How to Deadhead a Tuberous Begonia

colorful begonias

A begonia is among the most preferred of household flowering plants. It has an exotic flower bloom that adds to the aesthetic appeal of the garden. Most gardeners prefer the tuberous begonia variety, as they are the easiest to maintain and need little care.

Of course, all varieties need basic care, such as a well-shaded location to grow, easy-to-drain soil, and protection from harsh winds. In terms of nutrition, most have to be fed plant food every two weeks. However, there is one demanding feature of growing the tuberous variety: they need constant deadheading.

Step 1 - Understand Deadheading

burgundy begonia leaves

Deadheading is the process of removing worn-off, aged flowers and foliage from the plant. It will help the flower bloom faster, producing a thicker, all-season foliage. It also helps prevent the development of seed pods that can hamper the plant vigor.

As a general practice, old flowers, male or female, are constantly deadheaded to rid the plant of dead or decaying pieces. The fewer decaying flowers attached to the main plant, the lesser the chances of the plant being infected with fungal diseases.

To deadhead your tuberous begonias, pinch the faded bloom from the stem with your thumb and fingers, squeezing the stem just behind the bloom.

Inspect your plant daily and remove blooms that have begun to fade. Signs of fading include faded color, brown spots, and shriveled, or withered, appearance.

There is no specific time for deadheading the begonia. You should start as soon as some of the new shoots start to show and you can clearly see three nodes on each plant stem. Nodes are the small joint-like structures in the stem where the leaves seem stuck to the stem.

Step 2 - Disbud Begonias

Disbudding sounds a lot like deadheading, but it is actually a different practice. While deadheading is removing a spent flower, disbudding concerns removing a not yet bloomed bud.

Why would you want to remove a healthy flower bud? Well, because tuberous begonias grow their flowers in clumps of three, two females and one male. The female flowers will be small, probably with only four petals, growing on either side of the male. The male flower will be large and vibrant, perhaps with multiple ruffled rows of petals. So, before they bloom, gently pluck off the two smaller female buds.

By doing so, the plant will put all its energy into the full male bloom, which will be much more vibrant and beautiful as a result.

Step 3 - Pinch Begonias

pink begonia blooms

Pinching is the process of carefully removing the growing tips of the begonia plant. This forces the plant to grow more side shoots and stimulates growth of more branches. Pinching is a technique best used for small to medium-sized begonias, especially those grown in a basket. Large thick begonias with large flowers may not benefit from pinching, and may develop ugly scarring.

Pinching does slowdown blooming, but this is a temporary effect. Eventually, it will lead to denser blooming.

Each tip of the stem has to be patiently pinched-off. Firmly grab the growing tip between your forefinger and your thumb. Your grasp should be just below the new leaf bud. Using your fingernails, pinch the stem in one quick movement, i.e. breaking-off the stem.

You should carefully pick-out the smaller begonia blooms for pinching, as they are close to the larger blooms that shouldn't be harmed.

Note: The growing tip is the plant’s unopened bud at the very tip of each stem. It is where the new leaf is supposed to emerge. It should be completely removed, or malformed leaves will develop.

Step 4 - Pluck Begonias

Now that you have pinched the stems, you might want to make the deadheading more effective, i.e. complete it with a bit of plucking.

Choose some of the pinched stems for plucking. (Remember, not all the stems have to be plucked. Approximately two out of five begonia stems should be plucked.) Follow the chosen stems, right to their base. Pluck or snap off these stems with a firm downward movement.

You should try not to use pruners or shears for this, as they can damage the surrounding branches.