Pruning a Begonia

A pair of gloves pruning a begonia.
What You'll Need
Pruning scissors
Hydrogen peroxide (to sterilize pruning tools)
What You'll Need
Pruning scissors
Hydrogen peroxide (to sterilize pruning tools)

The family of begonias is highly versatile and can be grown outside in flower beds, in container gardens, or indoors as a houseplant. Begonias come in a rainbow of colors sure to please anyone. Begonia pruning takes a little getting used to, but it's not all that difficult. Just follow these simple steps for great results.

TIP: Expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Sterilize pruning shears before trimming begonia."

The Right Time to Prune

During the growing period, it’s only necessary to prune begonias if they start to become overgrown or to encourage new and more bushy (as opposed to tree-like) growth. Tuberous begonias should be pruned or cut back in the late fall before the first frost, cutting stems to the rootball or tubers. Prune shade begonias in spring. Rhizomatous begonias should not be pruned until after they’ve bloomed.

TIP: Susan advises, "Begonias grown indoors can be pruned at any time."

What to Prune

Begonias don't need a great deal of pruning, for the most part. Of course, there are some bushier varieties that will get a little unruly, so these may need a bit more attention with the pruners. Always prune back any dead leaves, or branches that appear to be growing back into the begonia plant.

For the most part, with many begonia varieties, pruning taller plants only a little will suffice during the growing period. This isn’t a matter of shearing off the tops all across the plant. The begonia isn’t a hedge and will react badly to this type of treatment. Simply use good judgment and take a little off where it is most needed.

When Just a Little Is Needed

One effective technique is pinching the tops of the branches. This encourages the begonia plant to foster multiple stems to emerge from the branch tops. The result will be a bushier and healthier plant. This is especially true of the angel wing begonia.

Another effective pruning technique is to remove the last two sets of leaves at the ends of a long branch. Again, this encourages a spurt of growth from the begonia.

When a Lot of Pruning Is Required

Some varieties of begonia — such as hardy begonia and dragon wing begonia — can reach two to four feet in height. Shrub begonia generally is between one and three feet in height, although some can grow to a height of 12 feet. Cut down all the stems of shrub begonias that have finished blooming. This will force new growth from the base. For cane-like begonias, follow the same process. Or, shorten the stems by pruning them to buds that face outwards. This will prompt new growth to extend out from the plant.

Cutting Back Tuberous Begonia

Tuberous begonia goes into a dormancy period in late fall. For areas that get frost, tuberous begonia needs to be dug up, cut back to the stem or the tubers, dried out and overwintered in a cool, dry location indoors. In areas where there’s no frost, tuberous begonia can remain in the ground, cut back to the soil level, and heavily mulched.

If the begonia is in a pot, simply tip the pot on its side and place in an area protected from the wind and rain. In colder climates, dig up the tubers from the pot and bring inside.

These pruning tips will keep your begonias in good shape. Sit back and watch them flourish!