Rex Begonia Species Profile & Care Guide

The Painted-leaf Begonia, also known as Rex Begonia, is a popular houseplant due to its vibrant, uniquely patterned leaves.

This tropical plant is revered for its aesthetic appeal rather than its flowers, making it a delightful addition to any indoor gardening collection.

painted-leaf begonia (Rex Begonia)

Profile Overview

  • Common Name: The Painted-Leaf Begonia, also widely known as the Rex Begonia, is a vibrant species of perennial flowering plants in the family Begoniaceae.
  • Scientific Name:  The scientific name for the Painted-Leaf Begonia is “Begonia Rex-Cultorum”.
  • Family: The Painted-Leaf Begonia belongs to the Begoniaceae family, one of the largest flowering-plant families comprising more than 1,800 species.
  • Origin/Native Region: Painted-Leaf Begonia is indigenous to the tropical regions of Southern Asia, specifically India and the eastern Himalayas.
  • Growth Habit: Renowned for its vibrant, multicolored leaves, this plant grows in a rhizomatous manner, with leaves growing horizontally from the rhizome. Its growth rate is moderate, with unique foliage that tends to grow more significantly than the bloom. This tropical houseplant thrives best in high humidity and well-draining soil.


The Painted-leaf Begonia is undeniably a treat to the eyes with its striking aesthetic features. Its captivating appearance makes it a desired addition to indoor plant collections, garden patios, and shaded landscapes.

This begonia gets its name from its visually stunning leaves that showcase a myriad of colors.

The elements of its appearance, such as leaf size, leaf shape, leaf color, stem characteristics, and mature size, work in harmony to create an attractive plant that is as pleasing to the senses as it is to grow.

Let’s delve a bit deeper to understand the various aspects of its appearance.

Leaf Size

The Painted-leaf Begonia, often expansive in leaf size, can add an eye-catching appeal to your indoor or outdoor garden. Characteristically, the leaves range from medium to large, typically spanning between 2 to 6 inches in length or wider in some varieties.

This leaf size contributes to the plant’s overall grandeur and visual interest. The bigger the leaf, the more notable the painted, intricate patterns and colors on its foliage, becoming a significant feature of this delightful houseplant.

As a gardener, embrace the variation in leaf size from one painted-leaf Begonia to another, as each leaf’s size, shape, and color pattern is unique.

Leaf Shape

In the Painted-leaf Begonia, you’ll observe a unique characteristic in the leaf shape. These plants typically produce leaves that are asymmetric, a signature trait of the Begonia genus.

This means that one half of the leaf is often different from the other, creating an interesting, irregular silhouette. Moreover, the edges of the leaves or the leaf margins can be smooth, toothed, or even lobed, adding to the begonia’s visual allure.

The diversity in leaf shape paired with intricate patterns and colors are among the many features that make this species a captivating addition to both indoor and outdoor gardens.

Leaf Color

The Painted-leaf Begonia, as the name suggests, is celebrated for its vibrant, multicolored foliage. Leaves of this species can come in a variety of colors, typically featuring shades of green, red, pink, silver, or brown with intricate patterns of spots or stripes of contrasting colors.

The leaf color can be uniform or varied, with some plants displaying a subtle gradient or bold variegation. This dramatic leaf coloration gives Painted-leaf Begonia its ornamental appeal and leads to its common use in indoor and outdoor decorative gardening.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that color vibrancy can be influenced by light levels.

Painted-leaf Begonia (Rex Begonia)

Stem Characteristics

The stems of the painted-leaf Begonia are succulent and often have a dual role in support and storage of nutrients. They are usually green, but can also vary in shades of pink to red, depending on the lighting conditions and maturity of the plant.

Notably, these stems are normally erect and hold the leaves high, exhibiting their vibrant underleaf color. The thickness of the stem varies from thin to slightly thick, depending on the plant’s growth stage.

One key feature is that the stem bases are typically swollen as they connect to the roots, known as caudex.

Mature Size

The mature size of a Painted-leaf Begonia varies depending on the specific species and growing conditions, but typically these plants can grow to be between 1 and 3 feet in height and spread.

As they age, they may produce a small trunk, further contributing to their impressive vertical display. However, their spread or width tends not to exceed their height, giving them a somewhat compact growth habit.

This moderate size makes them ideal choices for indoor growing or in the middle or rear of outdoor flower beds.

Remember, adequate space is essential for optimal plant health and leads to their characteristic lush leaf display.

Care Requirements

Caring for Painted-leaf Begonia demands a keen understanding of their specific needs. A healthy plant is a result of balanced light, perfect watering, suitable temperature, and proper soil mix.

These requirements vary among species but some standards apply. Let’s dive deeper to explore each care factor in detail.

Light Needs

The Painted-leaf Begonia prefers bright, indirect light to flourish. Intense direct sunlight can cause the extravagant leaf colors to fade and the edges to burn.

Yet, it can tolerate shade but with reduced leaf color vibrancy. You can accomplish this lighting condition indoors by placing it near a north-facing window or under fluorescent lighting.

Make sure to rotate the plant occasionally to ensure even exposure to light, promoting balanced growth. Adjusting the light exposure according to the season, with more light in winter and less in summer, can help simulate its native tropical habitat.

Watering Frequency

The Painted-leaf Begonia, like other species of Begonia, has a certain set of requirements when it comes to watering. It prefers regular watering but does not like to sit in standing water.

Overwatering can lead to diseases such as root rot. In warmer periods, the soil should be kept consistently moist but not saturated. The top inch of the soil should be allowed to dry out between watering sessions.

During the cooler months or dormant period, reduce the watering frequency significantly – basically just enough to keep the plant from drying out completely. Make sure your watering schedule suits the climate conditions of your area.

Humidity Preferences

The Painted-leaf Begonia prefers a humid environment to thrive. Its native habitat is tropical, so it’s used to high humidity. However, this doesn’t mean it needs to be kept in a sauna-like environment.

Normal indoor humidity levels should suffice, especially when coupled with regular watering. But, if you live in a particularly dry region, you might want to consider strategies to increase humidity such as using a humidifier, placing the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles, or grouping it close to other plants.

Overly dry conditions may cause stress, leaf drop, and faded foliage.

Temperature Range

The Painted-leaf Begonia can handle a wide range of temperatures, although it thrives best in warmer conditions. Ideally, maintain a temperature range between 60°F and 85°F (15°C to 29°C) for optimal growth.

The plant doesn’t fare well in cold, hence it is sensitive to frost. During winters, if the temperature drops below 50°F (10°C), it’s best to bring the plant indoors.

Remember, sudden temperature changes can harm the plant, causing leaf drop or wilting. Therefore, gradual temperature shifts are preferable – it’s the consistency that your Painted-leaf Begonia appreciates.

Soil Type & pH Preferences

The painted-leaf Begonia prefers well-draining soil, considering it’s tropical in nature. A good mix of peat moss, perlite, and compost or regular houseplant mix are good choices.

For a healthy painted-leaf Begonia, the soil’s pH level should ideally sit between neutral to mildly acidic range, approximately around 5.5 to 6.5.

However, painted-leaf Begonia can tolerate a slightly broader pH range, demonstrating its adaptability. Always remember to test your soil’s pH level periodically and adjust if necessary, ensuring the ideal environment for the begonia to flourish.

Growth & Propagation

The Painted-leaf Begonia exhibits a moderate growth rate, meaning you won’t have to wait long to see your plant flourish. The main method of propagation for the Painted-leaf Begonia is from leaf cuttings or by dividing the root ball.

The active growing season for this plant usually spans from spring to early fall. Understanding proper potting and repotting practices is critical as it affects the plant’s overall health and development.

In this section, we will further delve into each aspect of the Painted-leaf Begonia’s growth and propagation, providing all the pertinent information you need to nurture this vibrant species successfully.

Growth Rate

The Painted-leaf Begonia, known for its swift growth, can reach its full size in about a year with proper care. Its growth rate, however, can be influenced by factors like light, water, temperature, and overall care routines.

Providing optimal conditions that closely mimic its natural environment would significantly enhance the growth rate. Remember, though fast growers, they can become dormant and slow down growth during cold seasons.

Make sure you adjust care routines accordingly during such times. Your begonia’s fast growth would require frequent repotting, usually annually, so be prepared for hands-on care to keep your plant thriving.

Propagation Methods

For propagating Painted-leaf Begonias, two popular methods are employed: leaf cuttings and stem cuttings. For leaf cuttings, cut a healthy leaf, along with a bit of stem, and then simply plant it in moist, well-draining soil.

Ensure the cut side is down and wait for a few weeks for roots to establish. Stem cuttings are similar; cut a stem near a leaf node, remove leaves from the bottom half, and place the stem in water until roots form.

Then, transfer into potting soil. Always propagate during the active growth season to maximize success. Remember, propagation can take some time and patience is key.

Season of Active Growth

The Painted-leaf Begonia actively grows during the warm months, typically spring and summer. It is during these seasons that you will see new leaves and inflorescences emerging.

This is also the best time to carry out propagation, as the plants will have the energy to heal and establish themselves after the process.

However, ensure the plant isn’t exposed to extreme heat or direct sunlight, as this can lead to stress.

Align your watering, feeding, and care routine with this active growth phase for optimal health and development of the plant.

Potting and Repotting Recommendations

Painted-leaf Begonias will thrive best in well-draining soil and pots with sufficient drainage holes. When you initially pot your Begonia, use a pot that is just slightly larger than the root ball.

As your plant grows, it will eventually require repotting, typically every 2-3 years. This is best done in the spring or early summer.

Be very gentle while repotting, as the roots can be quite sensitive. Choose a new pot that is 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the previous pot and always use fresh soil when repotting to replenish the supply of nutrients.

Potential Issues

Like any plant, Painted-leaf Begonias can be susceptible to a variety of issues. Most often, these are either related to pests, diseases, or specific sensitivities the plant has to adverse conditions.

As you strive for ideal growth, you will need to regularly inspect the plants and monitor their conditions. Prompt addressing of these issues can make all the difference in your Begonia’s health and growth.

In the following sections, we’ll provide an overview of the most common pests and diseases that could affect your Painted-leaf Begonia, as well as other sensitivities to be aware of.

Common Pests

The Painted-leaf Begonia can be affected by several common pests. These include aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites.

Aphids are small, sap-sucking insects that can cause the leaves to curl and yellow. Mealybugs appear as white, cottony masses on the undersides of leaves and can cause stunted growth.

Spider mites, often not visible to the naked eye, can cause yellow speckling on leaves. A heavy infestation can result in loss of leaves and even plant death.

Regularly inspecting your plants and treating pests promptly can protect the health of your Painted-leaf Begonia.

Common Diseases

Painted-leaf Begonias are generally resistant to various plant diseases. However, certain conditions may invite disease. For instance, overwatering can lead to root rot.

Interestingly, these plants are sensitive to powdery mildew, which manifests as a white, powdery substance on the leaves. Begonia species may also be susceptible to fungal leaf spots, botrytis or gray mold, especially in humid conditions or when foliage remains wet for extended periods.

To prevent diseases, ensure proper watering, good air circulation around your plants and avoid allowing the foliage to remain wet, especially overnight. If a plant does contract a disease, isolate it from others to prevent spread.

Other Sensitivities

Painted-leaf Begonias, while resilient, are susceptible to certain sensitivities. Overwatering may lead to root rot, while inadequate ventilation could culminate in a powdery mildew problem.

In terms of light exposure, these begonias do not tolerate harsh, direct sunlight well – it could potentially scorch their colorful leaves and drain them of their vibrancy.

Moreover, these plants may also exhibit sensitivities to cold drafts or sudden temperature fluctuations. It is essential to keep them in a consistent and stable environment to facilitate their overall health and growth.

Special Features & Uses

Painted-leaf Begonias are not just prominent because of their stunning appearance. They have some unique features and uses that make them a favorite plant among gardening enthusiasts and plant decorators.

Unique Characteristics

One of the distinguishing features of the Painted-leaf Begonia is its stunning, color-dappled foliage. Each leaf is like a canvas, with veins and splashes of contrasting hues ranging from pink, red, silver, or gold, depending on the species.

The name ‘Painted-leaf’ is derived from this unique characteristic. Beyond their dramatic leaves, some species also boast eye-catching flowers that bloom during specific seasons.

Another unique trait of some Painted-leaf Begonia plants is their capacity for cane-like growth, which offers a certain tropical charm.

These attributes set the Painted-leaf Begonia apart from other houseplants, making them interesting additions to indoor and outdoor gardens.

Decorative Use

The painted-leaf begonia is an ideal choice for adding dramatic color and texture to indoor and outdoor settings. With its vibrant, beautifully patterned leaves, it makes a stunning addition to houseplant collections and can be used as an ornamental centerpiece in a variety of plant arrangements.

Outdoors, it provides stunning ground cover in shaded garden areas. Alternatively, it can also be grown in patio containers or hanging baskets, appreciating the dappled light while adding visual interest.

Remember, the painted-leaf begonia is not just a plant, but a form of living art that can instantly jazz up any space with its striking appearance.


As an avid cultivator, it’s important for you to note that Painted-leaf Begonias contain soluble calcium oxalates. This compound is mildly toxic to humans and pets if ingested.

Chewing or biting into this plant can cause irritation in the mouth, lips, and tongue. In pets, especially cats and dogs, the symptoms can escalate to vomiting, drooling, or difficulty swallowing.

While the level of toxicity is generally low, it’s recommended that you keep these plants out of reach from children and pets.

Nevertheless, handling the plants generally doesn’t cause any problems, so you can tend to your Painted-leaf Begonia without worry.

Additional Tips & Tricks

When caring for your Painted-leaf Begonia, it’s useful to keep a few additional gardening tips under your belt to ensure robust and vibrant growth.

This section will provide you with some essential recommendations for fertilizing your plant, useful practices for pruning and maintenance, and advice on whether the use of support structures is necessary for the Painted-leaf Begonia.

These tips are derived from expert growers and will help you cultivate a healthy and stunningly beautiful specimen. Remember, the key to successful plant care lies in understanding your plant’s needs and acting accordingly.

Fertilization Recommendations

Your Painted-leaf Begonia will appreciate regular doses of nutrients. During its active growth phase, typically between spring and summer, fertilize your plant every two weeks with water-soluble, complete fertilizer mixed as per instructions on the package.

When it becomes dormant during the fall and winter, reduce this to once per month. Always apply the fertilizer to moist soil to prevent root burn, and take care not to over-fertilize, as this could harm your Begonia.

Regular feeding helps promote vibrant leaf coloration, high growth levels, and overall plant health.

Pruning & Maintenance

Pruning and maintaining your Painted-leaf Begonia is straightforward and rewarding. Pruning should be performed periodically to remove dead or dying leaves and promote a bushier growth.

Use a pair of clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to trim off any yellow, brown, or wilted leaves. It’s best to cut at the base of the leaf stalk to avoid leaving stubs.

Regular maintenance includes checking the plant for pests and diseases, ensuring the soil is not excessively damp or dry, and periodically rotating the plant for even light exposure.

Proper care and maintenance ensure the health and beauty of your Painted-leaf Begonia.

Support Structures

So you’re growing a Painted-leaf Begonia and wondering about support structures? It’s important to know that because they are naturally bushy, these begonias don’t generally need much in the way of support.

However, if you’ve got a particularly large specimen or one that’s growing in a heavily-trafficked area, you might want to consider adding a small trellis or stake for additional stability.

Lack of need for significant support structures is another reason why these plants are a great, low-maintenance choice for beginner indoor gardeners.

Begonia   Updated: November 9, 2023
avatar Hi, I'm Amy, a devoted horticulturist and the creator of, where I use my expertise to help beginners foster their green thumbs. My blog is a vibrant community where I unravel the complexities of gardening and share my profound love for nature.
Questions and Answers
Sandra Neville August 13, 2021 Reply

Is a begonia rex of over 40 years old and still flourishing a record?

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