I’m willing to bet that every hobby has its “own language” and uses terms that the average person may not understand. Gardening is no exception to this rule. One term that confuses a lot of gardeners is pinching. We get a lot of questions about this practice including what is pinching, why do you do it and how do you perform this task correctly? Depending upon the plant you are growing pinching can be a very important task and you definitely want to do it correctly.
Pinching is actually a form of pruning and is designed to encourage a plant to branch out or to promote an additional blooming cycle. The process involves removing the dead flower of the plant, just above the next set of leaves, which causes the plant to form two new stems. This process not only makes the plant look better aesthetically but promotes healthy growth as well. The removal of this part of the plant can be done using a scissor or you can use your thumb and forefinger to grasp the section of the stem you are eliminating and “pinch it” to take it off.
There are several reasons that you pinch a plant. Pinching can be done to encourage growth. For example, pinching a Basil plant results in additional branches and that means more leaves you can harvest. Another reason to pinch is to keep a plant compact and prevent it from getting too tall. This process is used to help Chrysanthemums achieve their globe-like shape as well as increasing their flower production later in the season. Many annuals benefit from pinching as it encourages them to continue blooming or in the case of perennials such as thread-leave Coreopsis pinching can stimulate a whole new blooming cycle.
Finally, the frequency with which you pinch plants can vary depending upon the plant characteristics and personal preferences. Annuals such as Petunias may require pinching several times during the growing season. The aforementioned Chrysanthemums may require no pinching if you prefer that they bloom earlier in the season and don’t’ mind them being taller than usual. Pinching is not a difficult technique to learn but if you have any questions about it please feel free to send us a message through the “Ask Us” section of our website.