- Pruning Succulent Plants
- Can You Trim Succulents? Absolutely!
- How to Propagate Succulents; Buy the Succulent Plant Propagation E-Book; Click on the picture to find out more and purchase:
- What tools will I need?
- How do I Trim the Stems of Succulents?
- But where exactly do I cut the stem?
- What happens next?
- Callous the Cuttings
- Then What? Propagating the Cuttings
- What are the best tools for pruning?
- Winterizing Succulents E-Course
- Pinching Back: Tips For Pinching A Plant
- Define Pinching Plants
- Why Do You Pinch Plants?
- How to Pinch a Plant
- The Art Of Pinching
- Pinching and Pruning – From the Plants’ Perspective
- Pinching Indoor and Outdoor Plants into Beautiful Specimens
- Give Your Plants a Pinch
- Pinching back plants keeps them compact, increases blooms
- A Gardening Tip: Pinching Flowers to Prolong Bloom, When and How
- The concept behind pinching is pretty simple, but the practice gets complicated.
- Pinching out bedding plants
- Why pinch out bedding plants?
- How to pinch out your plants
Pruning Succulent Plants
Can You Trim Succulents? Absolutely!
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Succulent plants, like any other plant, sometimes outgrow their space and require pruning or trimming. As they get older, they can get top heavy and fall over even in a large pot.
Any diseased part of a succulent plant should be removed, even though in most cases they have the ability to compartmentalize the damage so it doesn’t spread.
There are no special techniques for pruning succulent plants, other than using sharp tools to avoid any infection.
Pruning off the top of any plant will allow the other buds to grow – sometimes with impressive exuberance. This has the effect of making the plant bushier, as each lower bud grows to form a new smaller shoot. You can direct the growth by cutting just above a bud facing the right direction.
So go ahead, prune your succulents and don’t be afraid – most succulent plants are very forgiving and you can always propagate the pieces you cut off to make many more beautiful succulent plants.
There are several reasons why you should prune your collection of succulent plants:
- When they are leggy from not enough light exposure (keep them in a warm bright area for best growth);
- Or when you want to propagate them.
How to Propagate Succulents;
Buy the Succulent Plant Propagation E-Book; Click on the picture to find out more and purchase:
Many people dislike the look of a succulent plant that has a long corky stem with a ‘palm tree’ effect, the rosette of the plant forming a tuft on the top. To make a new plant with the low growing rosette form that most collectors treasure, you must behead or decapitate your succulent plant.
It sounds harsh, I know, but you have to be cruel to be kind – and in this case, the plant will respond with a miracle – more baby plants that you can propagate lower down on the stem – so don’t discard it.
Look at the picture and follow the instructions below for exactly how to do it:
What tools will I need?
Most succulents are thin enough that a pair of scissors will cut through the stems, but occasionally you’ll need something a little sturdier (especially to behead Echeveria with their woody stems).
My recommendation is a pair of Felco pruners. These are ‘bypass’ pruners, which means they don’t crush the stems of the succulent plants, and also you can buy parts for them, such as the blades and springs. I’ve still got my second pair that are now going on thirty years old! Caution; there are lots of pruners that look similar; don’t get sucked in to buying a knock off – they’re cheaply made and wont’ last.
My other go-to pruning tool is a pair of Japanese bonsai scissors – keep these dry – they’re not stainless steel, so they’ll rust. A quick wipe after using with an oily rag will protect them.
How do I Trim the Stems of Succulents?
Clip the stems of long overgrown succulents in the places indicated by the red lines: a) These top rosettes will root quickly and give you many nicely shaped new plants for almost instant gratification – plant them right into a succulent planter for immediate impact.
b) The long sprawly stems are useful too – so don’t be too hasty to throw them away. Stick them (right side up of course) into some potting soil, and they’ll root and send up new growth.
c) Now you’re left with a pot of dead sticks – but are they really dead? You’ll be amazed at the life left in these seemingly used up dregs. Water carefully (not too much) until they show signs of new growth, then fertilize them, and stand back!
But where exactly do I cut the stem?
Here’s a diagram for where to make the cut – just above a set of leaves. Don’t leave a long stub of the stem, because it will just start to rot (and look weird).
For stems without leaves where it’s hard to see where the leaves used to be, just cut them and let them make the new shoots, then retrim them a bit shorter if necessary.
What happens next?
It’s hard to believe the miracle of new growth, those tiny shoots that will emerge. This is what it might look like;
Generally, the top most shoots will be the larger ones, those lower down a bit smaller. Those hidden, dormant buds are where the magic happens but only once the top of the plant is cut off.
Callous the Cuttings
There is one crucial point when you’re beheading the rosettes of succulent plants to propagate: the end of the cut beheaded part must be allowed to callous or dry to be able to form roots.
Then What? Propagating the Cuttings
I usually either let the cutting dry out, sometimes for a long time, after which it happily forms lots of thread like pink roots.
Otherwise, I put them in a communal flat with dry Sunshine Mix #4 or other well drained succulent soil. Simply place them on top of the soil, and the roots will find their own way down.
It sounds counter intuitive, as all cuttings have to have water – don’t they?
Succulent plants are the exception, and will root perfectly well without excess water.
After a couple of days to several weeks you can water – make sure your drench thoroughly, and then allow to dry out again.If you spray only the surface of the soil close to the cutting, this encourages the roots to get started, but as soon as the succulent is rooted (tug gently on it to test this) you can water more thoroughly.
Pruning succulent plants to take cuttings is only one reason to prune – the other is to make them break new shoots from lower down on the stem by removing the top bud which secretes auxins.
What are the best tools for pruning?
The best tools are pruners, my preference is the Felco line which are bypass pruners, not anvil pruners. Anvil types can crush the stem, which invites disease in.
Check out this selection of Fiskars pruners from Amazon.com. These are hands down my favorite (and most reliable) cutting tools.
My other favorite pruning tools are Japanese bonsai scissors, which are slender enough to reach well into the plant. This makes it possible to snip off any of the growth you don’t want, while leaving the buds that you want to keep.
I usually sterilize the pruners between plants with Isopropyl alcohol. This is especially important to prevent transferring diseases from one plant to another if any of them are infected.
I sometimes use a weed whacker to cut back the dead flower heads of low growing creeping Sedum or stonecrop; works like a charm, but in most cases sharp scissors, pruners or a razor blade are best for more precise work.
Some of my favorite succulents are many of the beautiful Echeveria, Graptopetalum and Crassula, which benefit from the removal of long leggy growth by creating a bushier and more compact plant.
Special pruning techniques are needed to make a Crassula bonsai.
Japanese Bonsai Scissors
Pruning succulent plants is not difficult – try not to bruise the leaves as you behead your plant – some of my favorite propagation tools that are also used for pruning are a pair of Japanese bonsai scissors or a scalpel, as they can reach in without damaging the leaves.
The pieces you cut off in the process can be used for vegetative propagation such as cuttings.
Want your succulents to survive the winter? Learn how to bring them indoors and be happy and healthy with this free e-course; Fill in your name and email address on the form below to enroll!
Winterizing Succulents E-Course
Tender Succulent Plants
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Succulent Plant Propagation
Pinching Back: Tips For Pinching A Plant
Gardening has many odd terms that may confuse a new gardener. Among these is the term “pinching.” What does it mean when you are pinching plants? Why do you pinch plants? You may also be wondering how to pinch a plant? Keep reading to learn more about pinching back plants.
Define Pinching Plants
Pinching plants is a form of pruning that encourages branching on the plant. This means that when you pinch a plant, you are removing the main stem, forcing the plant to grow two new stems from the leaf nodes below the pinch or cut.
Why Do You Pinch Plants?
Many gardening experts have tips for pinching a plant, but few actually explain why. There are may reasons for pinching back a plant.
The biggest reason for pinching plants is to force the plant into a more full form. By pinching back, you force the plant to grow twice as many stems, which results in a fuller plant. For plants like herbs, pinching back can help the plant to produce more of their desirable leaves.
Another reason for pinching plants is to keep a plant compact. By pinching the plant, you are forcing the plant to focus on regrowing lost stems rather than growing height.
How to Pinch a Plant
How to pinch a plant is actually pretty easy. The term “pinching” comes from the fact that gardeners actually use their fingers (and fingernails if they have them) to pinch off the tender, new growth at the end of the stem. You can also use a sharp pair of pruning shears to pinch the ends.
Ideally, you want to pinch the stem as close to above the leaf nodes as possible.
Now that you know how to pinch a plant and why do you pinch plants, you can start pinching your own plants. If you follow these tips for pinching a plant, you can bring out the best shape and fullness in your plants.
The Art Of Pinching
People get confused when we share tips on growing basil with them. One of the tips we share is pinching the top of the leaves off when the basil is in its early growth stage.
“Cut? Pluck? Where? Pinch?? How to pinch?” is the usual response that follows. Seems like they are only familiar with the idea of pinching someone rather than pinching a plant.
The Dictionary.com definition of pinching is ” to squeeze or compress between the finger and thumb, the teeth, the jaws of an instrument, or the like.”
Pinching is a form of pruning that encourages branching on the plant. It is is the act of removing an upper portion of a stem on an herb plant in order to encourage new leaf growth from the lower dormant leaf buds.
As long as there is growth above it, the lower leaf buds will not grow. But, if the stem above a leaf bud is removed, the plant signals to the dormant leaf buds closest to the missing stem to grow. Since a plant normally produces these dormant leaf buds in pairs, when you take one stem off, two leaf buds will start to produce two new stems.
This means that when you pinch a plant, you are removing the main stem, forcing the plant to grow 2 more new stems from the leaf nodes below the pinch.
So why do we need to pinch the plant?
By pinching the plant, you are forcing the plant into a fuller form. By the act of pinching, you can force the plant to grow twice as many stems and leaves. Pinching back is common, especially for herb plants where having more leaves is desirable.
In the example of basil, the basil will start to grow sideways into a fuller, bushier plant.
This also keeps the plant compact as the plant will focus on regrowing lost stems rather than height. Which is great, especially for herbs growing in Plantui.
So where and how do we start pinching?
So where does the term “pinching” come from? This term comes from the fact that gardeners usually use their fingers to pinch off the tender, new growth at the end of the stem. Ideally, you should start pinching or cutting the stem as close to the leaf nodes as possible.
Many people are afraid to pinch or cut their plants because they are not sure when and how to do it. This form of deliberate pinching should be done when the plant is small or when you are not harvesting much. Frequency of pinching can be every week or so and this will not damage your plant or herb. In fact, it is important to do so for the healthy growth of the plant.
On a side note, herbs such as mint, they need more than a pinch or a trim – cutting it right back will ensure a continuous healthy supply.
So start pinching your plants today and watch them grow!
Update (4/9/17): Basil plant pinched and started growing 2 more nodes!
Pinching and Pruning – From the Plants’ Perspective
I spend a lot of my time trying to look at life from a plant’s point of view. While this can make me an odd conversationalist at times – it also makes me a better gardener. In so many ways, understanding what your plants need and why they need it can help you to have bigger, more beautiful plants – often with less effort on your part. Today, let’s look at pruning, pinching and deadheading from the plant’s perspective.
Root Shoot Ratio
A plant’s roots take in water and nutrients from the soil to share with the rest of the plant. Leaves, too, take in important resources – sunlight and carbon dioxide (CO2) – to be converted into energy and shared throughout the plant. Leaves also release waste in the form of moisture and oxygen into the environment. Roots and leaves are equally important organs for a plant to survive and thrive. Neither can work long or well without the other being healthy and strong.
Each type of plant develops an ideal ratio or relative size between their roots and their leafy top growth that is ideal for that type of plant to be healthy and to thrive. This is called the Root to Shoot Ratio. While rose bushes might prefer a bit different root to shoot ration than bean plants or oak trees, each type of plant does have a natural ratio that suits it best. Very generally speaking, this ideal ratio is roughly 1 to 1, (or it is often expressed as 1:1) meaning a plant should have about the same mass of roots as it has top growth to support.
The importance of this root to shoot ratio is fundamental to the plant’s health, and it is always putting energy into maintaining that balance. When something occurs to radically alter that balance, the plant goes into over drive to re-establish the balance. This is something gardeners use in order to get the results we want for our gardens.
Pruning, Pinching and Deadheading Plants
When we prune or pinch back plants to improve their shape or for better blooms and fruit, or deadhead for repeat blooming, we are taking advantage of the biological responses of these plants. When we prune or pinch back the leafy top growth of a growing plant, we radically alter its root to shoot ratio. The plants respond to this by quickly producing a large flush of new top growth in order to bring that important ratio back into balance.
Pinching and pruning work because plants respond to removed top growth by shifting their energies to quickly replace what was lost in order to re-achieve that important root to shoot balance. Plants have evolved this response to damaged top growth to deal with foraging animals and a changing environment.
Plants can be injured by a wide range of factors, and they respond differently based on different causes. And here is where it is helpful to consider things from the plant’s perspective. If your leaves are damaged by a heat wave or drought, these are conditions that tend to last a while. There is no sense in replacing a leaf lost to high heat or drought right away – the new leaf is likely to be lost to the same continuing conditions, right? So the plant tends to regenerate new growth in these conditions rather slowly. But if you get chomped on by a passing goat, this is something to respond to immediately. Foraging animals tend to be on the move toward more food. They don’t hang around a single plant. So rapidly replacing leaves lost to animal predation makes sense, just as waiting to replace leaves stressed by drought.
When to Prune and When to Repair
The plants’ nuanced response to damaged top growth is how we decide when to prune back top growth, and when to leave stressed growth in place to recover. If your plant is responding to very temporary stimulus, like being shipped across country in a packing box, or its pot being knocked off the wall by a passing cat, you know the cause and the duration of the stress, and can help your plant respond to it by pinching or pruning back the affected growth. You know you won’t re-package and ship the plant again, and the cat won’t be back soon, so removing any damaged growth will tell the plant to quickly replace that growth with fresh new leaves. But if you live in an area with a lot of wind, and your young plants are stressed by this, it is best to leave the damaged growth in place, as this encouraged the plant to adapt to conditions you know to be on-going. When possible, we limit the plant’s exposure to the sun or wind or cold conditions we want it to adapt to, gradually increasing the time of exposure. With seedlings started indoors, we call this process “hardening off”.
We also deliberately choose what parts of a plant to remove and we time it for the purpose of getting larger blooms and better fruit. Pruning fruit trees, or pinching back and topping dahlias are good examples of this. When we pinch back, top or prune plants, we are using their natural response to foraging animals to work to our benefit. We specifically cut back their top growth where and when we need to in order to stimulate that flush of new growth exactly where and when we want it.
Pruning, pinching back, topping and even dead heading are all methods of strategically removing certain top growth to cause the plant to replace it with growth that will please us. Better understanding why the plant responds this way, and how it does so will better help you to learn and employ these techniques in your garden.
The timing and techniques used for topping, pruning, pinching and deadheading can vary between different types of plants. But the reason these different techniques are employed, and the reason they work is all due to the natural responses plants use to respond to different types of stress.
We will have many more articles looking at life from the plants’ perspective. What do you think – did this give you a better – or different – understanding of how plants respond to stress in your garden? Feel free to drop a comment and let me know; or let me know if there is a specific thing you would like the plant’s perspective on – I will do my best! 🙂
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Pinching Indoor and Outdoor Plants into Beautiful Specimens
Gardeners and garden books often tell you to pinch back your plants for fuller more compact growth. But we often fail to give the details that put you at ease and increase your success.
Pinching is used by gardeners to remove part of the plant. This term is usually used with flowers and houseplants. Many people use their fingers to break off part of the stem. Others use sharp garden scissors or hand pruners for quicker more precise results.
A soft pinch removes just the upper most portion of the stem where the leaves and tip are starting to develop. A hard pinch removes a longer portion of the stem. The tip and several inches of stem are usually removed. These stem pieces can be used to start new plants. Pinch stems just above a set of leaves so the remaining plant still looks good while you wait for new leaves and stems to grow.
A bit more information: Pinching removes a growth hormone produced in the stem tip called auxin. This hormone encourages upward growth of the stem. Removing the stem tip reduces the auxin and allows more branches to develop along the stem.
Give Your Plants a Pinch
by Tom Stebbins
Give Your Plants a Pinch
Pinching plants will not put you in jail for cruelty to petunias. Pinching is a form of pruning that experienced gardeners use to their advantage. The term “pinching” comes from the fact that gardeners actually use their fingers to pinch off the tender new growth at the terminal end of the stem. The index finger and thumb are used to crush or pinch off the growing tip. About an inch or less of the tip is removed. Usually a sharp fingernail helps in the pinching process.
Plants are naturally trying to grow taller. They stretch toward the sun for their survival. Gardeners don’t always like tall lanky plants. They often prefer more compact and fuller looking plants. Call it discrimination if you want. Cheers for the short stocky individuals. Pinching plants forces the plant into a fuller form. One pinch causes the plant to grow twice as many stems. For herbs like basil, pinching back can help the plant produce many more desirable leaves.
Pinching also keeps a plant compact. It forces the plant to focus on regrowing lost stems, rather than growing height. Sometimes nature performs a natural pinching. A late spring freeze nips off the tender growing tips. This causes the dormant buds to open up and replace the lost leader. Insects chewing and leaf diseases can cause the same thing to happen. The plants have these extra buds in reserve just in case there is damage to the terminal buds.
Similar to humans, plants have many hormones which regulate growth. Two primary plant hormones are auxins and cytokinins. Auxins are produced in leaves and stems. Cytokinins are produced in the roots. Knowing how these chemicals work enables gardeners to do magical things with plants. The rooting hormones sold at garden centers often contain auxins which will stimulate rooting in leaf or stem cuttings. It is the high natural auxin concentration in the tip which causes a plant to grow tall. This is called apical dominance. Pinching temporarily reduces auxin which takes away the apical dominance. This enables the side buds to start growing.
A plant should be pinched back before it is begins to flower. For example, gardeners can pinch back chrysanthemums in midsummer. Start by pinching back the tip of each shoot when the plants are four or five inches tall. Pinch back the plants every time the side shoots grow four or five new leaves–about once every few weeks. Stop after around the first of July. Once the days become shorter mums will form flower buds. So the plant will grow more lateral branches that will produce more flowers.
Pinching out is also the term used when small side shoots are completely removed. This is done when single stems are desired instead of multiple shoots. Now is the time to pinch out soft green side shoots on dogwood, crape myrtle, maple and many other woody plants. Once they grow tough and woody these shoots will have to be pruned out with metal tools.
On grafted roses, any green stems that grow below the graft union are called suckers. These should be pinched off or rubbed off because they sap energy from the plant.
Deadheading is a form of pinching. It happens after blooming. Deadheading removes spent flowers and developing seed pods. This causes the plant to stop expending energy on old blooms. It redirects nutrients to new growth and eventually more new flowers.
Insects can often be controlled without pesticides if careful scouting and removal is immediate. In many situations the critters can be pinched with your fingers or pushed into a can of soapy water. Wearing gloves during this pinching operation is optional.
Fingers are amazing gardening tools. In many cases they are the only tools that can accomplish delicate and precision operations in the garden. So go ahead and pinch your plants. They won’t scream too loudly.
For more Hamilton County gardening information and calendar of events go to www.mghc.org
Pinching back plants keeps them compact, increases blooms
Question: A friend was telling me how she pinches back a lot of her perennials this time of year because it keeps them shorter and then she doesn’t have to stake them. She says it doesn’t hurt their flowers, but I don’t understand how that can be. I know you pinch back mums, but are there other plants you can pinch without removing their flowers?
Answer: Pinching is an important practice for certain plants, though it certainly isn’t a necessary one. Pinching removes the growing point of each plant stem, which encourages branching. As a result, it also keeps the plant more compact.
Pinching back a plant removes the initial flower bud. This causes the pinched shoot to develop into two new branches. Eventually, the now-branched stem will form two new flower buds, essentially doubling the number of flowers by going from one flower bud to two.
Pinching also delays the flowering period by a few weeks, extending the garden’s bloom time, if it’s done properly.
While you can pinch back every stem on a particular perennial, I find it’s better to remove the growing tips of only half of the stalks in each clump. This means that those stems left unpinched will flower first. Then, the stems that were pinched continue to develop and produce flowers several weeks after the first batch have faded. Pinching can cause a single plant to be in bloom for two or three months, instead of three or four weeks!
It’s important to realize, however, that not all perennials respond to pinching. If you pinch a perennial that forms only a single flower bud or stalk per year, you’ll be removing the opportunity for it to flower, rather than encouraging more blooms. For example, never pinch a peony or any plant with elongated, blade-like foliage such as iris, daylilies, red hot pokers, true lilies and ornamental grasses. Others on the do-not-pinch list are those that generate their flower stalks directly from the base of the plant, rather than from atop a leafy stem. Plants on this list include hostas, astilbes, and coralbells.
Pinching should take place here in Pennsylvania sometime in mid- to late June. Don’t pinch later than July 4 as it does not allow the plant enough time to form flower buds before the end of the season. In other words, it delays the blooming too much!
To pinch perennials, use a clean pair of shears or your thumb and forefinger to remove the top few inches of growth. You can remove up to half of the plant’s height. I selectively remove every other stem tip until about half of the stalks have been pinched. Other gardeners pinch back the entire plant.
Here are some common perennials that respond well to pinching: phlox, monarda, sedums, mums, asters, helenium, monkshood, obedient plant, Joe-pye weed, iron weed, Russian sage, heliopsis, veronica, veronicastrum, boneset, artemisia, turtlehead and nepeta.
By pinching back certain plants, you can extend your garden’s bloom time, increase the number of beautiful blooms, and keep tall, lanky plants more compact.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.
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A Gardening Tip: Pinching Flowers to Prolong Bloom, When and How
Flowers are starting to bloom! School yourself on flower pinching to determine whether or not you are getting the most out of your flowers.
The following gardening tip is from The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers by Lynn Byczynski.
Pinching can be used to increase yield and to prolong bloom. It can be an important strategy for the commercial cut-flower grower, so it’s useful to understand how and when to do it.
When growers talk about pinching flowers, they are referring to the practice of cutting off the top of a flower stem. A “soft pinch” removes just the growing tip (officially called the apical meristem) and less than an inch of stem. A “hard pinch” removes several tiers of leaves and several inches from the top of the stem. When you pinch a plant, it sends out new stems below the spot where you pinched it.
By cutting off the growing tip before it has a chance to bloom, you stimulate the plant to branch and send up multiple stems that bloom at the same time. An unpinched snapdragon, as an example, will send up one flower stem. A snapdragon that is pinched when young will send up multiple flowers. It may seem obvious that you should pinch snaps in order to get more flowers, but not everyone does.
That’s because there’s a trade-off in height and earliness—unpinched snaps are taller and bloom earlier than pinched snaps. Pinching, then, can be a way of extending the bloom time of a specific flower; you can leave some unpinched for an early crop and pinch the rest for later blooms.
The concept behind pinching is pretty simple, but the practice gets complicated.
Some flowers should never be pinched. Those that grow from a rosette of leaves, such as statice, don’t benefit from pinching and will, in fact, become misshapen if you do pinch an emerging stem. Others get too tall and lanky if you don’t pinch them; chrysanthemums and dahlias are good examples. Sometimes seedlings start to bloom in the plug tray, and you have to pinch off the flowers before planting them outside so they will send up new flower stems. (It’s often easiest to shear off the tops of the whole flat with sharp scissors.) Sometimes nature, in effect, pinches your young plants for you: When wind, cold, or hail kills the growing tip, the plant will often branch lower on the stem and rebound, looking much fuller.
When your information reference recommends pinching, it usually will tell you whether you should do a hard or soft pinch, and at what stage in the plant’s development. If there is no mention of pinching, don’t be afraid to experiment on your own. Pinch one side of the bed and leave the other side unpinched, and see if it makes a difference.
As with so many things about flowers, local conditions will determine the best practices. The important thing to remember is that plants want to grow, and you probably aren’t going to hurt them by pinching them—or by not pinching them. Even if you forget to pinch, you can usually compensate by cutting a long stem of the first flower that blooms in the center of the plant. That effectively removes the apical meristem, forcing the plant to send out branches lower down on the stem. Those eventually will grow just as tall as the central stem, and you’ll still get multiple blooms from each plant.
Pinching out bedding plants
You may already “pinch out” tomatoes, but bedding plants benefit from this treatment too.
Image: The Garden Smallholder
‘Pinching’ describes a type of pruning that encourages plants to branch out along the stem to become fuller and more bushy. When you pinch out a plant, you remove the top of the main stem, forcing the plant to grow two new stems from the leaf nodes below the pinch.
Why pinch out bedding plants?
Bedding plants like these fuchsia benefit from being pinched out.
Featured: Fuchsia ‘Delta’s Sarah’
Plants naturally put their energy into growing tall stems to outcompete their neighbours. If left to their own devices, this results in ‘leggy’ plants with fewer flowers.
Pinching out the stem tips of your young plants will prevent this happening, and encourage the buds lower down on the stems to produce side shoots. This creates a stronger and bushier plant with even growth and lots of flowers throughout. It also keeps your plant neat and compact, and focuses the growth on new stems rather than height.
Some of the most popular bedding plants which benefit from being pinched out are:
- • Petunias
- • Fuchsias
- • Dahlias
- • Pelargoniums (geraniums)
- • Antirrhinums
- • Marigolds
- • Sweet peas
How to pinch out your plants
Pinch the growing tips out gently with your fingers.
Image: Roger Crookes
Pinching out is very simple – gardeners normally pinch off the tender new growth at the end of the stem with their fingers. You can also use pruning shears if you prefer.
- • While your plants are still young simply pinch out the growing tip of each stem between your thumb and forefinger.
- • Find a node (or pair of buds) and pinch off the stem just above it.
- • You can do this for a second time once they have produced two or three more sets of leaves.
- • Once you have the shape you desire, stop pinching out and let your plant produce flowers.
- • Remember to water regularly and give your plant a phosphorus-rich liquid feed every so often as you’ve forced the plant to produce more flowers than it intended to.
- • Prolong the flowering period with regular deadheading.
For a quick tutorial, watch our video guide on how to pinch out bedding plants. Keep on top of this quick and easy task and your plants will be bushy and filled with flowers throughout the whole summer!