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How to Grow Foliage Begonias

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Foliage begonias have large heart-shaped leaves with bold and subtle markings in the form of marbling, mottling, spots, or zones. Leaf colors range from green to silver, bronze, purple, red, pink, and black often with a silvery overlay. Rex Begonia and Angel-Wing Begonia are two of the best know foliage begonias.

Begonias dislike full exposure to the sun or very dry conditions. They thrive best in a mixture of fibrous loam with leafmold and a bit of sand added.

Begonias are propagated by seed, which is extremely small and should be covered; also by stem and leaf-cutting and by division of the rhizomes and tubers.

Get to know Foliage Begonias

  • Plant type: Tropical perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: 10-11
  • Light needs: Medium-light, no direct sunlight; foliage begonia grow well under fluorescent lights
  • Optimal growing temperatures: Warm–75°F (24°C) during the day, 60°F (16°C) at night
  • Height and width: 10 to 18 inches (25-45cm) tall and wide
  • Foliage: roughly heart-shaped large leaves up to several inches across with stunning veined markings in burgundy, red, green, cream, silver, and brown. Leaves are often hairy and heart-shaped.
  • Flowers: Waxy flowers in white, pink, and red
  • Bloom time: Spring and summer
  • Uses: Houseplants, patio plant in warm-summer regions
  • Common name: Foliage begonia, painted begonia, angel-wing begonia
  • Botanical name: Begonia spp.
  • Family: Begoniaceae
  • Origin: Widespread in tropical and subtropical regions

Where to plant Foliage Begonias

  • Foliage begonia needs average warmth.
  • Give plants even humidity; set containers on a tray of pebbles with water.
  • Make sure plants have good air circulation and that there are no cold drafts.
  • Grow foliage begonias in an all-purpose mix in shallow pots.
Rex Begonia, also known as the painted leaf begonia or fancy leaf begonia
Rex Begonia, also known as the painted leaf begonia or fancy leaf begonia

When to plant Foliage Begonias

  • Set outdoors in indirect light when daytime temperature averages 70°F or warmer.

How to water and feed Foliage Begonias

  • Keep the soil evenly moist; allow the soil to dry slightly in winter.
  • Fertilize foliage begonias with half-strength 10-30-10 fertilizer at every other watering during the growing season.

Foliage Begonias care

  • Pinch back branches each spring to encourage bushiness and fullness.

Growing Begonia as a houseplant

  • Most begonias grow best in bright light (an exception is rex begonias which prefer limited light).
  • Begonias prefer average to warm temperatures.
  • Most begonias like high humidity (the exceptions are tuberous and rex begonias).
  • Grow all begonias in rich potting medium and keep the medium evenly moist except in winter, when it should be allowed to dry out slightly between waterings.
  • All begonias like monthly fertilizing when they are in growth or in flower.
  • Wax begonias like to be pot-bound and can be pinched to keep them compact.

Foliage Begonias common problems

  • Overwatering can cause the crown of foliage begonia to rot.
  • Pot-bound plants tend to lose color in their leaves.
  • Leaf drop in winter is not unusual.
  • If leaf colors fade, move to a brighter spot.

Growing Begonias as houseplants

  • Most begonias need bright light, medium humidity, and average temperatures at night.
  • Rex begonia needs limited light, a warm temperature, and high humidity.
  • The soil should be watered thoroughly and allowed to dry to the touch between waterings.
  • Begonias should be fertilized regularly during spring and summer.

Foliage Begonia propagation

  • Take stem or leaf cuttings at any time.
  • Divide rhizomes in spring and replant in clay pots.

Foliage Begonias varieties to grow

  • Begonia boweri, eyelash begonia. Grows bushy to about 6 inches tall; leaves are irregular in shape and size; leaves are velvety dark green with lighter green blotches leaf margins has sot hairs that resemble eyelashes; clusters of tiny pink flowers bloom in late winter to early spring; rhizomatous roots
  • B. coccinea, angel-wing begonis. Grow upright 3 to 4 feet tall; long green stems have knotted joints; leaves are ear-shaped, leathery, and green with silvery-white spots; dropping clusters of long-lasting, waxy, coral red flowers on red flower stalks in summer; fibrous roots.
  • B. x erythrophylla, beefsteak begonia. Grows to 12 inches tall; smooth, fleshy leaves covered with fine red hairs are shaped like lily pads, upper surfaces are glossy green with veins in a pattern like fingers on a hand; undersides are red; clusters of waxy coral red flowers on red stalks in summer; rhzomatous roots.
  • B. masoniana, iron cross begonia. Grows bushy 6 to 12 inches tall; puckered leaves covered with fine hairs with a brown pattern resemblin a cross in the centers; whtie flowers rhizomatour roots.
  • B. x rex-cultorum, rex begonia. Grows 12 to 15 inches tall; leaves may be blotched, spotted, marbled in various colors including green, silver, gray, bronze, reddish-brown, or purple; pink or white flowers; rhizomatous roots.

Begonia hybrids

  • ‘Merry Christmas’ has green and red markings.
  • ‘Silver Queen’ has elegant green and silver markings.
  • ‘Yuletide’ has red, burgundy, and brown markings.
  • ‘Her Majesty’ has cream, tan, and brown markings.
  • Begonia ‘Lucerna’ is a cane-type angel wing with splotched white leaves.

Also of interest:

Begonia Types and Care

How to Grow Bedding Begonias

How to Grow Tuberous Begonias

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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