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Petunias - pinching

Can you predict the effects of pinching out on the production of flowers by pot grown petunias, var. 'Doubloon Pink Star' and var. 'Choice'?

Less means more...

It should be possible to increase production of flowers on a plant by 'pinching out' (removing) the growing tips to encourage side shoots to develop and flower.

How the plants were grown
PetuniasTo test the effects of pinching out on petunias, two varieties (var 'Doubloon Pink Star' and var 'Choice') were planted as plugs in pots of Levington Plant Protection Compost mixed with 4-month controlled release fertiliser. Some plants were pinched out once, some twice and some not at all. Flowers from each plant were collected and counted at the end of June, July, August and September.

Flowers per plant to end of June to end of July to end of August to end of September

'Doubloon Pink Star'
Unpinched 62 193 521 714
Pinched once 23 173 405 500
Pinched twice 17 112 323 584

Unpinched 61 236 733 1065
Pinched once 22 207 718 1083
Pinched twice 14 110 583 939

Pinching, although traditionally recommended as a method of increasing flowering gave no consistent increase with these two petunia varieties. Pinching out the shoots delayed flowering and reduced flower numbers during the first half of the season and the loss was only just about made up by the end of September.

Despite the early reputation of Doubloon Pink Star as a free flowering variety, 'Choice' produced nearly twice as many flowers per plant by the end of September with around 1000 flowers per plant. A pouch containing 12 plants clearly has the potential to produce around 6000 'Doubloon Pink Star' petunias and well over 10,000 'Choice' petunias per pouch in a good season.


PetuniasIf you have a bedding plant with a single main stem but you really want a bushy plant and plenty of flowers then you can pinch out (remove) the tip of the main stem to encourage the lateral (side) shoots to develop. This is a simple technique which gardeners could use more often.

The advantages:

  • more side shoots develop producing more flowers
  • plants are more compact and sturdy to withstand adverse weather
  • you can hold back bedding plants grown in the greenhouse until you are ready to plant them outside
  • with petunias in flower pouches pinching out should reduce risk of wind damage

The main disadvantage is thatflowering can be delayed.

A flower pouch with petunias unpinched and pinched once The difference in a single plant when unpinched (left) pinched once (middle) and pinched twice (right)
Both photographs were taken on the same day, this shows how pinching out can delay flowering.


From the results of the Petunia Pinching trial you can see that you will need to start the plants growing early in the season to get the benefits of pinching and also you can see that you only need to pinch out shoots once.


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