Pinch Out

By David Marks
“Pinching out” is really just a fancy name for pruning fuchsias when the stems are young and thin. It’s called pinching out because it can be done with your fingernails. The process starts with young plug plants bought onlineĀ  / garden centres or those you have grown from cuttings.

To pinch out simply cut away the growing tips of stems. Two finger nails or a small sharp knife is the only equipment needed.


Most varieties of fuchsia, if left to their own devices, tend to sprawl with long stems. As the stems grow longer the number of leaf nodes also decrease in frequency. Flowers (and more leaf stems) are formed at leaf nodes, two per node, see the picture below.

Two fuchsia flowers growing from a leaf node

Click to enlarge photo and see more clearly.

Correct pinching out maximises the number and spread of flowers and at the same time encourages the plants to grow into a bushy shape.


If you have taken cuttings or bought plug plants then the first time you pinch out should occur when the plant has a two or three stems which each have three or four sets of leaves. If you are following our fuchsia calendar, which is adjustable to your weather conditions, then this should occur in the fourth week of March.

Using your finger nails or a sharp knife pinch or cut out the growing tip of the stem so that two sets of leaves remain below it, see the pictures below.

A fuchsia stem before pinching out
Stem of a fuchsia before pinching out.

Fuchsia stem after pinching out
Stem of a fuchsia after pinching out.

Pinching out the growing tip will force the plant to put more effort into growing the two side shoots from the set of leaves just below where you pinched out. So now you will have two stems growing at full steam in place of just one which will result in a much bushier plant and one with more flowers.

Our calendar recommends that you pinch out two further times during the season, the first during the fourth week of April and the final one during the third week of May. If you stick to those dates you can expect have a nicely formed, bushy plant with plenty of flowers in the first week of July.

The downside to pinching out fuchsias is that it delays flowering on pinched out stems by six to eight weeks so if you want your plants to come into flower at a particular time bear that in mind.









Date: 13 April 2017 From: Cindy
QUESTION: Should the first flower buds be pinched from an overwintered fuchsia to encourage more blooms?

ANSWER: Pinching out fuchsias is done to cretate a better stem structure. Doing that also encourages more flowers when piching out is stopped.

I have assumed that as part of the overwintering preparartions you cut back many of the stems. If that is the case then yes, it would be a good idea to pinch out the stems as advised in this page. By pinching out the stems you will also be pinching out the developing flower buds.


Date: 12 April 2017 From: John
QUESTION: I am growing on some plug plants and have pinched them out a few weeks ago and they are now growing strongly in 3 inch pots. I intend to pot them on when they require it. I wish to have them in peak condition for a small local show around the first week of Sept. They are in a green house and are trailing and bush varieties, I am in East Anglia. Question is when do I stop pinching out?

ANSWER: Roughly ten to eleven weeks before you want to show them is the short answer. This will give the buds time to develop and flower. That is a rough guide though, growing conditions can affect the situation. The very best of luck with your entry into the show.


Date: 25 July 2016 From: Ron
QUESTION: Our fuchsias were not pinched out and have grown into very large unruly plants. Can we prune them now without harming them?

ANSWER: Yes you can prune them now, in fact if they are overgrown you will probably be doing them good. Just be aware that it will take a few weeks before they come into flower again.


Date: 5 June 2015 From: Christine
QUESTION: I am confused between seed pods and nodes. Which do I pinch out and which do I leave undisturbed? I have roundy things and then skinnier more pill-shaped things on my plant. What do I do to which? Thanks!!

ANSWER: See the picture below of a leaf node. It is the point in the stem where two or three leaves grow out of the stem of the fuchsia. You pinch out or cut off the stem immediately above the leaf node to encourage the fuchsia to become more bushy.

Leaf node of a fuchsia
Click the picture to enlarge it

A seed pod is normally black on a fuchsia, about 1cm long, see the link here to a Flickr page which shows what a fuchsia seed pod looks like. Seed pods occur when the flower dies down and all that is left are the seeds which are held in a pod. You can leave the pod on or pinch it off, I normally pinch them off as soon as the flower dies – at this stage the pod will be green and smaller than shown in the Flickr picture.


Date: 14 April 2015 From: Dan
QUESTION: I have a fuchsia that has split to a four way at the node. Usually it’s two to three leaves per node. Unusual or not? Thanks.

ANSWER: It would be extremely rare if that that was the case. What normally happens is that two nodes almost merge into one and give the appearance of a four leaf node. If you wait a week or so for a couple of nodes to appear above the current one you will see that they are in fact two leaf nodes. Let us know if that is not the case.



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