Tips On Pinching Out And Pruning

Pinching out is done by pulling the growing tip steadily backwards so that it snaps off at a leaf joint. If the plant is not brittle, then the growing tip must be cut out by pinching it between your thumb nail and your forefinger. Once the growing tip has been removed, both of the tiny buds at the leaf joints will swell and begin to grow, making two stems where before there was only one.

Some plants – Zonal Pelargoniums and Coleus, for example – should be well branched and are consequently greatly improved by this treatment. It should cease when their habit (shape) has been made sufficiently bushy.

Pinching OutClimbing plants require different treatment. With them, you encourage the main stems which you wish to keep, cutting out the weaker side shoots cleanly at the point where they join the main stem. However, a stem may be stopped if you wish the plant to put out two lateral shoots for the purpose of training. Climbing plants will need some support to which they can cling or be tied.

During the winter, a number of climbers, like Philodendron scandens and some types of ivy, produce growth on which the leaves are very small and pale. The reason is that the room has been kept at a com­fortable temperature for its human occupants, but too warm for the plants. When spring arrives, cut the growth back cleanly to the first good leaf.

Plants like Tradescantia, Zebrina and Ivy Ger­anium can become very straggly and untidy unless you keep them under control. They should be cleanly cut back to just above a leaf joint. Improvement will then be rapid.


Many plants bear their flowers on the new sea­son’s growth. Amongst these are Hydrangea, Pelargonium, Fuchsia and Solanum capsicastrum. They should be pruned back severely when the flowering period has finished. Cut cleanly across the stem just above a bud, taking great care not to damage it. The remaining stems should average from 10 cm (4 in) to 15 cm (6 in).


  • Remember to stop feeding and keep the soil only just moist until growth starts again.
  • Never prune plants which flower on the growth of the previous season or you will be removing all the next season’s flowers. Hoya carnosa (Wax Flower) is one of this type.
  • Always cut out dead or diseased stems as soon as they are found. Cuts on thick stems, which tend to bleed, should be dusted with flowers of sulphur immediately after pruning. The sulphur will help dry the wound and discourage fungal infection.

If you follow all the advice in this site together with that given under the individual plant headings, you can’t help but continue to keep your indoor plants alive and well. In fact, you will go even further and keep them both healthy and beautiful. You will feel as proud of your achievement as an artist does when he has completed a painting.

Plant-Think will have become intuitive and you will understand your plants to such a degree that you will know instinctively when the time is right to ‘pinch out’ so as to improve the shape of a plant or to direct its growth in a different direction.

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