Pinch these Pinching Out Tips

Pinch these Pinching Out Tips

Annuals, shrubs, fruit and flowers can all benefit from a bit of pinching out.

Pinch out for Shape

I am still nervous about pinching out the growing tips of plants but I am getting better. You want your plants too look good and perform well and sometimes nature benefits from a bit of help. Your aim is to channel energy where and when you want it. So try it by using your fingers to pinch out the growing tip(s) or stalks and branches you don’t need.
One idea behind pinching out is to get the shape of a plant right – we are happy to prune a shrub to get the right shape . In extreme cases we pollard or pleach trees to control unwanted growth and encourage growth where we want it. So why not shape a soft plant like a Pelargonium (Geranium) or wallflower that you want to be bushy.

Pinch out for Flowers or Fruit

  • I have been busy pinching out several lots of flowers this week.
  • I bought some Chrysanthemum variety Moulin Rouge from B&Q. They were 6 to a pack about 6cm square and just showing colour (forced early to make them sell). As they should grow to 20cm square at least 3 times the current size I want the energy into the greenery not the flowers. I pinched out all the flowers and there stalks hoping to force the plant to put its energy into growing more leaves and branches. I gave it a watering of nitrogen rich feed and when I am ready for it to flower I will change to a high potash feed.
  • I also pinched out several Pelargoniums to get more branches and the new branches will each produce flowers so I get much more overall.
  • Pelargoniums and Chrysanthemums that are being grown for a local show need to flower at the right time. I pinch out Pelargoniums 12 weeks before the show date leaving them to get ready to flower at about the right time.
  • I am trying an Angel Geranium (Pelargonium) for the first time this season. I must have taken 50 flower bud off as it has put on lots of branches to reach the edge of the pot. The pot has steadily been increased in size and is now a shallow 8″. Now I will change the feeding and let it build what I hope will be a large number of flower buds all at around the same time.
  • Pinching out Fucshias to make them bushy can also provide a shoot long enough to grow on as a cutting. You may need to pinch out 2 or 3 times to get a bushy Fucshia. Every time you pinch out a growing tip 2 shoots will come in it’s place.

Specific Plants to Pinch Out

  • Tomatoes need side shoots pinching out as soon as possible except some cherry varieties.
    Tomatoes also need leaves pinching out once they have developed to a reasonable size 3 leaves is all they need to produce fruit.
    Pinch out the growing tip when it is tall enough or has set 3-4 trusses of fruit.
    Strip leaves with your fingers progressively from the bottom.
  • Pinch out the growing tip of young Sweet Peas seedlings to make the plant throw up other haulms (stalks that will bear leaves and flowers).
  • Some herbs like basil and parsley will grow more bushy and be more productive for being pinched out
  • Wallflowers, Sweet Williams and other biennial plants will bush out better for being pinched
  • Broad Beans can get blackfly on the soft growing tip so pinch out the top shoot when the plant is tall enough


Disbuding for Peonies and fruit
Apple Blossom Dropping and Thinning

Green Tomatoes

Pinching Out Annuals

  • Most annuals are self branching and can cope without pinching out. Many get a better shape like Antirrhinums.
  • Some annuals have single flower stems and it would be dangerous to pinch out as you may remove the flower bud eg sunflowers.
  • Bi-annuals often benefit from pinching out as they have more time in the ground to develop extra stems or bush shapes. EG Wallflowers, Sweet Peas.

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