Zinnias -- How to Pinch?

ticksmom419(z7 NC)May 17, 2005

Afternoon! I'm growing zinnias from seed for the first time and seeing that their leaves are pretty huge compared with the width of the stem. I want to pinch, but am not sure how far down to go. Mine have about 4 sets of leaves now. Should I pinch it back to about 2 sets?



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If you are growing low growing bedding zinnias, it helps to pinch them back. If you want tall zinnias for cutting, it is best not to cut them back (or you dont get one of these loooong stems which looks great in a vase) but for outdoor show you can succesfully pinch them back. This is very easy with zinnias. Cutting zinnias back makes them have many more flowers which is great for the display garden.

Simply squeeze the stem between two sets of leaves with the nails of your thumb and forefinger. Remove the 2 upper sets and leave the two lower sets. Pinch about 1/2 - 1" above the 2nd set.

After you have pinched off the top 2 sets of leaves, the plant will in a few weeks create two stems (branching) which means more flowers.

If you keep the tip that you pinched off (with 2 sets of leaves), you can remove the bottom set of leaves from this "cutting". Stick the cutting into a pot with moist potting soil so that the point (where the lower leaves were removed) is covered by soil. Enclose the pot in a clear plastic bag and put at room temperatures in indirect light (no direct hot sunlight). You may have to use a stick or wire hanger to keep the plastic from touching cutting.

In 1-2 weeks, the cutting will have rooted, and YOU HAVE MORE FREE ZINNIAS. Let this new plant grow 4 set of leaves, and pinch this one again and plant out.. Of couse you can now root the top again ... Want to continue ???

    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 10:52PM
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Mebane(z9 Fl)

KD Do you know if this same technique will work with dahlias?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 6:21AM
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ticksmom419(z7 NC)

Thanks, Ken! I always read that you're to pinch this and pinch that, and I'm comfortable deadheading and the pinching that's involved there. But to pinch away at a new seedling -- that seems like a different story and I'm always hesitant. Thanks for being so detailed.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2005 at 11:18AM
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Pinch early, pinch often and your zinnias get bushy with lots of flowers.
If you don't pinch and they get leggy, you can bend them horizontal and the branches will grow vertical, also effectively giving you more flowering stems.
I only bother growing the "giants". Anyways, if you have more than one zinnia, pinch one hard, leave one alone, you know, experiment to see which technique you like best.
Zinnias are the best annual flower, period.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2005 at 1:26PM
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Karen, pinch a new seedling only after it has developed several sets of TRUE leaves. the first set of leaves will be the cotyledon. Do not pinch back to those. Always leave at least one set of TRUE leaves.

Mebane, yes absolutely, dahlias can be pinched the same way. Usually you pinch dahlia only once to stop the height (at about 2.5 feet) which they dahlia people call TOPPING (leave it to them to change the termonology and confuse the rest of us .. GRUMP!!). Smaller bedding dahlias can be pinched earlier and a second time if you like.

If you top (pinch) a dahlia, remove the bottom set of leaves and root the piece you removed. You may very well find that this cutting performs better than the original tuber.

Zinnias should be pinched dramatically as mentioned by deep_roots. They respond very well to this, and the more you pinch, the better plants you get. Now, if zinnias would only come a lot more mildew resistant I would grow them, too.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2005 at 3:56PM
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gardengurl49(z7 MD)

kdjoergensen : Thank you SOOOOOOO much for explaining how to do this! I've tried to understand by searching on google but I couldn't really get the whole process..

but now i DO and i can do it now!! so I am very excited!!

My question is.. what OTHER flowers can u do this to? Can you do it to marigolds, cosmos, forget me nots, etc? which ones CANT be pinched? THANKS so much!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2005 at 2:07AM
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can you cut instead of pinch

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 11:55PM
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Wow thats amazing. I am also a big zinnia fan. I have been having good success with zinnias so far. They are so easy to grow and maintain its almost silly. This is the first time I have heard about pinching back zinnias. Wish I had seen this post earlier. Its so well explained here! I have several zinnias in various stages of growth and will be trying it today. Just curious to know if I could pinch back after the bud has started to form? I have one growing right up front, but its too tall compared to the other plants I have planted there (marigolds, chrysanthemums, gazanias etc) and that one has a bud thats opening..Could I pinch this back??

    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 11:02AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

If you pinch now, you will slow the flowering.
I never pinch the tall dahlia flowering zinnias....I like long stems for cutting and they branch well enough without pinching.
Linda C

    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 12:30PM
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I have photos that demonstrate the differences between pinched Zinnias and unpinched ones. Amazing difference! It is sooooooo hard to sell people on the idea that they should bring home their brilliantly blooming zinnias from the nursery and pinch the flowers off. I am obsessed this year with teaching others this, not only with Zinnias but just about every other plant as well.

I have containers with unpinched Swizzles and Magellans, for demonstration purposes. The blooms are one third of the size of the pinched ones, and only one bloom per stem, with barely any side growth. The pinched ones have AT LEAST 8 or 9 bud on them now,with blooms the size of my hand!! Incredibly perfect plants, I cannot stop bragging on them.

This is what I preach to others about doing "initial pinching" of all annuals: If you bring home a plant that only has one bloom on it, stick it in the ground, and after about a week, you have to take the bloom off, what do you have left? Nothing. You have to wait about 2 weeks to get new buds or blooms. So, if you are going to have a delay of blooms, why not do it when you first plant them? And then have masses of blooms the remainder of the year??

And still, I cannot get even my own father to do this!!

Kenneth, I wasnt aware of removing the leaves at the top when pinching, I usually just leave them. Do you do this with everything?

Zinnias seem to bloom on the 4th sets of leaves, so I always pinch when the stem gets past the third set. This seems to be the magic number for me.

deep_roots, I did pinch my gigantic Zinnias, and they still bent on their own horizontally and are starting to grow upwards. I hope this will be sufficient, as I didnt stake them. Am considering building some heavy duty cages for them, while they are still small enough to do it.

Could never get too many zinnias!!!!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 5:17PM
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Linda, you are right, the dahlia flowered ones do branch quite a bit. Mine are pretty bushy already, just wanted to try it out and see what happens.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2005 at 11:41AM
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I really appreciate all the info on this forum since I have so many questions, they seem endless. I've planted Dahlias in the past but the slugs just ate them alive so I quite growing them. This year I was at the local Nursery and decided to get a Zinnia to try for the first time. I brought it home and it had one gigantic bloom that looked like a prom corsage. It was beautiful! It also had a separate stem with a bud in place. after the large bloom started to fade I trimmed it off below the bloom to allow more blooms to replace it. The bud opened as well as another bloom, but the plant has a very strange leggy shape and I'm not sure at this point what I can do to control the shape? I know we started planting late this year and next year will be easier since I can get younger plants or just purchase seed and pinch them to control the shape myself.

Is there anything at this point I can do to promote more branching?

Also, I've read the other comments on pinching which is very helpful, but I'm still getting confused some how as to where exactly to pinch it (between which set of leaves) and if how you take the pinched section and prep it for rooting?

Can anyone please explain this a touch more, I seem to think I have a grasp on it then I get all jumbled up again.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 5:24PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

welcome... i think its great you read old posts .... but next time.. start your own new post ... mostly because.. i dont think you have a pinching issue ....

and in that post.. put a pic.. it really helps ...

you left out many facts... is it in mother earth.. or indoors... how big is the pot ... etc ...

if you are trying to grow a full sun plant.. indoors... you are going to have problems... and you cant put it in sun in august ... but you could put it outside ...

more facts please ....


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 3:56PM
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As soon as I can take a picture and upload it I'll start a new post. I don't think I was even sure how to do that since it was one of the very first things I did when I joined.

I can say it's in a 12" pot sitting outside in sun for about half the day from noon until maybe 6 and then indirect sunlight until sundown. I water it pretty much everyday unless it rains but there is really good drainage in the pot I recently put it in.

I did notice since repotting it, there is a new bud coming up. Maybe that's good news since the old blooms didn't get as big as the one it had when I bought it, these only grew to about 1-2 inches round. The old leaves are drying out and the 2 existing blooms are looking faded. Maybe it's getting too much sun? Not sure since I'm new to this plant.

I kind of had to bury the 2 stems it had to keep it from being so leggy and unstable. I was afraid it would just snap since it's kind of growing in a y shape from the center stem.

Thanks! Rachel

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 3:22AM
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