Saturday, June 7, 2014

Iron Cross Begonia

Leaves with the sun shining through

I love the iron cross begonia, or Begonia masoniana. I love it so much, I keep killing it and trying again! I swear I'm not going to fail this time. What keeps pulling me back in? Look at that foliage! Who needs flowers?! Iron cross is one of the beautiful foliage plants called Rex begonias, and is named after the German iron cross which it resembles.
Why do mine keep dying? Well, they probably didn't die. They went into a resting period and I thought I had killed them. Now I know that if they "die" in the late fall or early winter, they will probably come back in the Spring. Good to know. Or, I might have kept them too wet, or not humid enough..... All of these are possibilities. They need extra humidity, but also good air circulation, or they may get a bad case of powdery mildew, which can also kill the plant. Letting water set on the leaves can also cause powdery mildew.

The surface of the iron cross begonia leaf

Plant your begonias in a porous, slightly acidic potting mix that contains peat moss and leaf mold. African violet potting mix is good for begonias. Some sources say to fill the bottom of the pot with half-decayed leaves. Also, Rex begonias like a shallow pot, keeping their roots snug in the pot, never over potting them.

The leaves from underneath

Notice the hairs on the outer edge of this leaf

Hopefully you have had better luck with your iron cross than I have had in the past, but if not, try it again.

You can also see the hairs on all the bumps on the top of this leaf

1 comment:

  1. I too am having troubles with my iron cross. Unfortunately I brought it home with the white powdery spots on its leaves and it's gone from bad to worse. The tag says, avoid over watering so I've kept it fairly dry but that hasn't prevented most of the leaves from drying up with the blight. I have just moved it to a bigger pot and given it a drink - the first I've watered since its arrival in my home about 2 weeks ago. I see lots of new growth under the dying leaves so I'm holding out hope!