Plants with painted leaves: Exploring the exquisite beauty of Begonias
With their stunning array of flowers and foliage, begonias have become a plant of interest around the world
I was trekking through a forest looking for bears. Boulder-strewn streams, narrow gorges, and steep cliffs kept coming one after another, posing challenges to their best. There was little room for noticing anything else, well, other than sudden bear attacks. Amidst the profuse sweating, unbearable humidity, festering leeches, and senses high like a pulled bowstring, a plant caught my attention.
To be precise, it was its leaves. Lying on the trails, the plant looked like a creeper. The leaf pattern was like a tapestry. The colour combination — dark green at the centre fading out to iridescent green, pink hue at the border with bold greyish green symmetrical streaking — made the plant a standout from any other. A row of images I had come across on Facebook jogged through my memories. ''Is it a rex begonia?'', I murmured.
Begonias hold a special place in the realm of horticulture. Few plants possess the captivating beauty and versatile charm of begonias. With their stunning array of flowers and foliage, begonias have become a plant of interest around the world. In this article, we will embark on a journey to explore the enchanting world of begonias, unveiling their fascinating characteristics, popular varieties, cultivation secrets, and the reasons behind their enduring popularity.
Belonging to the family Begoniaceae, begonias comprise a diverse group of flowering plants encompassing over 2,000 known species. These botanical wonders originated in tropical and subtropical regions, each boasting its unique characteristics. From the vibrant flowers of tuberous begonias to the intricate patterns of rex begonias' foliage, begonias offer an astonishing range of shapes, colours, and forms.
Within the big begonia family, there are three major groups. These are created based on their exceptional features.
Admired for their show-stopping blossoms, tuber-forming begonias present a vibrant display of colours, including shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, and white. These begonias thrive in shaded or partially shaded areas, making them perfect for enhancing garden beds, containers, or hanging baskets. When I first looked at their flowers, I thought of them as some sort of roses. I checked whether I searched for the correct term or Google had made a mistake!
Rex begonias are treasured for their remarkable foliage, which showcases a captivating blend of colours, patterns, and textures. As the name implies, they are the king of the begonia family. The leaves exhibit stunning hues of silver, green, purple, and burgundy, often adorned with intricate swirls and veins. Rex begonias are predominantly cultivated for their foliage, making them exquisite additions to indoor spaces, effortlessly elevating the aesthetic appeal. Rex begonias easily rival any other aroids with showy foliage. The plant that caught my attention and inspired this article was called a rex begonia vine. While not a true begonia, the plant is a wild grape with leaves evocative of rex begonias.
Known for their resilience and adaptability, rhizomatous begonias offer a diverse range of leaf shapes, sizes, and patterns. In plain terms, these begonias have a subterranean root system much like that of grasses. They thrive in both indoor and outdoor settings, making them a popular choice among plant enthusiasts of all levels. From small, textured leaves to large, boldly coloured ones, rhizomatous begonias largely defy any conventional leaf shape.
To unlock the full potential of begonias and enjoy their exquisite beauty, here are essential cultivation tips:
Begonias mostly grow on the forest floor. In the wild, they are found in mixed evergreens and rainforests. So, begonias have an affinity with shades. They thrive in bright but indirect light. While they prefer temperatures between 15°C and 24°C, it's important to note that different begonia varieties have specific light and temperature requirements. Research the needs of your chosen begonia species to provide optimal growing conditions.
Begonias prefer slightly moist soil but can be sensitive to overwatering. Allow the soil to partially dry between waterings to prevent root rot. Maintaining moderate humidity levels is beneficial, particularly for begonias with delicate foliage. You can increase humidity by placing a tray of water near your begonias or using a room humidifier.
Begonias love well-draining soil enriched with organic matter. A combination of peat moss, perlite, and compost creates an ideal growing medium. During the active growth period, fertilise your begonias regularly with a balanced, water-soluble fertiliser. This provides essential nutrients for robust growth and abundant blooms.
Begonias offer an exciting opportunity for propagation, allowing you to expand your collection or share plants with fellow enthusiasts. Propagation methods include stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, and division. Each method has its specific requirements, but begonias are generally straightforward to propagate, making them a favourite among gardeners.
Why have begonias stood the test of time, captivating generations of plant lovers? The answer lies in their exceptional beauty, versatility, and the sense of wonder they evoke. Begonias effortlessly enhance both indoor and outdoor spaces, offering an unparalleled visual feast. Whether you desire a vibrant garden display or a touch of elegance within your home, begonias have a place in every plant lover's heart. From the delicate blooms of tuberous begonias to the intricate foliage of rex begonias, each variety exudes its distinct charm, captivating the imagination and inspiring a sense of awe.
In the realm of horticultural delights, begonias, thus, hold a special place. Their breathtaking beauty, diverse varieties, and cultivation adaptability make them beloved by gardeners and enthusiasts worldwide.
Whether you're drawn to the vibrant flowers of tuberous begonias or the intricate foliage of rex begonias, these captivating plants offer endless possibilities for creativity and visual pleasure.
During the trek, I came across a couple of true begonia plants. These plants are the gem of our hill forests. How many does Bangladesh have? The Asiatic Society of Bangladesh encyclopaedia says around five, and a recent paper published in a local journal says 19. A monograph on the begonias of Northeast India, on the other hand, reported 38 species. ''How many do we truly have?'' thinking someday our botanists will look up the answer, I pressed forward on the trail and let the begonias be in their wild habitats.