Annuals Bulbs Plant propagation

Can You Pinch a Tuberous Begonia?

Tuberous begonia sprouting from a tuber. Photo: Michèle Bénard

Question: Last year, I let my tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida) grow without intervening and the stem became so tall and heavy that it finally broke. This year, I wanted to find out if pinching it would help, but I found nothing on the Internet. It’s growing vigorously and the stem seems strong, but it doesn’t look as if it’s going to produce any branches. What should I do?

Michele Benard

Answer: Yes, you can certainly pinch it (that is, remove the growing point). You could also prune it back, shortening it even more. Both will reduce the height of the plant somewhat and also increase the number of stems, as both pinching and pruning stimulate branching. This will ensure more flowers during the summer.

That said, there is still a limit to how effective of this kind of pruning can be. Some tuberous begonia cultivars—especially large-flowered varieties—are not given to producing numerous side branches and their stems are naturally quite brittle. It may therefore still wise to plant these varieties in a spot protected from strong winds or to attach them to a stake at planting time. That way you can make extra sure there’ll be no damage during their summer outdoors.

Tuberous begonia stem cuttings. Photo: http://www.national-begonia-society.co.uk

By the way, if you do cut your begonia back, you can use the cut stem as a cutting. Just insert it in a pot of moist soil and make sure you cover at least one node (point where a leaf is attached to the stem) with potting mix, as new roots sprout from the node. You’ll discover that begonia stem cuttings readily flower even the first summer and will produce, by early fall, a new tuber that you can bring in and store for the winter. 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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