Painted Leaves

Behold, the beautiful leaves of this Rex Begonia I bought last winter. It’s flowering!

The trick to growing this particular begonia is shade and humidity. My time hiking through forests in Dominica really drove that point home in a clear way. I often found begonias growing in surprisingly dim spots underneath thick tree canopy and near to a water source where the humidity was high. Rex Begonias are known for demanding more of both.

When I first bought this plant I had a difficult time finding that balance. I got the humidity part right but gave it too much light. Rexs without enough humidity end up with crispy leaf edges. And when the light is too bright, they lose their vibrant color.

By midsummer I got it right and my plant took off creating new leaves with richer, fuller coloration. Now I am living in a new place with very different light, humidity, and temperature fluctuations. Unfortunately, this means that my plant may take a bit of a beating before I get it right again.

I suspect there will be a lot of fumbles like this over the coming months. This is why you should never feel too badly about failing with a plant or grow too egotistical about your successes with others. Change gardening locations and you’re practically back at square one.

Worse still is that every time I write about Begonias I feel the need to atone for every bad thing I said about them in the past. “I said a lot of bad things and am a terrible person.” I will write that on the blackboard 100 times before dinner.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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4 thoughts on “Painted Leaves

  1. I have ALWAYS had trouble with this specific cultivar of begonia, while thriving with others. I remain vigilant, though, and one day will get it to take off! I just had a cutting sprouting in water and then….doom. It is so beautiful though……

  2. I absolutely LOVE these begonias. I’ve tried many different varieties over the years, and have had limited success. You just reinforced what I thought was the problem: lack of humidity. The dry Colorado air is not a begonias best friend. Maybe I’ll try again and see if I can create a more humid environment.

  3. Shayna: It gets dry here in the winter, too. I’m starting to get a bit concerned about mine and am gonna set it on top of a gravel tray… as soon as I can find the box with the gravel in it. Sigh.

  4. You brought with your post a little more light into something shady. ;) Thank You.
    My Begonia also does the best in a shady spot of my backyard and I was wondering about that, since most other flowering plants need way more light. But you also mention humidity and that is something we have here in SE Texas pretty much year around. So I guess it’s in a perfect place and condition.

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