Website Shifting Roots Logo
My Account

How to Pinch Cut Flowers for an Explosion of Blooms


There’s a simple secret to getting tons of flowers in your cut flower garden, and it’s as easy as grabbing a pair of scissors. It’s called pinching, and basically it’s cutting a flower back to encourage it to bush out and create more stems. More stems equals more flowers!

But let’s be honest, if you’re new to cut flower gardening, pinching back flowers can be irrationally scary. What if you mess it up? And if you live in a cold climate and short growing season like I do in my zone 3 garden, you worry that pinching flowers will mean that you somehow get cheated out of your cut flowers. It’s silly I know, but we’ve all been there and thought those thoughts.

In this post, we’re going to chat about the general rules for pinching cut flowers, how to pinch some of the most common cut flowers, and which cut flowers need to be pinched.

Queen Lime Red Zinnias that can be pinched for more blooms.

Which Flowers Need to Be Pinched?

In general, there are two types of cut flowers: one and done, and cut and come again flowers.

One and done flowers, like stock, most perennial flowers, and single stem sunflowers, are those that only produce one flower. Once you cut it, the plant will not produce any more flowers. These flowers should not be pinched, as pinching them won’t produce any more flowers.

Cut and come again flowers are like magic. The more you cut them, the more they bloom. These flowers benefit from pinching, because doing so encourages them to create more stems. More stems equals more flowers–and that’s some math any flower grower can get behind. Some examples include snapdragons, cosmos, zinnias, and dahlias.

An infographic on plants that can be pinched: snapdragons, zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, peppers, basil, thyme, and sage.

Will Pinching My Flowers Delay Their Growth?

Yes. But it’s worth it. However, I understand not wanting to pinch them because you want flowers as soon as possible. If that’s the case, I recommend pinching half of your flowers, and leaving the rest. This way you’ll also extend your harvest, meaning that you’ll have a more reasonable pace of flowers, instead of all the blooms all at once.

When is the Best Time to Pinch Cut Flowers?

In general, you’ll pinch cut flowers out in the field when the reach around 8-12 inches, or 20-30 centimetres. During seed starting time, if your seedlings get to around the 8 inch/20 centimetre mark, you can also inch them back even if they’re indoors.

How Many Times Do I Pinch the Flower?

In general, we’re only going to pinch our flowers one time. Once you start betting blooms, natural pinching occurs as you cut the flowers for using in bouquets. Since the flowers aren’t dying on the plant and getting the signal to start producing seeds, the plant will keep sending up more blooms if it’s a cut and come again flower.

If you decide that you don’t want to pinch at all, that’s fine too. Once you start cutting, more stems will start producing.

white cupcake cosmos with hints of pink

How do you Pinch a Cut Flower?

Once the cut flower reaches 8-12 inches/20-30 centimetres, you’ll cut back the flower to around 4-6 inches, or 10-15 centimetres. But don’t just do it willy nilly!! Look for a spot that is just above where leaves branch out. Then grab your scissors (or you can even just use your fingers) and cut the plant. You will feel like a plant murderer, but just breathe. .. it’s okay. The extra blooms will be worth it.

And that’s it. Super simple.

What’s the Difference Between Pinching and Deadheading?

In theory, not much. However, when you’re deadheading flowers in containers, you can pinch them off right where the flower meets the stem. If you do that with cut flowers, you’ll end up with super weird, short stems–which is terrible for bouquet making.

So that’s it! I’ll be posting a short video on YouTube in the next few days to make this even easier for you to do in your home garden.

pink and peach dahlia, a perfect candidate for pinching flowers

Ready to grow your own beautiful cut flower garden, without the hassel?

I’ve taken all the guesswork out of creating a cut flower garden with my e-book, Cut Flowers Made Simple. It’s the perfect way for beginner and intermediate gardeners to start their own cut flower garden with or without seed starting.

Finally you can create a stunning cut flower garden with everything you need to make beautiful bouquets all summer long.

Click on the picture to find out more or get your copy.

Want even more cut flower goodness? Upgrade to the Ultimate Cut Flower Bundle and get Cut Flowers Made Simple PLUS ebooks on seed starting, bouquet making, and extending your flowers into the Fall. See it here.

Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Grow roots with us



Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!