Houseplants forum: My Rex Begonia adventure

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Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
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jvdubb
Dec 14, 2014 1:41 PM CST
In the spring I bought three Rex Begonias. One was in a tiny pot all by itself. The other two were actually three plants in slightly bigger pots. I never got them outside for the summer because I could not find a good shade area for them. The best spot still gets bright very early morning sun. Not sure if that would have been ok. So they just got left in the house. I kept them in a spot where they got indirect sun. I've been letting them dry out before I water them again.

Now as winter approaches the two bigger pots were looking a little poopy. Well one more so than the other. I know some of it is because of the dry heat in the house. So I decided to make some humidity trays. While I was at it I decided to repot all of them. Splitting the multiples into singles.

I read they like more shallow tighter pots. So I transplanted them into only slightly bigger pots. I did not have good potting soil for them so I mixed some topsoil that is sandy with a bag of cactus mix I had. Certainly heavier soil than they were in. But hopefully it will work out ok. I was careful to make sure not to plant the crowns too deep.

One of the pots that was three plants actually split into 8 pieces!! So I searched out some tiny containers to plant each them up individually. Maybe if this works by summer I will have a whole army of Rex Begonia!

Wish me luck! We'll see how it turns out.

The one that was bought as a single.
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Part of the one that was looking the poopiest. But It has nice new growth at the crown. This one also seems to tolerate more sunlight.
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Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Dec 14, 2014 3:44 PM CST
I like mine mostly for summer outdoors so to keep them looking good I have an old fish tank I no longer use. Also one of those 1950/60s terrariums I put them in and they look good and grow all winter. I only have to water them once or twice all winter because the moisture stays in the enclosed area and they love the humidity.

If you see that your humidity trays are not working and they look like they are not going to make it. You could put the small pots in those large zip lock bags but putting sticks in the bag to hold the bag up and away from the leaves.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Dec 15, 2014 8:33 AM CST
Jennifer, Good job! Thumbs up

I've gone through many Rex Begonias over the years; they'd seem to do great for a few weeks and then suddenly look blah and die. Even with our high humidity here in Fla. I had trouble keeping them alive for long. Last year I decided to try again and sat the pots on pebble trays and wow, what a difference. Mine still don't look fantastic but that may be because I let them get real dry before remembering to water but with the pebble trays of water they seem to be doing so much better. If your "poopy" one gets to the point where it disappears and seems to have bit the dust, don't throw it out .... the rhizome may very well re-sprout at some point. I had one that I thought was dead so I stuck a cutting of something else in the pot and a few weeks ago I noticed a Rex Begonia sprouting in that pot! These aren't the best pictures because I'm in a hurry and running late for an appointment but I thought I'd share and say thank you for your post because it made me realize I need to water mine. Green Grin! The third photo is the one on my back porch that showed back up after I'd put a cutting of an Aralia in the soil.
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~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
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jvdubb
Dec 15, 2014 8:46 AM CST
Thanks Cinta and Lin!

Well, so far the very tiniest baby already damped off. But it still has a tiny rhizome. So I'll just see what happens.

It is clear I need to go get different potting mix. My mix I made off the cuff just is too heavy and will stay wet too long.

The pebble trays already are half down in water!
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Dec 15, 2014 8:55 AM CST
These are so much more fun when they stay alive. Yours are so lovely, hope you find your groove with them. I killed a BUNCH in the learning process. When you do find what works for you, in your house & style of care, you *will* have an army of beautiful Begs, good vibes! I'll share what works for me - now, finally. Smiling

These are so easy to rot during winter, I let them get very dry. I've also found they do very well as companions to other plants that are more thirsty and have deeper roots. The other plant(s) populate the lower part of the pot with roots, helping to ensure the Begonia roots & rhizome are never soggy.

"I read they like more shallow tighter pots."
This kind of advice isn't about the size of the pot, it's about avoiding rotting the roots by having a smaller volume of soil that can dry more quickly.

"So I transplanted them into only slightly bigger pots. I did not have good potting soil for them so I mixed some topsoil that is sandy with a bag of cactus mix I had. Certainly heavier soil than they were in."
This concerns me a lot. The top soil and sand are tiny particles that fit very closely together, with no air between them. Roots need oxygen & moisture at the same time to function. Only moisture = rotting. Only air = drying & dying.

In a pot, the more chunky/porous/airy the soil, the less likely it is to cause roots to rot. One can compensate by having less soil/smaller pot, using an unglazed clay pot that can breathe around the sides, adding a lot of perlite, and/or eliminating the tiny particles (of anything, such as clay, sand, peat, actual "dirt,") as an ingredient. Starting with something called cactus mix instead of potting soil is usually pretty easy to do, and should, in theory, have a much smaller percentage of tiny particles. From there, you may or may not want to add more perlite, or feel like it is ready to use as-is. Not all bags/brands will have the same stuff, so impossible to say what to do in general. But remember, drying often is great, if you enjoying watering plants.

When the days are shorter, temps are cooler, most plants use a LOT less moisture, Rex Begonias included. (And the sun rays are much weaker, so plants that wouldn't appreciate direct sun during summer may enjoy some during winter.) The thick, fleshy rhizomes of these Begonias store moisture. If they happen to get too dry, leaves that look perfectly fine will suddenly fall off. Not desirable, but much better than death via rotting. Not recommending letting your plants dry to that point, but wanted to share that benchmark for reference & confidence. Once they get a drink, new leaves will pop out.

With plants that can rot so easily, and if you are the type who wouldn't mind doing such a thing, you may do better watering with a squirt bottle, set on a spray/mist pattern (not 1 stream of water.) This allows you to add some moisture without getting soil completely soggy. Except for a few really thirsty guys and gals, this is how I water most of my plants during winter. Adding water this way also prevents the movement & compacting of soil particles that can happen when using a single stream or flow of water, like one gets from a watering can, faucet, or cup. Getting the leaves wet can facilitate surface pathogens that love Begonias so much, so I do try (and recommend) to avoid that. Wet leaves do not = humidity.

During summer, I put these outside in bright shade, and/or morning sun, and keep much more moist, not getting very dry at all.

HTH!
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Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
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jvdubb
Dec 15, 2014 9:33 AM CST
Thank you Tiffany. I will be seeking out a soil recommendation from the nursery where I purchased them from. I will re-soil them this week!
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
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jvdubb
Dec 17, 2014 8:11 PM CST
I still have not gone shopping for new planting medium. I found a bag of MiracleGrow moisture control in the garage. I repotted all of them with that. We'll see how that goes. They were clearly suffocating in what I had them in.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Dec 18, 2014 8:06 AM CST
Good for you for being proactive! That's not what I would prefer or recommend, but that doesn't mean it can't go well and, like you said, the situation was broken, so a fix was warranted. Moisture control means moisture retention from the silicone crystals in the mix, so it will dry less quickly than a non-moisture-control mix. To work with that, I'd try to water gently so the force of the water doesn't compact the soil (described above already.) The less resistance roots have, the more easily they can populate the soil to be more able to use the moisture throughout the pot. I'd also check for dryness before adding more water. The most accurate way to do that, for me, is picking up pots to see how heavy they are (works best with plastic, but with a little practice, also works for clay pots.)

Sending a bucket of good vibes to your beautiful Begonias!
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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
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jvdubb
Dec 18, 2014 10:08 AM CST
Actually my experience has been that MG moisture control dries out very quickly. And then the moisture agent in there releases the stored water slowly. The soil does not stay wet at all.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
Bulbs Foliage Fan Tropicals Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents
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purpleinopp
Dec 18, 2014 10:16 AM CST
I haven't used any since the 90's I think, so that's probably better info to go by for the current product.
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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.

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