Illistrated Image Of A Hand Pinching A Plant
(Image credit: Molly Thompson, with permission)

Gardening has many odd terms that may confuse a new gardener. Among these is the term "pinching." What does it mean when you are pinching plants? Why do you pinch plants? You may also be wondering how to pinch a plant. Keep reading to learn more about pinching back plants.

Define Pinching Plants

Pinching plants is a form of pruning that encourages branching on the plant. This means that when you pinch a plant, you are removing the main stem, forcing the plant to grow two new stems from the leaf nodes below the pinch or cut.

Why Do You Pinch Plants?

Many gardening experts have tips for pinching a plant, but few actually explain why. There are many reasons for pinching back a plant. The biggest reason for pinching plants is to force the plant into a fuller form. By pinching back, you force the plant to grow twice as many stems, which results in a fuller plant. 

For plants like herbs, pinching back can help the plant to produce more of their desirable leaves. Another reason for pinching plants is to keep a plant compact. By pinching the plant, you are forcing the plant to focus on re-growing lost stems rather than growing height.

How to Pinch a Plant

How to pinch a plant is actually pretty easy. The term "pinching" comes from the fact that gardeners actually use their fingers (and fingernails if they have them) to pinch off the tender, new growth at the end of the stem. 

You can also use a sharp pair of pruning shears to pinch the ends. Ideally, you want to pinch the stem as close to above the leaf nodes as possible. Now that you know how to pinch a plant and why you pinch plants, you can start pinching your own plants. If you follow these tips for pinching a plant, you can bring out the best shape and fullness in your plants.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.