A few weeks ago, I posted about deadheading annuals, a simple, but essential task to encourage container plants, like petunias, to bloom heavily and for the longest possible time. As I was deadheading last week, I noticed that some of my petunias are looking a little leggy. Maybe even (gasp!) scraggly? Deadheading spent blooms won’t fix that, so it was time to get pinchy. Pinching annuals by removing their overgrown and leggy stems will spur fresh growth, thicken up plants, and encourage a new flush of blossoms.
Pinching annuals: which plants respond to pinching?
Not all annuals should be sheared, but those that trail – like petunias, million bells, and lobelia – appreciate a mid-summer haircut. The easiest way to shear is to prune the entire plant back by about one-third, but with this method, you’ll sacrifice a few weeks of flowers. However, once the plant has had a chance to re-grow, it will quickly be smothered in new blooms.
The ‘how-to’s’ of pinching annuals:
I understand if you don’t want to sacrifice your beloved flowers – even for a few weeks (I live in a very short season). However, you can still take advantage of this type of pruning by selectively removing one-third of the leggy stems, pinching or pruning them back to a higher set of leaves or nodes. Pick the stems in front of the plant, leaving the back ones alone. Essentially, you’re layering the plant. The back, unpruned stems will continue to flower, while the front, pruned ones will thicken up and reward you with new, dense growth and a heavy flush of blooms.
One last tip: After pinching or shearing, give your annuals a dose of fertilizer to help them re-grow and re-bloom as quickly as possible.
How do you keep your containers in top shape all summer long?