Color and texture make Rex begonias ideal for container planting indoors.
By Steve Piskor
Now that our gardens are put to bed for the winter, we can scratch our gardening itch by adding some new house plants to our collections.
The plants listed are divided into two groups -- easy-care house plants and Rex begonias as house plants. For the gardener who wants a beautiful plant that requires minimal attention, the easy-care group is the way to go. If you want more of a challenge, try experimenting with Rex or painted leaf begonias. Once you have success growing them, they can become addictive.
While some of these plants flower, they are primarily grown for the form, texture and color of their leaves. Their beautiful foliage adds to the interior, not only for the upcoming holidays, but also for the months that follow, and in the summer months they can be grown outdoors in containers.
Easy-care house plants
This group of houseplants needs only indirect light, attention to watering, and no fertilizer until early spring. Add a pinch of tender loving care, and you will be on your way to success.
Aglaonema 'Sparkling Sarah': This new aglaonema (Chinese evergreen) has green leaves dappled with pink and cream highlights, pink mid veins and light pink stems. 'Sparkling Sarah' would be a spectacular plant for the holidays. Grow in indirect light and evenly moist potting soil. Grows 18 to 24 inches high.
Dracaena 'Lemon Surprise': With beautiful foliage colorations and form, this plant's lance-shaped, variegated leaves are a vivid lime-green with thin white stripes surrounding and interspersed within the dark green center. The slightly twisted leaves give the plant an interesting form. Grow in medium to bright light; evenly moist potting soil. Grows to 24 inches high.
Epipremnum 'Neon': Commonly known as pothos. What is not common about this new cultivar is its coloration -- beautiful fluorescent chartreuse! Because this plant has a vining habit, it is nicely suited for a hanging basket or a wide, shallow container. Grow in indirect light; evenly moist potting soil. Grows several feet or more in length; however, it looks best when it is pruned to keep it full and bushy.
Philodendron 'Black Cardinal': The leaves of this philodendron are broadly oval or lance-shaped, emerging with a burgundy-red color. They mature to a deep burgundy, almost black coloration. Combine 'Black Cardinal' with plants having chartreuse foliage for a dramatic combination. Grow in bright, indirect light; evenly moist potting soil. Can grow to 24 inches tall.
P. 'Pink Princess': A slow-growing, vining, philodendron that sports beautiful pink, white, green and almost black leaves. Because this philodendron is of the vining type, a stake or small trellis should be added to the container. Grow in bright, indirect light; evenly moist potting soil. Can grow to 48 inches tall, with staking.
Spathyphyllum 'Domino': Most of us are familiar with the smooth-textured green-leafed plant with the common name of peace lily. This new cultivar represents a big leap forward. The leaves have a crinkled texture with large and small splotches of creamy-white variegation. Grow in medium light; evenly moist potting soil. (Note: Keep the soil moist at all times.) Can grow to 24 inches tall.
Rex begonias as house plants
We generally think of begonias as bedding plants, but Rex begonias with their distinctive leaf forms, colors and textures are more suitable to containers and indoor culture. These begonias prefer bright, indirect light, elevated humidity and a lightly moist but fast draining potting soil. (Note: Begonias will not tolerate overwatering.)
Rex begonias are differentiated from other begonias by their leaves, which grow on short stalks from an underground rhizome. Both the leaves and stems are covered with short hairs. The flowers are generally inconspicuous and are removed to encourage foliage production. The plants listed below are the Rex type, unless noted otherwise.
Begonia 'Cancun Christmas': This aptly named begonia will certainly add to the holiday spirit. The festive green and red foliage is speckled with numerous silvery white splotches. Grows 12 inches tall.
B. 'Curly Emma': The wavy foliage of this Rex is accentuated by a deep center curl; the leaves emerge as green/silver and mature to a deep red and chocolate. Grows 12 inches high.
B. 'Fireworks': Noted for its silvery-white foliage and an explosion of purplish-black fireworks in the center of each leaf. Makes a striking hanging basket. Grows 12 inches tall and wide.
B. 'Gryphon': Even though this begonia is not a Rex, it is worth growing. The deep-green palmate leaves are thick and glossy and overlaid with silver. This elegant begonia makes an excellent container plant that eventually reaches 18 to 24 inches tall and wide.
B. 'Ring of Fire': The foliage of this begonia definitely says Christmas. 'Ring of Fire' makes a dramatic statement with its vibrant red rim and silver patterning set against deep green veining. Its brilliance holds even as the leaves age, which makes this Rex hybrid a winner. It has a mounding habit and grows 12 inches high and wide.
B. 'Silver Queen': This Rex has large creamy-silver leaves punctuated with emerald- green star-like centers and edged with matching green banding. Grows 12 to 18 inches high and wide.
The descriptions given for each of the plants really don't do them justice. Visit the Internet to see why each has its own unique beauty and can fit into any decor.
For availability, visit your local nursery and/or florist. The plants listed can be found online at one or more of the following nurseries.
Steve Piskor is a Penn State master gardener and Pennsylvania certified horticulturist. Columns by master gardeners will sometimes appear in place of the Garden Q&A by Sandy Feather, a Penn State Extension educator.