Begonias Are Back (and Grandma’s Other Favorite Houseplants Are Next)
It’s not just old ladies who love geraniums and African violets—retro flowers and plants are trending again
Covered in bright orange, red, or pink flowers, it used to be that begonias were the houseplants that every little old lady had in her window. Well, they’re not just for the Golden Girls anymore! Begonias have never been more popular (your grandma is freaking psyched) and now foliage is snatching flowers’ spotlight—some varieties even have leaves that reflect iridescent blue in bright light. With more than a quarter-million posts tagged #begonia, these sexy houseplants are blowing up on Instagram (this video of a shiny begonia leaf has nearly 2 million views), and giving us a major case of the #BegoniaMondays.
Escargot Begonia (Begonia rex) — #curlyhairdontcare
Until relatively recently, only a few begonias were readily available. The “tuberous” type of begonias have traditionally been grown for their flashy flowers, filling in outdoor planters and hanging baskets in shady spaces. These days, though, everyone’s drooling over the shrub-like, cane, and rex begonias, grown as houseplants for their intense and mind-bogglingly diverse foliage.
Exotica Begonia (B. brevirimosa exotica) — Woke Up Like This
Begonias’ popularity as houseplants is earned: they’re gorgeous, easy to grow, and tons of new species keep coming out.
Photo by Andreas Hoernisch / Getty Images
B. nahangensis — Texture for Days
For crying out loud, look at this:
B. ferox — ✔️Savage ✔️Sickening ✔️Fierce
This little beastie is definitely not your grandma’s begonia! (And its name means “ferocious,” which is unbelievably on point.)
B. ‘White Ice’ — Mood Intensifier
This angel wing-type begonia is serious houseplant goals.
The newest and most intriguing begonias can be a bit expensive as far as houseplants go. Luckily, the new varieties are just as easy to grow as the old ones, and you can even propagate your own babies from simple leaf cuttings.
Since everything old is always new again, this got us thinking: What other old-lady plants have been waiting for their comebacks? These are the ones we’re betting on.
Plasticky-red anthuriums were always the go-to plant to give a generic flower arrangement some South Seas island magic, but now they’re basically the Beyoncé of this situation and don’t need Destiny’s Child, m’kay? Behold the glory of this Anthurium ‘Shibori.’
And the leaves on this A. clarinervium are a velvety masterpiece.
Instagram still has some catching up to do, but African violets (Saintpaulia spp.), the ultimate old lady plants, are all over the Russian houseplant pages. Look at this absolutely sickening ‘Emerald Lace.’ Ruffles everywhere AND variegated leaves? 🤤🤤🤤
Another member of the Gesneriaceae family (which African violet belongs to as well), gloxinia (Sinningia) is poised for popularity. Florist’s gloxinia were all over houseplant books in the 1960s and ’70s, but now they’re primarily spotted next to the mylar “get well” balloons and plastic-tubed single red roses at grocery store flower cases. They were all big hair and flounce. Well, mark our words, they’re gonna come back in a big way! The teeny-tiny ‘White Sprite’ looks positively magical in this terrarium.
Like begonias, this houseplant—a striking silver-haired Brazilian edelweiss (Sinningia leucotricha)—doesn’t even need flowers to hold our attention (but it gets scarlet blooms anyway, because it’s so extra).
It might sound far-fetched, but Our Queen of the Tragically Unhip, geranium (Pelargonium) could be on the upswing. Geraniums are already scenting bougie hand soap and they’re all over Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection. We predict a relaunch of this easy-to-grow old lady plant into internet stardom—you saw it here first.