Rex Begonia leaf cutting success!

janet_growerApril 5, 2007

Hello all I am so pleased today to discover little plantlets are growing from my Rex Begonia leaf cuttings. I tried some pieces cut into triagles, cut from the base of the stem and each piece had piece of the base of the stem. Also did some pinning of whole leaves with the edges cut off and both are spouting little plantlets. Does anyone else propagate Rex Begonia? Janet

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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

Can you describe the process? What did you pin them to?

I would love to try that.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 2:11PM
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Hi Janie, I first cut off some healthy leaves from the plant (stem and all), then I trim the edges all around with sterile scissors. Next I trim off the stem leaving the part that attaches to the leaf. Now I take about 3-4 pieces depending on the size of the leaf, cutting through the stem point having a piece of the stem point on each piece (the pieces will look like triangles). Now I used a rooting hormone powder #1, dipped the stem end in to the powder and shake off excess (use a separate container for some of the powder, don't dip into the original container) insert into soilless mix (Promix or similar) on a slant (they will be slanted away from you). I also did leaves, cut off the edges and the stem and cut slits across the veining on the back. I dipped the back only into the rooting hormone, shook off excess powder and pinned the leaf to the soil with paper clips. Mke sure your soil is pre-moistened and cover with a dome of some sort. I used a recycled seed starting tray with drainage holes, naturally occuring from years of bangging around, and the dome it came with. Of couse I sterilized everything first, and misted occationally to keep soil moist. Takes about 6 weeks, don't give up on them too early they take awhile. I put my tray on the outer edge of one of my plant light tables, It would have gotten better light on my dining room table, so that's always an option, you don't need florescent light, bonus for me or I wouldn't have them. It's well worth the effort, Janet

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 2:34PM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

Thanks, I just happen to have a couple of begonias that I would like to propagate. I will try this.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 4:55PM
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Great Janie, I hope your as successful as I, Janet

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 5:11PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Reminds me of one of my part-time jobs while in college: the greenhouse owner had piles of pre-prepared flats already stacked up for me, and a huge (seemed to me at the time) pile of begonia leaves. Oh, and a paper punch. ;-)

I forget how many good propagation units I could get out of each had to punch along the veins where the new roots and shoots will emerge.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 12:44PM
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I have been propagating begonias for a few years and have had mixed results when doing begonias by leaves. Some took right away while others rotted or just sat there. It was very disappointing when you have one leaf to work with and it slowly rots or dries up.

That was in the past. The best way to get very good results (not always guaranteed but the success ratio has risen to an A-, maybe 90%) is to water root the leaves first. I learned this trick from a fellow member of our local begonia club and tried it this past fall and almost every one I tried this way rooted. First make sure you have a healthy leaf (not too old that is yellowing, and not too young to hold up). Trim away the excess edges if the leaf is very large and snip the stem to an inch or two. This is like rooting African violets. Use a clean cup (I use plastic throwaway cups) and fill almost to the top. Cover this with either aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Punch holes in the cover and insert the cuttings. The important step is to cover the cup with a plastic bag and seal fairly well. Place under lights or a windowsill that doesn't get too hot. When roots are half an inch long or longer, pot up and keep covered until new leafs appear. Some leaves are very slow while others root in a week or two. Slowly expose the new leaves to room air.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 4:53PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Sorry you didn't have any luck propagating the begonia leaves in a solid medium. Perhaps if you keep trying, you'll find the right balance of moisture, temperature, etc. Begonias are a good plant to experiment with, as they really are pretty reliable. Plus, each leaf can give you several different cuttings/leaf discs.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 11:31PM
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I'm done experimenting with the right balance of moisture, temperature, etc. If I want to propagate any begonia with a high probability of success, I will start with water rooting over any method (until something better comes along). If I'm not interested in the results then I stick the cutting in a cup of potting soil with or without Perlite, cover, place under lights, and hope it makes it. A lot of them make it this way, but then a lot don't either.

'Martin's Mystery' was my first try at water rooting. I've had this plant on 3 different occasions and lost it all 3 times. The last time I bought 2 plants for some added insurance. When it started to go south, I cut a leaf off each one and started them in water. This was the first time I ever got one to actually root, then make new plantlets. Now I have a cookie jar full of it due to those two leaves.

'Martin's Mystery' water rooted cuttings

Cookie Jar with 'Martin's Mystery'

I just cut 16 leaves of 'Pink Diamonds' as an experiment and placed 4 in water, 4 in Perlite, and 8 in various locations in a 120 gallon tank. The 4 in water rooted in a week and are now potted up. Two in Perlite rotted and the other two are just showing signs of rooting. These 8 were cut the same day. The other 8 in the big tank were cut a few days later and 2 are already rotting, 3 look promising, and the other 3 are iffy. A terrarium (aquarium) usually has wet edges and a drier middle due to condensation on the sides. Most leaf cuttings rot if planted on the edges and dry out if planted in the middle so somewhere between these extremes should be the perfect conditions but a lot of it depends on the plant cutting itself. Experiment, experiment, experiment.

Some begonias are so reliable that you can start leaf cuttings in gravel (pea or granite) or sand such as 'River Nile' and 'Joe Hayden' - both are so easy. Heracleifolia and 'New York Swirl' are two more I've started in sand but I've also lost dozens using this method. Same goes for Perlite alone, Perlite and a good potting mix, long fiber sphagnum moss, and a straight bark mix. 'Madame Queen' continues to baffle me on propping it but I finally propagated 'Bashful Bandit', 'Erythrophylla Helix', 'Pollux', 'Selph's Mahogany', 'Selby's Trash', 'Earl-ee-bee', and countless others with no problem due to this method.

Here are some pictures of some of my starts using water.

U508 and crassicaulis


'Texas Red Star'

'Cowardly Lion'


    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 2:52AM
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hcmcdole you certainly have had some success there, and the varieties, I only have two varieties. I may try the water rooting myself, I did not know Rex Begonia could be propagated that way, and at a faster rate too. I may be able to find a stray leaf or two in the Greenhouse at work to experiment with. Janet

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 8:02AM
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Hi Janet,

I've been experimenting with propagating begonias for a few years but never knew I could water root a leaf until last year. Martin's Mystery was my first back in Feb '06. After seeing how one of our local begonia club members did almost all her propagation that way and knowing I have had problems with this particular begonia, I gave it a try and became a champion on this method.

This past fall, I decided to try prop'ing several new begonias to have a little insurance against loss and was amazed at how easy and successful it was. I'm not sure if this method will work well for some of the large petiole (thicker than a pencil) begonias. I have cut the "fingers" off heracleifolia type begonias and rooted those in sand but for carolineifolia I have only been able to prop it by rhizome cuttings. I'm beginning to think that is the only way for Madame Queen as well.

Humidity seems key in prop'ing and I can't say enough about that. If I could only afford a lot of large tanks like this one that I splurged on (120 gallon at Pet Smart), then I'd really have some fun. Rexes seem very happy in it.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 8:55AM
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Hcmcdole thanks for sharing those pictures, and the info about the humidity, I took the dome off of mine, I guess I should put it back on. I have "Cowardly Lion" and "Bifteck". I like to put them in my mostly shade garden in the summer, I really like to rely on interesting foliage as not much is blooming in the fall except for the impatiens of course. Janet

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 2:47PM
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Humidity really turns most ailing begonias around for me. The problem I have is not putting some covers on them as soon as I bring them indoors for winter. I wait until they are in serious decline then rescue them from the brink of death.

I've never heard of 'Bifteck'. Have you got a picture of it?

In summer I move most of mine under high limbed trees but start moving them out to stronger light through the late summer and fall months for the year's final growth. Fall is a great time for rexes. Here are most of my rexes from last fall.

And one of my 'Cowardly Lion' plants.

One of the new ones I got this weekend is 'Emerald Star'. The leaf shape is like 'Benitochiba' but isn't as bright.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 3:20PM
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Thanks so much for your postings, everyone! I would like to try propagating from leaves that I saved from the stem cuttings...for insurance.

Yesterday, a friend gave me a stem broken from a begonia I have admired since I first saw it in bloom a few years ago. He said I could probably get about 3 stem cuttings from it, which we did. We cut all the leaves off, leaving a small triangle of leaf on each petiole. We dipped the stem cuttings in rooting hormone, tapped off the excess, and stuck them in a pot of dampened perlite. We placed the pot in indirect light with a ziploc bag over the top. The pot had too little perlite for my liking (approximately 1", but it was very late at night...too late to get some from the my husband said it will have to do ("the roots will grow laterally", he says.) Today, we added some fresh perlite to the pot to bring the level up. I'm skeptical about the success of these stem cuttings.

I'm not sure of the name of this friend only refers to it as "Ann's mother's plant". He propagated it from that plant many years ago. I haven't been able to figure out which subgroup it belongs to. Maybe it's cane-stemmed...but its leaves aren't assymetrical or deeply toothed to lobed, as cane-stemmed begonias usually are. Its leaves are green angel wings with white speckling, are smooth as silk but not shiny, and can be as large as 10" in length! My friend grows the plant tall and upright with supports, but the large clusters of deep red flowers are pendulous. So maybe it's a rex-cultorum and my friend just keeps it tall? His plants are probably 7 to 8 feet tall!

If anyone can identify this plant, I would be interested to know what you think it might be.

Thanks again for your help on leaf cuttings. Since I no longer have the stems attached to the leaves, I will try some leaf cuttings in water and some with scoring on underside of leaf at mid-vein/mid-rib pinned flat to vermiculite. (I kept the leaves in a platic bag.)

Hoping for success!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 12:26AM
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It definitely sounds like a cane begonia due to its height - rexes are rhizomatous and don't get tall. I seriously doubt you will get any begonias from the leaf cuttings but your stem cuttings should do fine.

Can you post a picture of it? If not you might try these sites for an ID.


Missy Garden Whimsy

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 8:30AM
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I'm reading everything with great interest, having just discovered begonias this year and falling in love with them. I don't know much about them, though. There are different kinds but I don't know how to tell the difference except that the tuberous kind have a tuber. Duh, huh? I'm hoping to try the water propagation method with them this Fall. They'll flower next year? One other comment/question: I live on an island north of Seattle. Understanding that begonias are supposed to like the shade, mine didn't do well that way, preferring 1/2 day of sunshine or more.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 2:53AM
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Hi Everyone! I have been reading your posts with great interest. And I have a few questions about potting leaf
I am new to the world of Rex Begonias. I picked a couple up at my local nursery some months ago, falling in love with the beautiful leaf shapes and colors. One of my plants was very dense with mature leaves and seeming to cause issues for the new growth, so I clipped off 3 large leaves and just popped them in a small bud vase with water. To my surprise, they rooted, and the leaves have maintained beautifully. One leaf even has a little plantlet sprouting from where the leaf connects to the stem. The roots on my cuttings are reaching close to an inch long, so my question is how should I go about potting them? What potting medium do you recommend? How deep should I insert the roots and stem into soil? What would be the best way to support the new planting, being that they are mature leaves? And how do I go about removing the little plantlet from the leaf and potting it?
Thank you in advance for your responses!


    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 12:24PM
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peggiewho(z9 Ca)

I love this place! Thanks for all the time you all spent explaining your methods. I too have just gotten interested in begonias recently. This discussion gives me a head start into understanding them. It takes a lot of time to write out your propagation methods blow by blow and I am very appreciative of your knowledge. I also enjoyed the pictures and the tip to move them into the stronger light in fall. The tank idea, not so good. I have been trying to think of a way to get light and plants into our living space in winter, I get light starved. DH doesn't go for eyesores. The tank looks good so now I need a darn tank!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 12:05PM
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I don't know what I am doing - other than killing my beautiful Rex Begonia!
I finally got 2 leaves on it....and I did it again.....after watering....and I did not drown it, I only gave it a little water..honestly....and I have lost the two leaves I had.....again! It keeps doing this....I seem to get a nice leaf going....and then it wilts and I am back to square one. I took the wilted leaf and floated in water...hoping it will liven that when I get back from my 2 day holiday....I can try to propagate it as I have no leaves left! Can I take the long stem (that has no leaves on it!!!!!!) and cut it and use rooting hormone and try to get it to root? Will the remainder of the stem - the part attached to roots heal and start a new shoot or leaf? I so love this plant - but have no idea why I am so unlucky in growing it.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 12:49AM
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Wild_Wood(7 Mid TN)

Yep, you have a cane Begonia that will not propagate from leaves. I do better with water jars than "soil" initially. When the roots get long 3-4" (this doesn't take long during growing season and just a little longer in winter. A couple of weeks)I cut the roots by at least half and set them on top of moist soil in a pot and while holding add more moist soil alittle at a time, then shaking the pot to sift the soil around the roots as I fill the pot up. Water well and allow some moderate sunshine. Let the soil dry on top before you water again and don't leave standing in water at base. As mine settle in I only water when they get dry and soak them good.
A couple of them bloomed while rooting in the jar!
Six cutting started in water.

I keep their height down by keeping them in a shallow pot. The pot is a rectangle that is 5" wide X 6" deep X 12" long. It has about 4" to 5" of soil with Six canes that now have 8 canes total from the soil.
When I have them outside in the warmer months they are in dapple sun to part shade. They bloom both ways, but I get more of the fully open blooms when they get more sun.

These blooms are half blooms to full blooms, hovering over the pics tells you the stages. If they don't get enough sun they won't bloom all the way and the spotting on the leaves are not as brilliant. The tallest one here after almost 4 years is about 2 feet tall. I will probably cut some of these canes by half this spring and start some more. If they were in a deeper pot they would get way too tall for my use. As it stands they have been living in about 4 1/2" of compacted mostly dry clay dirt and manure compost mix since I took them out of their jar of water.
I would love to do some Rex Begonias. The leaf (and bloom) variations are absolutely stunning! I will be begging for a leaf of all the Rex Begonias I can find in the future. :)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 12:27AM
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