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by Kelsey
(Charlotte,TX, US)

Will a plant that is not pinched branch? And if so, why?
As in, if I was doing an experiment and the control plant didn’t receive a chemical pinching agent or was actually pinched, will it still branch?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Kelsey, that would depend on the type of plant – in some cases, the plant will branch regardless of whether you pinch or not, but in most cases I would say that without the release of ‘auxins’ (a chemical growth inhibitor given off by the terminal buds) most plants will branch. It would surprise me if you didn’t pinch, and got a nice bushy plant.

Many nurseries (especially those growing hardy plants for the prairies, for instance) routinely mow the plants, using a machine. There’s nothing delicate about their pinching methods.

A bonsai grower is constantly pinching their plants that are more like artforms. In many cases, once these plants are formed into the characteristic aged shape, pinching is all they do to shape them.

With all the attention paid to pinching, hedging, mowing and pruning it would be unusual to see a plant retain its normal shape in cultivation.

Hope that helps,

Comments for Pinching

Nov 03, 2011

by: Anonymous

What would a tomato plant do without pinching? Would it branch?

Nov 04, 2011

It Depends…
by: Jacki

That would almost entirely depend on the variety of tomato plant as well as if it’s a determinate or staking type.

Determinate tomatoes have been bred over the centuries to be much more bushy and tend to grow to a certain height (pre-determined by genetics) and then form the flower trusses, which of course ripen into the fruit (tomatoes).

The staking types don’t have this self limiting ability.

They’ll just keep growing one long stalk, as long as the weather is warm enough. I’ve seen this type (Sweet Million is one variety) going all around a greenhouse, flowering and fruiting all winter. These don’t do anything different if pinched.

The determinate types do – they’ll become extremely bushy with new branches emerging from each and every axil (where the leaf joins the main stem).

If you don’t want to pinch your tomato plants, then choose the determinate type, which will stay compact for their whole life. This information is usually on seed packets, and in many vegetable seed catalogs and growing guides.