Rex Begonia

Rex begonias (Begonia rex-cultorum) are herbaceous perennials that grow from rhizomes, a type of plant stem that grows horizontally underground or across the soil surface. The rex begonia, or begonia rex, descends from the B. rex variety native to zones in eastern Asia. Charles Plumier, a French botanist, coined the word begonia. He named the species after Michel Bégon, a French official and avid lover of botany that lived from 1638 to 1710. The word rex has Latin roots stemming from the word regere, and means ‘a king.’ This may be why the rex begonia earned its nickname, king begonia.

Also known as painted-leaf begonias or fancy-leaf begonias, this semi-tropical plant blooms tiny flowers and is most notable for its distinct leaves that grow in diverse shapes with unique patterns. Rex Begonias are admired for their fabulous foliage. The cultivar offers a wide range of colors, textures, and shape. Its leaves can vary in form - from hearts, to seashell swirls, to ivy-like forms, and more. Marked by dramatic colors - often a mix of green, pink or burgundy - the Rex Begonia can also include metallic shades of grayish silver. The splashy rex begonia is toxic to animals.

Table of Contents


12 - 18 inches

Width-Circumference (Avg)

12 - 18 inches

Approximate pH

5.7 - 6.2

Types of Rex Begonias


This appealing rex begonia offers silver foliage with shades of cream and pink spattered on the leaves.


This breathtaking specimen exhibits red-green leaves with silver variegation. It grows up to 8-10 inches tall and wide.

Pink Charming

As the name sounds, this beautiful variety features lovely pink and green variegated leaves flecked in silver.


This exotic rex begonia shows off dark green leaves highlighted with a spray of bronze, silver, and deep purple hues.

Angel Wing

‘Angel Wing’ rex begonia has an upright growth pattern with wing-shaped leaves speckled in silver dots. It also produces red blooms.


‘Duarten’ has pointed leaves patterned in silver and bronze stripes. This variety looks adorable on desks and tabletops.

Ballet Rex

‘Ballet’ rex begonia shows off fantastic silver-green leaves with mid-green margins and red stems highlighting the plant.

Red Kiss Rex

It offers marvelous black-purple leaves with a broad metallic-red ring. This elegant rex begonia grows up to 8-12 inches tall and wide.

Silver Limbo

This is a small-leafed, compact variety that showcases attractive metallic-silver leaves that has red-purple undersides. It can reach up to 6-8 inches tall with the same spread.


An exceptionally beautiful indoor plant, Yamileth displays green-black foliage that changes to silver toward the margins.


‘Salsa’ is a variegated variety with silver leaves having shades of burgundy-red and green. It can attain a height of up to 8-10 inches with the same spread.


Spitfire Rex Begonia is a gorgeous variety with red-pink foliage edged in green and silver. It stays compact and makes for a great coffee table plant.


‘Flamenco’ offers charming silver-green leaves adorned in red and green veins. If you want a small and colorful plant, this is it.

Harmony Black Beauty

This small-leave rex begonia variety offers black leaves with burgundy edges. It has a compact growth habit.


This rex begonia shows off silver leaves with a black center surrounded by pink hues. The ruffled margins have bright pink-black lines.

Blueberry Sorbet

The medium-sized silver foliage has metallic lavender blush near the center. Its margins have multi-lobed green patterns with chocolate-brown markings.

Champagne Bubbles

This hybrid cultivar has silver leaves with a pink blush. The grey areas of the foliage are covered with silver bubbles.

Christmas Curl

This gorgeous variety features pink to red leaves with wide green edges patterned in silver spots.


‘Fireworks’ has an upright growth pattern and vibrant, large leaves embellished in dark purple centers and pink edges with a silver-white hue between.

River Nile

‘River Nile’ has ruffled, beautiful green leaves with deep bronze edges that create a charismatic display indoors.

Green Gold

‘Green Gold’ shows off stunning silver leaves and deep green veins. New growth has warm golden shine and burgundy edges.

Cowardly Lion

This beautiful cultivar has striking, chocolate-colored veins on golden leaves. The color of the foliage gets darker with age.


‘Escargot’ is a popular rex hybrid with snail-shaped leaves having a green center and beautiful gray-green edges.


‘Marmaduke’ is quite similar to ‘Cowardly Lion,’ except the chocolatey tones are splashed across the golden foliage instead of following the veins.

Stained Glass

The eye-catching ruby-red leaves have dark veins at the center silver boundaries on black ruffled edges.

Northern Lights

This beautiful compact plant has gold foliage with hints of ochre brown. It also grows white flowers in winters.

Madame Queen

This masterpiece of a hybrid plant has large ruffled-edged leaves in olive-green color with a rich red underside.

Amelia’s Kaleidoscope

The new growth of the plant has a copper-bronze hue that takes a rich chartreuse-lime shade when they mature.

Plum Paisley

If you love the neon shade in plants, then you are going to adore this one! It has a mix of blue, green, and pink with splashes of white.

Solar Flare

This hybrid features orange-red foliage that looks spectacular on plant stands. Its new growth comes in a red hue.

Growing Rex Begonia

Obtain seedlings. Microscopic rex begonia seeds are difficult to see, let alone handle, so the best way to grow the plant is from seedlings or propagating from a leaf cutting. You can purchase seedlings online or at garden centers and nurseries.

Choose a site. The rex begonia plant grows best in shady areas, as direct sun can burn the leaves. Bright indirect light promotes plant growth, preventing root rot and providing the leaves with sunlight in small doses. Find a site that receives minimal direct sunlight and good water drainage, like under a tree.

Prepare the soil. Begonias prefer slightly acidic soil, with a pH between 5.7 and 6.2. Loosen the soil with a garden rake or your hands. Dig holes about seven to ten inches apart to give the seedlings ample room to grow.

Plant the seedlings. Place the seedlings into the holes, then gently cover them with soil.

Water the soil. Settle the soil with a generous watering, which will encourage the seedlings to root.

Rex Begonia Care

Rex begonia (Begonia rex-cultorum) is a semi-tropical perennial plant normally grown as an outdoor container plant or houseplant. The forms sold commercially are carefully cultivated varieties of the B. rex species native to parts of eastern Asia. If planted in the garden (a relatively rare occurrence), rex begonia is grown as an annual in all but the warmest climates.

Because these are primarily foliage plants, careful cultivation is important to realize their full beauty. Use a porous potting mix in a relatively shallow pot, feed the plant regularly, and keep the plant moist, but avoid overwatering.

It can be challenging to find just the right conditions for rex begonia to display its best leaf color. Ideal daytime temperatures are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, nighttime temperatures around 60 degrees, and a constant humidity level around 50 percent. Provide the plant with plenty of bright indirect sun, but keep it out of direct sunlight. Rotate the plant frequently to expose it to equal light on all sides.


Rex begonias like bright, indirect light year-round. Because they are not aggressive bloomers, they can tolerate less light than other begonias and will thrive under fluorescent lights.


Airy, light, fast-draining soil is best for rex begonias.


Rex begonias require regular water, but be careful not to overwater them. They thrive on humidity but be careful if misting leaves that they don't stay too wet and encourage powdery mildew. Let the soil surface become dry to the touch before watering. But don't let the soil become overly dry or the plant will begin to wither. The soil should be watered to feel slightly, but evenly moist.

Temperature and Humidity

Rex begonias do best in moderate temperatures (60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and moderately high humidity (around 50 percent). Growth will slow in freezing temperatures and some types of begonias go into a dormant period during the winter due to lack of light. As with other begonias, the rex and other foliage begonias prefer the same humid, gentle environment in which understory ferns thrive.


Use liquid fertilizer weekly at quarter strength or at half strength every two weeks.

Propagating Rex Begonia

The vast majority of begonias offered in the trade are hybrids so they cannot be accurately propagated from seed. Rhizomatous begonias such as the rex begonia can be easily propagated by rhizome division during repotting. Almost all begonia species will readily sprout from leaf-tip cuttings. A rooting hormone can help the cuttings sprout.

Rex begonias can also be propagated by pinning a leaf to the bedding mix and making small incisions in the leaf veins or by inserting a leaf (with a petiole) directly into the soil. The petiole is the stalk that attaches the leaf blade to the plant stem.

Potting and Repotting Rex Begonias

Rex begonias are rhizomatous plants that grow from a shallow and knobby rhizome. As such, they do best in large, relatively shallow pots where the rhizome has room to spread. If the rhizome still has room to grow in its pot, the begonia should be considered happily potted.

When the rhizome begins to butt up against the sides of the pot, however, it's time to repot into a fresh pot with fresh soil. Divide the rhizome when repotting to increase your plant stock. As with all begonias, don't soak the soil of newly potted plants, but do keep it lightly moist and warm.

Pests and Plant Diseases

Here are a few of the common pests and diseases to know about when it comes to caring for your king begonia plant.

  • Powdery mildew

  • Bacterial leaf spot

  • Botrytis fungal infection

  • Mealybugs

Powdery mildew is an especially pesky problem with these plants which can travel to affect other plants in your home. Ensure the affected plant is isolated from other begonias, preferably in an area with good air circulation. Treat the mildew with a fungicide or homemade spray, using a mixture of water, dish soap, and baking soda, until it subsides.

Common Problems With Rex Begonias

You'll notice if the leaves of your lovely rex begonia begin to wilt, which is one of its most common problems. Besides a pest infestation, there may be other reasons why the leaves are wilting, including the following:

  • The soil is too dry or too wet.

  • The soil is not draining enough.

  • The plant needs more light, but not intense light.

  • The humidity levels are too low (but don't mist the plant because rex begonias do not like wet foliage).

Benefits of Rex Begonia

Begonia rex are about average at removal of chemical vapours. Therefore you will benefit from more than their eye-catching foliage, if you can find a place for some in your workplace.

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