How Pinching Plants Benefits Your Cut Flower Garden

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.

pinching cut flower plants: bright lilliput zinnias in the garden

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 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.

cut flower garden summer evening view overlooking the bay

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I’m a self-taught hobby gardener, not a Master Gardener. Everything I share with you on my blog is my personal opinion and things that have worked for me.

pinching cut flower plants: cut flower garden in summer
  • 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 sad spindly plants.

dahlia white with purple center

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.

pinching back sweet pea seedlings

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.


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pinching cut flower plants: pink sweet peas

Pinching cut flowers can benefit a wide range of flowering plants, including annual flowers like a dahlia flower, as well as perennial flowers.

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
  • Lupine
  • Hollyhock
  • Columbine
  • Gladiolus
strawflowers in the cut flower garden

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.

pinching cut flower plants: chocolate dara or Queen Anne's Lace flower
  • Those plants which produce only one flower per plant such as single-stem sunflowers and birds 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 grow in a rosette form, staying low and compact without the need for pinching.
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‘Growing a Cut Flower Garden’ Series

snapdragons being supported by netting

No. Although pinching and deadheading both involve removing parts of the plant, the two are different gardening techniques.

While pinching is to encourage 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.

You can either use your fingers or pruners to remove the tips or shoots of a plant.

cut flower garden with white picket fence and greenhouse

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,

Happy Gardening!

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growing cut flowers: the benefits of pinching

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  1. Kim, I need your help. I am growing dahlias this year for the first time. Well, seriously the first time I bought tubers and started them. Two of the dahlias are huge. I didn’t know about pinching them. I am trying to keep these giant plants from falling over. Is it possible to cut them back some now or is it too late? I only had one bloom as well. Is there anything I can do now? Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Thank you for your question.
      At this point in the season it may be too late but that’s ok. You’ve learned a couple of valuable lessons to carry through to next growing season. First of all, pinching your young dahlias really are going to get your plants to fill in with side shoots vs. growing tall with few blooms. You will be amazed by how much of a difference it makes and how many flowers you will grow. As for the plants falling over, are you tying them up and staking them, or supporting them in another way? I have a post on supporting your plants to keep them from falling over. Just search for it and read more about how you can keep them from falling over. I hope that helps a bit.

  2. your garden is just grand! May I ask how the white post with lights are anchored. Like that idea.

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