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What does it mean to pinch back a plant?

Pinching back a plant is simply pinching off the growing tips. At each of these tips is a terminal bud, which is responsible for growth of the plant in length or height. In this terminal bud, a plant hormone that inhibits lateral growth or growth in width is produced.

When you pinch off the terminal bud, you remove the source of that inhibitory hormone, encouraging the plant to grow from its lateral buds, those that occur down the sides of the stem. That encourages the plant to grow bushier rather than taller. Pinching back is very commonly done in the nursery trade to give mums and other plotted plants a nice dense, compact look that we, as plant purchasers, find more aesthetically pleasing. In the garden, this helps produce a lusher plant. With flowering plants, this will encourage more flowers, too.

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