Pinching, also known as pinching back, is similar to deadheading in that it involves pinching off a portion of the plant using your thumb and pointer finger. Pinning, on the other hand, is used to pinch off new stems before any blossoms have grown, rather than to remove spent flowers.
Why Pinch Perennials in the First Place?
Pinching a perennial encourages branching, so rather than becoming leggy (growing tall with only a few stems), it will become stockier and fuller with many stems. The plant’s numerous stems also allow it to produce more blooms when it does flower. Pinching a perennial can cause flowering to be delayed until later in the season than usual, but the extra blooms are typically worth the wait.
Perennial Pinching Techniques
Pinch perennials before they bloom or even begin to form flower buds, or after they have completed their season’s blooming. Pinch your perennials twice, first in the spring and again in the late summer or early fall.
Pinch stems or branches that are extending horizontally as well as vertically from the plant with caution. The goal is to pluck 2–3 inches of growth from the stem’s tip. Plants can be pinched with your fingers or shears, and stems can be pinched in two places:
- a point at the end of a stem or a branch
- Anywhere right above a group of leaves on a stem or branch.
The plant’s stem or branch will grow sideways at the spot where you squeeze it.
You Shouldn’t Pinch These Perennials
Even when pinched, perennials with a central stem rather than several stems do not likely to branch successfully. These perennials should not be pinched.