I have a small collection of Rex Begonias, commonly known as the Painted Leaf Begonia, and they hold a special place in this gardener's heart. I have my little potted collection sitting on a shelf just outside one of my kitchen windows. This shelf is part of the Shadehouse Garden which runs down that side of my house and they simply love this spot. I love that I see them every time I walk into my kitchen and they really are a wonderful sight!
They have the most fabulous showy foliage and this is what attracted me to these plants from the beginning ...
but I also adore their pretty little pink flowers. Now admittedly the flowers do get rather lost amongst the myriad of colours and patterns in the leaves of the Rex, but they do deserve some recognition for their beauty as well.
I know these plants have a reputation in many parts of the world as being high maintenance and difficult to grow. In my part of the world ... the northern tropics of Australia ... I find them to be a plant that's easy to maintain. Of course, the reason my Rexs thrive so beautifully in their spot out in the Shadehouse Garden is because the conditions there suit them to a tee!
Whilst the Shadehouse is outdoors and open to the elements, only being covered with shadecloth, the Rexs are protected from heavy rain as they are located on a shelf that sits under the eaves of the house.
It's important to protect Rex Begonias from our 'wet' season as they really don't thrive in wet conditions. Over-watering is their number one killer. I always allow the soil to dry out in between watering.
Like most Begonias, they store moisture in their stems and are rather succulent-like in that regard, so they are terrific water-wise plants and can survive extended dry periods. This is feature that makes them a perfect addition to my dry tropics garden.
Rex Begonias love humidity ... and we have that in abundant supply all year round here in the tropics. Humidity levels rarely ever drop below 50% here ... and there are days when it hits 100%. The Rexs love it!
They are best kept in bright light, but not full sun. The shadecloth that covers the Shadehouse garden offers protection from the harsh direct tropical sunshine by diffusing the light and blocking out 70% of the tropical sun's harmful UV rays. The Rexs enjoy these dappled light conditions.
Apologies I do not know any of the cultivar names for my Rex Begonias. I bought all mine from nurseries around here and they were simply labelled as 'Rex Begonias'! Since the nurseries here in my corner of Oz are not exactly stocked to the rafters with Rexs, my collection remains quite small but I'm forever on the lookout for other hybrids.
Here in the tropics, the Rex Begonias are evergreen plants, so I can enjoy their beauty all year round.