Rex Begonia Vine, Cissus discolor, is a vine that you will see once and remember forever. I first saw this plant at my friend Sonya’s house in Virginia when we visited one weekend during graduate school. Avid plant collectors, out of all of the pots on their porch, this is the one that I remember.
A tender tropical, Rex Begonia Vine is worth the effort. The leaves look like they should feel like velvet and have a metallic silver color. The bottom side of the leaves, vines and tendrils are all a deep purple color. When the sun shines through the leaves the green and silver disappear and just a burgundy purple colors glows through.
Cissus discolor is not an extremely aggressive vine. Although it has the tendrils to keep it upright, it is easily pulled from branches or areas where it is unwanted and does not have any roots on the stems to adhere it to structures. The vine has a nice draping-like habit that works well if allowed to grow with other plants. It is fairly slow growing, so unlike most other vines in Florida, you do not have to worry about this one taking over your garden.
I’ve planted the Rex Begonia vine at the base of my Lakeview Jasmine tree. My goal was to have this beautiful vine peek out among the branches of the tree and not dominate the landscape, but provide a nice textural and color contrast. Planted almost three years ago, the Cissus vine is now very prevalent during the summer months and gets knocked back a bit by the cold each winter. I think that this is actually a nice check and balance system for this planting. Most sources are going to list this as best planted in part to full shade. As you can see here, the majority of the Rex Begonia vine leaves are actually in full sun and seem to do well. The roots of the vine are in the shade though, and planted next to our hose bib, I think that the cool and moist soil here helps to compensate for the high light levels.
Fine Gardening lists on their website that “The vine generally stays to 1 to 3 feet in containers. It may also be used on trellises or arbors.” If planted during the late spring or summer, expect to see at least 3 feet of growth in the first few months. The Cissus vine responds well to warm temperatures and moist soil, so I recommend getting your vine planted early in summer so that a strong root system can be established going in to the winter months. For a summer annual or seasonal plant, this is one of the few vines that you could easily grow in a container with a small trellis and other tropicals for a gorgeous combination. It seems most vines tend to engulf their companions, but the Rex Begonia Vine would combine really well and could even be allowed to trail over the edges.
Margaret at AWaytoGarden.com writes, “The Rex begonia vine likes bright indirect light–not baking sun, but not too much shade, either, and because of its origins in places like Java and Cambodia, it’s not surprising that temperatures below 50 are ill-advised (60 being safer). Apparently 60-75 or perhaps 80 is ideal, and I can manage that, though I doubt it will like low humidity indoors here come cold weather–meaning it may go into a semi-resting state and even drop some leaves. In anticipation this fall, I’ll start to coax it to slow down a bit by watering less liberally, as I do with many non-hardy things.” She keeps hers as a houseplant during the winter months and brings it outside for the summer months. What a spectacular houseplant this would be!
What do you think? Is it time to start searching out Rex Begonia Vine, Cissus discolor, for your garden? It might not be the easiest plant to find, but it will certainly reward you with beautiful colors and textures for your garden and landscape.