Begonia masoniana

Iron Cross


Begonia masoniana

Irmsch. ex Ziesenh. 1971

pronounced: beg-OWN-yuh may-son-ee-AH-nuh

(Begoniaceae — the begonia family)


common names: Iron Cross Begonia

Begonia was named for Micheal Bégon. Begonia masoniana was brought to England from Singapore in 1952, though its country of origin may be either China or India. Maurice Mason, who imported it, called it "Iron Cross" because of the distinctive shape of the markings on the apple green leaves. At the time, he was not sure whether the plant was a hybrid or a species; this was left to Edgar Irmscher who published the official description in 1959, and named the species for Mason. It was originally described from cultivated plants of unknown origin, and was much later described in the wild.

Although sometimes (incorrectly) considered a Rex begonia, this species is classified in the related section Coelocentrum.

This is a rhizomatous perennial growing to about about 30 cm in height, bearing large asymmetrical textured green leaves covered in reddish hairs, with a prominent dark brown pattern in the centre of each leaf, resembling a German Iron Cross. In spring and summer it produces small pinkish-white flowers in erect panicles, but is cultivated mainly for its foliage. Pinching off the flowers buds will promote bigger, healthier leaves.

If your plant suddenly collapses and shrivels up, don’t despair – it’s not uncommon for this begonia to go dormant in winter. Don’t overwater a withered plant, but stop watering during dormancy. What this plant really craves is high humidity. Cover this plant with plastic or a glass cloche and try to keep the plant at about 16ºC for about 6 – 8 weeks. New leaves should now appear.

Bright, indirect light is best for the producing the best leaf colour – the plant quite likes fluorescent lighting!

Water thoroughly, allowing the top 2 or 3 cm of soil to dry out beween waterings. Avoid getting water on the leaves, because they spot easily and are prone to mildew and other fungus.

When re-potting, move only to one size larger pot, and use a pot with a draining hole. It better not to tamp down too much – begonias like a little air around roots.

If the plant gets too tall and leggy, you can pinch off stems to keep it compact. Don’t throw out the cuttings – they can used to propogate new plants. Cover the new cuttings with plastic or glass to raise humidity until new leaves form.


Photographed in 2020, Picnic Bay

Page last updated 15th January 2020