Did you know that there’s a simple garden technique that can create fuller, bushier plants, more blooms, and longer cut flower stems? It’s called pinching and I’ll share more about what the process is, why it’s important, and much more.
A cut flower garden is a beautiful way to bring color and life into your outdoor space. But if you want your flowering plants to produce bigger blooms and more of them, you should consider the technique called pinching.
What Does it Mean to Pinch Flowers?
To “pinch flowers” is the act of removing or cutting off the central stem of the plant, encouraging the plant to produce new side branches from the side nodes, and producing a bushier plant with more blooms throughout the growing season.
Pinching certain cut flowers is the perfect way to grow fuller plants. That sounds great in theory, right?
But when you’re actually taking garden pruners to your precious plant that you’ve nurtured and loved, it’s understandable if you start having second thoughts.
This technique may delay your bloom time initially but trust me. You will be so much happier with the increase in bloom production and the length of the flower stems.
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Table of Contents
- What Does it Mean to Pinch Flowers?
- Why Should You Pinch Back Cut Flowers?
- When is the Best Time to Pinch Flowers?
- How and Where Do You Pinch Off Flowers?
- Examples of Cut Flowers that Benefit from Pinching
- Which Flowers Don’t Need Pinching and Why
- Common Questions About Pinching a Plant
- Other Blog Posts in the Cut Flower Garden Series
Why Should You Pinch Back Cut Flowers?
- Stimulates new growth
- Encourages the production of more sets of leaves and true leaves
- Results in the plant’s bushier growth and more energy to produce flowers
- Longer stems and more beautiful blooms
One of the primary benefits of pinching cut flowers is that it stimulates new growth. When you snip the young plant’s center tip of new stems, it triggers the plant to produce new branches from the leaf nodes below the pinch point.
This new growth will result in a bushier plant with more sets of leaves and more sets of true leaves.
As a result, the plant will have more energy to produce flowers, resulting in longer stems and more beautiful blooms.
If you don’t pinch back your young flowering plants, your plants could grow only one central flower stem, produce shorter stems overall, and even become a sad spindly plant.
When is the Best Time to Pinch Flowers?
The best time to start pinching your flowers can vary by variety. As a rule of thumb, you should pinch back the young plant when it’s 8-12 inches with 3-4 sets of leaves.
How and Where Do You Pinch Off Flowers?
Once the cut flower plants reach between 8-12″ tall, pinch them by snipping out 3-4 inches of the growing center stem, above a set of leaves, preferably above a set of two or more leaves. Be sure to use clean, sharp garden pruners.
This will stimulate new growth from the leaf nodes below the hard pinch point resulting in new shoots and more bloom production.
Due to the plant’s need for photosynthesis, be sure to remove no more than 50% of the leaves.
To pinch your cut flowers, all you need is a pair of scissors or garden shears.
Examples of Cut Flowers that Benefit from Pinching
Pinching cut flowers can benefit a wide range of flowering plants, including annual flowers like a dahlia flower, as well as perennial flowers.
Single Stem Plants
Pinching is especially helpful for those plants with a single main stem, such as sweet peas or perennial geraniums.
These plants tend to naturally focus their energy on growing one tall stem, which can limit the number of flowers they produce.
By pinching off the tip of the main stem, it signals the plant to redirect its energy into creating multiple branches from the base.
Here are examples of single-stem plants that benefit from pinching…
- Sweet peas
- Certain Sunflowers
Flowering Annuals with Branching Forms
These flowering annuals typically have a natural tendency to produce a single main stem, but by pinching their central growing tips, they can be encouraged to branch out and develop more lateral shoots.
Which Flowers Don’t Need Pinching and Why
- Those plants which produce only one flower per plant such as single-stem sunflowers and bird of paradise.
- Cut flowers that naturally produce multiple stems and don’t need pinching like foxglove, dara (Queen Anne’s lace), and delphinium.
- Varieties naturally growing in a rosette form, staying low and compact without the need for pinching.
Common Questions About Pinching a Plant
Is Pinching the Same as Deadheading?
No. Although pinching and deadheading both involve removing parts of the plant, the two are different gardening techniques.
While pinching is for the purpose of encouraging branching and bushier growth, deadheading is removing the spent or faded flowers from a plant. This is done to promote continuous blooms and prevent seed formation.
Should You Pinch or Cut Plants?
You can either use your fingers or pruners to remove the tips or shoots of a plant.
Pinching cut flowers is a perfect way to promote bushy growth, beautiful blooms, and tall cut flower stems in your garden flower beds.
It’s an easy process that anyone can do with a pair of scissors or garden shears. Whether you’re growing annuals or perennials like dahlia tubers, your plants will benefit from pinching.
If you have any questions or have a message, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. And be sure to share this blog post link with anyone who may find these gardening tips useful.
Until next time,
Other Blog Posts in the Cut Flower Garden Series
Maintaining a Cut Flower Garden for Beginners
How to Successfully Harden Off Your Young Plants and Seedlings
Seed Starting 101: Growing a Cut Flower Garden Series
What Supplies You’ll Need to Start a Cut Flower Garden By Seed
How to Support Garden Flowers to Keep Them From Falling Over
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Jennifer Howard says
OOOOH, I’ve never thought about pinching my strawflowers….totally doing this this year. Just put my seeds in yesterday.
va NC says
your garden is just grand! May I ask how the white post with lights are anchored. Like that idea.
Thank you so much. We screwed the posts to the existing picket fence.