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How to Pinch Flowers for More Blooms

Ever heard of pinching flowers? Many growers use this technique to encourage long stems (and more of them) when growing certain flowers.

It may seem drastic to cut back a flowering plant just as it is beginning to grow, but this one step increases the number AND length of flower stems. Learn how to pinch flowers for more blooms in this post. 


How to Pinch Flowers for More Blooms

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Zinnias

Why pinch back flowers? 

“Plants produce more stems of better cutting quality when pinched than when I leave the first central stem to grow into a monster stem.”  

Lisa Mason Ziegler, Vegetables Love Flowers
Gomphrena

Pinching is snipping out a part of the new plant’s growth, encouraging branching rather than creating one tall central stem. Pinching encourages plants to produce more branches near the base of the flower. This increases the number of flowering stems and the overall length of the stems.

How to Pinch Flowers for More Blooms
Celosia

Pinching flowers delays blooming but ultimately results in more blooms. 

Pinching is also done in some flowers to produce larger blooms on roses, dahlias, peonies, and chrysanthemums. Pinch off most flower buds, and the remaining flowers will be larger. (The Flower Gardener’s Bible, page 119.)


When is the best time to pinch flowers? 

The best time to pinch flowers can vary slightly from flower to flower but generally is done when plants are young [8-12 inches (20-30cm) tall and have 3-4 sets of leaves]. 
Dahlia

The best time to pinch flowers can vary slightly from flower to flower but generally is done when plants are young [8-12 inches (20-30cm) tall and have 3-4 sets of leaves]. 


How do you pinch back flowers? 

Once the stem is between 8-12 inches (20-30cm) tall, use sharp pruners (I like these Felco pruners) and cut the top 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) off just above a set of leaves. 

Only remove up to 50 percent of the leaves. Cutting off more than this inhibits the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and grow. 

How to Pinch Flowers for More Blooms
How to Pinch Flowers for More Blooms
Dahlias

What happens if you don’t pinch flowers?

Many plants try to bloom when they are very young and have short stems. Other flowers will grow only one central flower stem. 


Which flowers benefit from pinching? 

Pinching is most often done on flowering annuals with branching forms. 
Zinnia

Pinching is most often done on flowering annuals with branching forms. 

Some flowers that benefit from pinching include ageratum, amaranth, anemone, basil, calendula, carnation, celosia (plume varieties), cosmos, dahlia, gomphrena, marigold, phlox, snapdragons, strawflower, sweet peas, sunflowers (branching varieties), and zinnias

How to Pinch Flowers for More Blooms
How to Pinch Flowers for More Blooms

Which flowers should not be pinched? 

Pinching is best done on flowers that produce flowers on multiple stems. Don’t pinch stems on types that produce only one flower per plant, such as single-stemmed sunflowers and Bombay celosia. 

Pinching is best done on flowers that produce flowers on multiple stems. Don’t pinch stems on types that produce only one flower per plant, such as single-stemmed sunflowers and Bombay celosia. 
Single stem sunflower

Other flower varieties tend to “rosette” and not grow tall if pinched. These flowers include statice, Canterbury bells, and lisianthus. 

Some flowers produce multiple stems naturally and do not need pinching. These flowers include scabiosa, forget-me-not, foxglove, Dara, delphinium, and ranunculus

Some flowers produce multiple stems naturally and do not need pinching. These flowers include scabiosa, forget-me-not, foxglove, Dara, delphinium, and ranunculus. 

Sources and helpful guides for growing flowers: 

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, by Erin Benzakein with Julie Chai

Growing Flowers: Everything You Need to Know about Planting, Tending, Harvesting and Arranging Beautiful Blooms, by Niki Irving

Vegetables Love Flowers, by Lisa Mason Ziegler 

The Flower Gardener’s Bible, by Lewis and Nancy Hill


Flowers to Plant Outside & Seeds to Start Indoors Each Month in the Low Desert of Arizona.
• PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists annual flowers and bulbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
• BLOOMING GUIDE: Photos show what may be in bloom that month.


Visual planting guides for vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers & vines.


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