June 23, 2017

Beam Me Up, Rex

Begonia rex

Janine Pineo Photo | Begonia rex

It wasn’t flowers but mounds of rich burgundy that drew the eye. It was Begonia rex, spotted in the Half Moon Gardens and Central Maine Stoneworks display at the 2012 Bangor’s Garden Show. Rex begonias are the result of mutations because of being irradiated by X-rays, according to a University of Florida fact sheet. It seems that doing so speeds up the regular genetic manipulation that would be done traditionally by plant breeders. That said, the results for the rex begonia is a slew of leaf colors and combinations meant to wow, from silver to pink to  purple to red to burgundy to chocolate and more. The flowers are rather nondescript for a begonia, but they do flower. Rex is usually marketed as a houseplant but can also be used in the shade garden. It is a little fussy, requiring steady humidity above 50 percent; otherwise the leaves can start to turn brown along the edges. Like its other begonia relatives, rex is not hardy so enjoy it in the garden and then through the winter in the house.