the rex begonia vine, cissus discolor

ONE OF MY 2012 TROPICAL PLANT PURCHASES is starting to scare me. The so-called Rex begonia vine—no begonia at all, really, but a gorgeous grape relative from parts of Southeast Asia and Australia—is not going to fit through the door this fall if this lusty behavior keeps up. Meet beautiful Cissus discolor, which I intended to overwinter indoors as a houseplant…oh, dear, what was I thinking when I trained it upward instead of in an easier-to-carry-in hanging basket?

Yes, sometimes I get over-enthusiastic, a curse among gardeners. But even if I fail to make the now-giant vine happy indoors this winter, or have to give it some haircuts first, I highly recommend it as an “annual” in the seasonal garden, or a houseplant (sources to buy a small plant are below). Its leaves are like stained glass (or like a Rex begonia): a mix of purple-wine colors and green and lavish splashes of silver. Left to ramble and given ideal conditions, Cissus discolor will reach 10 feet, and climbs using wispy tendrils.

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.

If you buy one, remember: hanging basket.

where to buy rex begonia vine


  1. Denise says:

    Your Rex Begonia vine is beautiful! I love my house plants but I curse them every fall when I have to worry about bringing them in for the winter. Hopefully I have a ways to go here in northern Illinois.

  2. I have just added an east facing sun room to my home and am hoping to finally have some house plants that don’t expire from the dark, dry conditions in my house. I love the leaves on this vine but am wondering if it would take over the whole room. How big was it when you bought it?

  3. Beth says:

    I have one as a houseplant. I brought it home last fall and put it in a place that it disliked, high up on a bookcase where it got too much heat from the woodstove, or not enough light, or not enough water….. It dropped all of its leaves and all that remained was a few dead looking stalks. I brought it down and watered it and put it in a lighter place, and now it’s beautiful again. But I’m not sure where to put it this winter, it looks like it’s planning to take over the house.

  4. Patrick Smith says:

    Hi Margaret –

    Wish I could have made it to any of your open houses. Alas….not this season. where did it go?

    Every year I end up with house plants (non-hardy) that I know I’ll have no place for in my quite dark house and then give them away come fall. this year I “rescued” a standard gardenia from certain death at a roadside farm stand. The kind of place that lets everything that has been blown over by the wind just stay there in the baking dust.

    Beautiful – but no way to give it a suitable place for winter.

  5. Matt Mattus says:

    Hi Margaret – great idea, I really wonder why I don’t grow these? I always see them at Logee’s, but I think I resist because i don’t think that it will like my greenhouse in the winter – it would be just too cold. I should really try it as a summer annual vine, though.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi Matt. Yes! A great “annual” (wholesaler Landcraft Environments from Long Island sells it to nurseries, so I know it’s available at a decent size somewhere).

      Hi, Pam. No, I don’t have any relationship with Logee’s at all – but I do love them for having the collection of a lifetime that I have adopted many goodies from over many years. They are aces.

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