Kimjongilia is a flower which Kamo Mototeru, a Japanese horticulturist, newly bred and presented to General
Kim Jong Il in February 1988 on the occasion of his birth anniversary.
He made painstaking efforts for over 20 years to cultivate a new variety of big tuberous begonia with a single desire to breed a new variety of flower symbolic of the times. He designated a dazzlingly bright red flower that is most beautiful and charming among a large number of the begonia species as “Kimjongilia”, out of his lifelong desire to name it after the greatest man produced by humankind. He presented a full-blown Kimjongilia to Kim Jong Il together with a letter in February 1988 to celebrate his 46th birthday.
In his letter he wrote: “I send this letter with deep feelings of respect and admiration for you, great leader Your Excellency Kim Jong Il. I send you the tuberous begonia I bred with sincerity to congratulate Your Excellency on your 46th birthday, and hoping for friendship between Japan and Korea. I ventured to name my plant after Your Excellency’s august name, as Kimjongilia, wishing you a long life in good health and a bright future of prosperity and development. If you allow me to present this plant to Your Excellency, I will take it as honour more than I deserve. I sincerely wish Your Excellency a long life in good health. February 13, 1988.”
The stem of Kimjongilia is succulent and grows straight 30 cm-70 cm high. It has several nodes, from which leaves come out alternately with a petiole on each node. The lamina is heart-shaped. The pistillate flowers are single with three to five petals and far smaller than the staminate flowers. The staminate flowers with 30 to 50 petals (transformed stamina) are shaped like a peony flower and dazzlingly bright red. The flower is 10-25 cm in diameter and the blooming period of a flower is over 120 days. The stem of the flower is annual, but its tuber lives for decades. The flower grows well in relatively cool and half-shady conditions. The appropriate temperature for its growth is 15 to 25℃, with the minimum temperature for growth of 10℃ and the maximum temperature of 30℃.
Kimjongilia was registered as a new breed No. 991 by the American Begonia Society on August 4, 2004, on the authorization of the International Society for Horticultural Science. The botanical term of Kimjongilia registered as a new breed by the International Society for Horticultural Science is Begonia × tuberhybrida Voss ‘Kimjongilhwa’.
Kimjongilia is now propagated and cultivated not only in Korea but in over 70 countries around the world.
Kimjongilia Festival is held on a grand scale every year in the DPRK to mark February 16, the birthday of Kim Jong Il. On display in the festival are potted Kimjongilias presented not only by the Korean people but by overseas compatriots, diplomatic envoys of foreign countries and representatives of international organizations in the DPRK and foreign friendship and solidarity organizations and figures.