Begonias come in widely varied shapes and sizes, and the flowers, too, are all over the spectrum. There are more than 900 begonia species and many multiples of cultivars, Tovah Martin wrote in “The Indestructible Houseplant,” published this year (but which my wife, Nancy, bought after my books column appeared, hence you didn’t see it there).

The ones I like for this time of year are Rex begonias, grown mostly for their foliage. The two we have in prime display space at our home now both have thick, textured foliage. One is maroon with silver and pink splotches, and the other is green with wide, caramel-colored veins. One of the more popular is the iron cross begonia, with light green leaves bearing a reddish brown pattern that resembles the iron cross used on shields during the Crusades.

Rex begonias will occasionally bloom, but the blossoms are small and secondary to the foliage.

Their care is fairly easy, but they are susceptible to powdery mildew if you let the leaves get wet too often. So, water (with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer in spring and early summer and plain, room-temperature water at other times) directly into the soil whenever it gets dry. Do let it dry out between waterings.

They want bright, but not direct, light, so east and west windows are best. South-facing windows would be too bright, and north-facing windows too dark.

The ones with reddish leaves are a nice alternative to poinsettias, which, if you ask me, are overused during the holiday season.