The Q&A Archives: Pinching The Correct Way

Question: I'm new with this wonderful world of gardening. I'm learning along with my two children, ages 5&7,both girls. We are having a problem knowing where and when to pinch/pluck or cut. Please lead us in the right direction of, adding to the beauty of our land. Our garden consists of, Rhododendrons, gardenias, Sweet Williams, Chrysanthemums and many small fill in type of plants. Please help us!

Answer: Deadheading serves two purposes; it keeps plants looking attractive, and it stops seed production which generally signals a plant to stop producing flowers. Annual plants can sometimes be cut back about half-way to produce a second flush of blooms. Simply shear the plants back after their blooms begin to fade. This works on some, but not all annuals. Perennial plants can have spent flowers and some of the stems removed to encourage the development of additional flowering stems. Again, some perennials respond better than others - it really depends upon the plant.

When your rhododendrons have finished blooming carefully snap off the flower trusses to make room for next year's buds (which will develop over the summer months). Sweet Williams can be deadheaded by cutting off the spent flowering stems. Additional flowers may form later in the summer. Gardenias do not need regular pruning but you can snip off the faded flowers to keep the shrubs looking neat.

You'll learn a lot about the plants you're growing if you experiment with pinching and pruning throughout the growing season. Keep a journal and record not only what you did, but what results were produced - both this year and next. Soon you'll be an expert instead of a novice.

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