Pinching Fuchsias

Let us assume your fuchsia plant is well on its way and it is anticipated that it will become a well-shape bush bearing a multitude of flowers. The majority of fuchsias need training of some sort: if allowed to grow untrained, the young plant may develop into a bush of reasonable shape, but this is unlikely. What is more likely, is that the plant swill develop one long, thin stem with a few flowers at the top or, if it does make branches, these will be long and straggly, some of which will be lying on the ground.

A little judicious pinching out makes all the difference, producing side branches and building up a bushy, sturdy plant. Pinching is exactly what it implies: between the forefinger and thumb simply take the growing tip or top pair of leaves and pinch it out (see diagram above). This is also called stopping. A pair of scissors or a very sharp penknife will do the job just as well, but one does not always carry a pair of scissors and the pinching job is just as effective.

The result of this operation is to force the stem to make additional side shoots that become branches, and the more branches there are on the plant, the more flowers will be produced. So when the main stem has made these side shoots, these should be stopped in turn. They too will produce more side shoots. By this time there will be a reasonable bush that is pleasing in shape and, more important, one that will produce plenty of flowers. 

Carry on doing this until your plant is about 15-20cm tall or until you are satisfied that it is a nice shape. Remember that single flowers take about 6-8 weeks to form and open from the final pinching and double flowers about 8-12 weeks, so you can decide when you want your plant to flower and stop pinching at the appropriate time.

Don’t forget that your babies should be given a quarter-turn every week so that they don’t lean over to one side. They will always lean towards the sun, and to prevent this, the whole pot must be turned. I find that it is a good idea to set a special day of the week to do this, say on a Saturday morning, so that you don’t forget. Go out with your scissors, pinch and turn at the same time!