Hello, I just bought a new Begonia rex “Autumn Ember”. It’s pretty beat up now and the leaves aren’t as orange as I’d like. If I propagate the Begonia by leaf cuttings it doesn’t matter what leaf I select, right? Meaning every leaf will produce the same identical plant? Just wondered, because I thought if I picked the best most colorful leaf to propagate that I might get a better plant? Thanks For Your Time: Shawn
Thank you for inquiring about a type of propagation that is probably the lesser-used method by most gardeners. In addition to propagating by rhizome, or stem cuttings, leaf cuttings from begonias are a viable, and rewarding, means of creating strong, healthy new plants.
Begonia varieties are members of a large family (Begoniaceae) of tropical plants that can thrive over many years, indoors and out, depending on hardiness zones, and most can be easily divided— including your gorgeous ‘Autumn Ember’. There are thousands of varieties of Begonias, and leaves can be nubbed, shaded, spotted, speckled and striped: grown for their leaf patterns alone. For leaf cuttings, look for the healthiest leaves: yes, select leaves that are the brightest orange that you’re looking for, as these will produce new plants of the same leaf color. Using clean kitchen shears, cut the leaf off the stem, then cut the stem again, flush to the leaf. Your begonia has 6 main veins that travel to the leaf points, and you want some of this vein in each cutting. Depending on the size of the leaf, you may take only 2, or up to 5 or 6 cuttings. Then, dip the open, cut edge into powder root hormone, and plant into a 70/30 sterile blend of coarse Perlite and potting soil. Bury this end into the pre-dampened mix, one leaf per pot. Label your cutting with name and date. Set your pot into a clear plastic bag, and seal, or, set a bag over the pot. Begonia leaf cuttings can take up to one month to grow roots: during this time watch the plastic bag like a hawk for too much condensation, and open and close as needed. Keep the sides of the bag from touching new leaves — chop sticks, for example, set vertically into the mix, will tent the bag. Again, begonia stems and leaves are generally quite viscous, so when potting up your newly rooted plants, take care to prepare a very well-drained mix, and avoid overwatering at risk of rotting. In fact, mature plants are relatively low-maintenance, and can be let to dry for up to a week or so.
You mention that your plant is “beat up”: regardless, if the existing potting medium is good quality, and the assuming the roots are healthy, then after you’ve taken your leaf cuttings, do a little judicious pruning on the mother plant, leaving a few good leaves, and again, water moderately, and put a clear plastic bag over the pot to provide that moist, humid, semi-tropical environment begonias love. This should hopefully coax new stem and leaf growth, and help restore your plant to good health. Please let us know of your results.
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Attaching, for all our readership, a begonia ‘Autumn Ember”.