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Bernieh's Garden

Rex Begonia

Species: Rex Begonia.

Common name: Rex Begonia
Botanic name: Rex Begonia
Family: Begoniaceae

Rex begonias are technically a rhizomatous begonia, but are often put in a group of their own because of their amazing iridescent foliage. The leaf colourings are said to run the gamut of shades of precious metals - gold, silver, platinum, etc, and precious gems - amethyst, ruby, garnet, topaz, emerald and opal. The leaf textures follows that of beautiful fabrics of silk, satin, velvet, brocade, crepe, tweed and soft woollens.

Most begonias like moist soils and dappled shade. This makes them useful plants in the garden for underneath trees, where it’s often difficult to get any colour. Many species also make good indoor or patio plants.

Begonias are succulent-like plants that store moisture in their stems. That means they can survive extended dry periods, and are quite waterwise in the garden. They respond well to fertiliser, but in the absence of it, will still survive nicely.

Begonias are mostly tropical and sub-tropical but some survive in harsher climates even above the snowline. But as diverse as these plants are - all begonias have one thing in common, asymmetrical leaves - a rare thing in the botanical world. One theory about the shape of the leaves is that it helps them stand out in the forest, and attracts pollinators, because many of the species have insignificant flowers.

Rex Begonias are beautiful tropical foliage plants, but they are expensive to buy. Fortunately they're part of the rhizomatous begonia group and that means you can take leaf-cuttings and save money.

Just select a healthy leaf. Use a craft knife and remove the stem, because that's not needed.

Place the leaf upside down. This method of propagation is called a leaf-wedge cutting. Select healthy veins, and cut the leaf to create a wedge. Each wedge needs to include a large vein – so slice it carefully.

One leaf can make up to four leaf-wedge cuttings. Then dip each wedge in some hormone rooting preparation and insert it into some fresh moist propagating mix.

Don't overcrowd them. Then just cover with a semi opaque milk bottle. This conserves moisture and filters sunlight so they don't burn while they root. Use a stick inside the bottle to prevent any strong winds blowing it off. In about two months the young plants will be ready to pot up individually.

Photos of this plant

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