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Pinching out bedding plants

How to pinch out 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?

pinching out a fuchsias
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:

How to pinch out your plants

pinching out the tips
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!

Quick Links:

Pinching out a petunia plant

Pinch out your young plants just above a node or pair of buds.

Pinching out a young dahlia plant

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