How to Have More Big Begonia Blooms
Begonias have amazing flowers. Vibrant colours and so many petals; each one is a little masterpiece!
But have you noticed that some flowers are a little less showy than others? Some are packed full of petals but others are a lot simpler, with maybe four petals?
This is because begonias have some flowers that are male and some flowers that are female., these are called “imperfect” flowers. Flowers with both male and female parts (pistils and stamens) are called “perfect” flowers (they have all the tools to reproduce within the same flower). Other plants with imperfect flowers are zucchini, cucumbers, and corn. Plants with perfect flowers include roses, daisies, petunias and tomatoes.
Just as the birds with the most colourful plumage are the males, the showiest begonia flowers are the males, and the ones with fewer petals are the females:
The goal of a begonia plant (and every other plant) is to reproduce itself. It lives to set seed. The gardener’s goal for a begonia plant is to have big, beautiful flowers. Just like with deadheading spent blooms, we don’t want the plant to waste energy on creating seeds. If we want to save this type of begonia for next year, we’ll usually do it by lifting and storing the tuberous root structure, not by growing it from seed.
If we remove the female flowers the plant’s energy is diverted to the male flowers, and to creating more flowers—it keeps trying to reproduce. So by snipping off the female flowers you’ll not only have just the big, showy blooms, you’ll have more of them!
Begonias grow with two female flowers growing behind every male flower. In the following picture you can see that there is a little green triangular growth behind the female flower on the right’s petals, but none behind the male flower. This triangle contains the ovary.
Just reach in and break or pinch off the female buds as soon as you see them forming:
If you don’t pinch off the female flower, it will often become fertilized, and then that little triangular patch will swell as seeds form.
This is a missed opportunity. I should have picked off the female flowers earlier so I could enjoy more big begonia blooms.
Tip: It’s easier on the gardener’s heart to pick off the female flowers before they open. They are quite pretty in their own way, and therefore more difficult to snip off, once they open.
Thank you for the information! I did save the tuber from last year and hope that it will be as beautiful this year! This is helpful!
Great information about how begonia can grow bigger blooms. Thank you.
Thank you but I am somewhat confused. I can understand your naming the single flower female as it has an inferior ovary and hence can reproduce when fertilized. I assume from the photograph that this flower flower has six stamens and one stigma and can therefore be pollinated by pollen from its own stamens or another single flower. I thought that double flowers generally have no or reduced number of anthers which are sacrificed to produce more petals and hence have none or few male organs. So why call it a male flower or is this just convention?
I may well have got the whole thing wrong so can you can you please explain.
Sorry, I now realise the plant is monoecius and I had mistaken flowers to have both male an female structures After checking my begonia flowers I find that the single flowers appear to be female but so far no single male and the double flowers do not have any stamens so unless single males are produced from where does the pollen come? Do some double males still have residual stamens or will the plant produce single males later?
Thank you for very clear instructions on how to identify and remove the female flowers. I have only grown begonias for about 4 years, and did not know this. At the end of the summer, some plants have fewer and smaller blooms, so I think this technique will be super helpful. And easy, too. I just removed ALL the female flowers I could find, and already my begonias look lusher and more beautiful with only the big showy blooms.
So glad to hear this was helpful!