Care for the painted-leaf begonia – the care of Begonia rex

The painted-leaf begonia is especially noticeable for its uniquely marked leaves.

This care guide will help you properly care for the houseplant and maintain its beauty.

Begonia rex in a white calyx-like flower pot. The leaves have pink to red leaf colors.
© Andre M.W. –

Origin of Begonia rex

In addition to its botanical name, Begonia rex, the painted-leaf begonia is also known as the king begonia and Rex begonia.

The different variations of the painted-leaf begonia are grouped as Begonia rex hybrids.

Among others, these beautiful variations are especially recommended:

  • Begonia rex ‘Silver Queen’
  • Begonia rex ‘Pinkpop’
  • Begonia rex ‘Spitfire’
  • Begonia rex ‘Her Majesty’
  • Begonia rex ‘Escargot’
  • Begonia rex ‘Super Curl’

They belong to the family of Begoniaceae and originate from the Asian, African, and American tropics and subtropics.

The trendy plant is also increasingly cultivated as a houseplant.

Appearance and characteristics of the royal begonia

The royal begonia can be listed as a perennial. Characteristic is its broad-bushy, dense, and partly overhanging growth.

The houseplant can reach a height of 8 to 12 inches.

The unique feature of Begonia rex is its impressive leaves. These are asymmetrical and heart-shaped pointed. Their arrangement is alternate.

You can discover different varieties regarding the patterning and coloring of the leaf ornamentation. These range from heavily variegated to monochromatic variations.

Since the royal begonia is evergreen, its leaf decoration can be viewed all year round.

The flower

The few flowers of the painted-leaf begonia are pink, about an inch across, and arranged in panicles.

Unfortunately, you can view them exclusively during the flowering period from December to February.

The fruit

Begonia rex can form compartmentalized capsules, which contain fine seeds.

The perfect location for the painted-leaf begonia

The Begonia rex should enjoy year-round temperatures of 64 to 72 °F. It can already suffer damage at temperatures below 61 °F.

In addition, sufficient soil warmth is essential.

So, overall, the location should be warm and bright. Direct midday sun should be avoided, however.

Too dark a location is also unsuitable, as it can damage the beautiful leaf markings.

Overwintering the Begonia rex

In winter, you should ensure that temperatures do not fall below 61 °F even at this time of year and that sufficient soil warmth is provided.

The exception is some Begonia rex hybrids (such as Begonia x credneri, Begonia metallica, and Begonia scharffiana), which prefer cooler locations with temperatures around 54 °F.

It would be best if you watered the houseplant less than usual during winter. Fertilizing should be suspended between October and February.

Also, it is not recommended to repot Begonia rex in winter.

Watering the royal begonia

Outside of winter, the painted-leaf begonia should be watered consistently and kept evenly moist.

The Begonia rex mustn’t be completely soaked. Accordingly, moderate watering is recommended.

The soil’s surface can dry out between these waterings, but the substrate should only dry out partially.

Suitable is soft, i.e., low-calcium, room-warm water, given directly into the plant soil.

Detail of a leaf of the royal begonia
Some Begonia rex varieties form colored spirals on their leaves. (Image: © Evgeny –

Fertilize the painted-leaf begonia

It would help to fertilize your painted-leaf begonia with No products found. in small doses every two weeks between March and September.

That will provide the houseplant with adequate nutrients.

Newly purchased or recently repotted begonias do not need to be fertilized for the following six to eight weeks, as they can get all the nutrients they need from their fresh soil.

The optimal substrate for the royal begonia

Commercial potting soil* is perfect as a substrate for your Begonia rex.

Painted-leaf begonia with white leaf pattern
Unlike most houseplants, Begonia rex has asymmetric leaves. Thus, in addition to the often bright colors, it attracts attention. (Image: © alohapatty –

Repot the Begonia rex

When the pot of the royal begonia is heavily rooted, you should repot it into a larger container with fresh soil. Here it will have the opportunity to spread its roots again.

Shallow planters are best, as the roots of the leaf begonia tend to grow wider rather than deeper.

At best, repotting should be done exclusively in the spring.

Prune a Begonia rex

The painted-leaf begonia generally does not need to be pruned.

However, to allow the plant to focus its energy on its healthy shoots, it is recommended to cut off dead and wilted leaves with clean (garden) scissors.

Begonia rex with black-silver leaves against a white background
“Rex Begonia-Silver” enchants with its black and silver leaf patterns. (Image: © opymakh –

Propagate Begonia Rex hybrids

Propagation by leaf cuttings

You can use several methods for this.

Whole leaves can be cut from the plant and stuck into the soil at an angle with about one inch of leaf attachment.

Otherwise, you can cut thick leaf veins from your Begonia rex and lay the leaves flat on a moist substrate.

The last option is to cut the leaves of the royal begonia into small pieces and subsequently stick them into the soil at an angle.

Propagation by root cuttings

In this method, the root ball of the slate leaf is briefly exposed, and some healthy roots are cut off.

These roots are cut into finger-length pieces and placed in the soil.

Thicker roots are put vertically into the soil. Here, the plant’s growth direction should be maintained, which is why cutting the root parts at an angle at the bottom and straight at the top is recommended.

The root sections are then inserted into the soil with the slanted end facing downwards. In the case of thinner roots, the cuttings should be slightly longer.

They are subsequently placed horizontally on the soil and covered with the substrate.

Propagation by rhizome division

A rhizome is a shoot axis system located in the soil. In rhizome division, you cut a shoot axis with a sharp knife into several short pieces.

Their buds can subsequently sprout whole plants again.

In all these techniques, high humidity, plenty of light, and warm temperatures are of great importance for the growth of the new plantlets.

Detail of a leaf of the royal begonia
Some Begonia rex varieties form colored spirals on their leaves. (Image: © Evgeny –

Diseases, pests & care mistakes of painted-leaf begonia


Powdery mildew and root rot

If the begonia is kept too wet or too cold, it can be affected by these diseases. Powdery mildew covers the leaves and stems of the houseplant like a white coating.

That is a fungal disease that occurs when water cannot dry sufficiently from the leaves of the royal begonia and consequently accumulates in them.

To avoid this, Begonia rex should not be sprayed with water but only watered directly into its soil.

In addition, you can apply a No products found..

Root rot can be caused by fungi and bacteria but often by overwatering and waterlogging. The roots rot and become muddy. In most cases, root rot is difficult to fight.

You can save the plant by cutting off all affected roots and rinsing the root ball. Afterward, the painted-leaf begonia should be planted in peat-free soil and kept dry for the next few weeks.

Leaf spots

These can also be caused by spraying the plant directly. Again, it is recommended to only water your houseplant now over its soil in the future.


Infestation by root flukes (nematodes)

Unfortunately, there are currently no plant protection products against these pests.

Accordingly, only preventive measures, primarily hygienic measures against the tiny nematodes, can be taken.

As a preventive measure, it also helps to ensure that the leaves of the Begonia rex remain permanently dry.

Infestation by aphids

The pests are primarily recognizable by their sticky deposits on the Begonia rex. In cases of heavy infestation, groupings of aphids can sometimes be seen.

Ladybugs, lacewings, and gall midges can be used as natural predators. In addition, aphids can be controlled by plant suds or No products found..

Infestation by mites

If your begonia is heavily infested, you can recognize spider mites by their webs that spread along the plant. The pests themselves are tiny, red animals.

Natural enemies such as predatory mites, gall midges, or ichneumon wasps are suitable for controlling them. You can also use No products found..

Infestation by thrips

Thrips are blackish-brown, tiny pests that develop from greenish to yellowish-white larvae. They suck the sap from the host plant and bore holes in the leaf surfaces.

They often appear during drought. You can control them with the help of their natural enemies, predatory mites, and lacewing larvae.

In addition, you can use No products found. or No products found..

A change of substrate is also necessary in case of such infestation.

Care Mistakes

Curling leaves

If the leaves of your Begonia rex curl up, drought and too high temperatures are mainly the reason. Here it helps to adjust the site conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Begonia rex poisonous?

The Begonia rex is one of the most poisonous begonia species for humans and animals. Accordingly, it should only be handled with gloves and never eaten.
Poisoning can manifest in mucous membranes irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea, among other symptoms. In this case, it is recommended to contact a doctor.
If you have children or pets, Begonia rex is not recommended. Alternatively, you should place it out of their reach.

Why do the leaves of Begonia rex change color?

If the begonia leaves get yellow or brown edges or spots, this is primarily a result of too much or frequent watering. If they fall more frequently, this may also be a cause.

Take advantage of this!


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Richard Schmidt
Hey, my name is Richard! In my spare time, I write about the care of indoor plants on this website. Indoor plants have long fascinated me. That's why there are many plants in my little urban jungle - from the mainstream Syngonium to true rarities. Besides my passion for houseplants, I'm a real sneakerhead.

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