots have filled the pot. Use a commercial peat-based compost or a compost made from one-third part soil-based compost and one-third peat to one-sixth part leaf mould and one-sixth part sharp sand.
  • Water generously in the summer; do not allow the compost to dry out. Water sparingly in winter, keeping the compost just moist.
  • Feeding: Feed once every 2 weeks in May—September with a standard liquid fertilizer. Do not feed in winter.


  • Light: They need good light but not direct sun. Place in a position of partial shade.
  • Temperature: The maximum summer temperature should be 23°C (74°F). Keep the room or greenhouse well-ventilated and humid when the temperature rises above 17°C (64°F). In winter, maintain at 13°C (55°F).

Buying Tips

  • Available from garden centres and nurseries throughout the year, although the selection is usually best in summer.
  • Choose a plant with lots of new leaves. Avoid any with dry edges on the leaves and those with damaged leaves.
  • Painted Leaf will live for many years, given the right conditions.

The beautiful variegated foliage of the Painted Leaf distinguishes it as one of the most outstanding of all foliage plants. It deserves a special place in a plant collection.

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