Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Pinch the ends and it will get bushier"???

So, if you've followed along, you know that I have a nice golden Pothos. It sits and the corner and looks pretty, which is why we have it. However, being that it is under the poisonous plants act of 1921, we don't want the trailing vines to get low enough for our young girls to grab and possibly, if the idea occurs to them, eat. I have had personal experience (many, many moons ago) of eating green things (mom always did say "eat your greens") and then adults saying, "why did you eat that?" and getting rushed hither and thither.
However I am straying from the point at issue. To keep the pothos vines from going down too low I have heard and read that you should "pinch the ends and it will grow out and bushier rather than long." The question is, How hard? Until it squeals? or just until it knows that you care? I have pinched my wife many times and she looks pretty, but all the pinching I have done does nothing to the golden pothos. Or am I supposed to pinch it until the end comes right off, but then why pinch? why not prune?
So hopefully there are some of you out there who are not as "pinchably challenged" as I am and can throw some light on this dark issue.


  1. That is a great question. I've always thought that pinching means to pinch it off entirely, but what the difference is between that and pruning..not sure? Pruning implies cutting a lot of pieces whereas pinching is more selective? I've only used pinching with tender plants, like herbs for example. Pinching kept my basil from flowering and created a very lush plant. I've only probably muddied the waters..sorry! Jenni

  2. I'd say, pinch until it squeals ;-)

  3. I'd say, go by what works on your wife, because she is pretty. Does she squeal, or just know you care? Or both?

  4. Very funny stuff.

    Pinching back a plant encourages lateral growth, removing apical dominance. The buds at the very end of stems and especially at the top of a central leader in an excurrent woody plant (think v-shaped conifers) are located on terminal nodes. From these nodes auxins are sent back through the stem to lateral (non-terminal buds), suppressing their growth and development, leading to long, lean, spindly growth, versus bushy development. This is called apical dominance, wherein the apical bud asserts control over the lateral buds. When you "pinch off" or clip back these buds to the second bud, you remove the node that produces these auxins, thereby encouraging growth throughout the stem.

    Pinching back is appropriate for shrubs and herbaceous perennials that naturally produce rounded, decurrent growth, or when the gardener simply prefers this growth habit. It's not generally recommended for young trees, and it's especially unhealthy for most mature trees. When you "top" or "hatrack" a tree, you are, in fact, pinching it back, which will damage and stunt the strong central leader and produce, as a response to the removal of its apical dominance, weak watersprouts and suckers.

    For a pothos, it's appropriate to pinch back the tips of its stems. This will produce the full look you're after. Go for it!

  5. Oh! And it's called pinching back or off because people of sterner stuff and with much stronger, longer nails than me can easily pinch, with thumb and forefinger, the tenderest of new buds.

    Pruning, of course, is the less indiscriminate and more selective removal of limbs, canes, or stems back to the trunk, base, or nearest desirable bud or branch.

  6. Instead of responding too all individually, I thought I'd save time (you can say it, I'm lazy) by replying to all at once. Thank you for all of the help. I even got to use my dictionary a learned new words. In a month or so, when I see results I'll make a new post telling the world of how to properly pinch and you will know where all of this wonderful knowledge came from. (I'll say something about removing apical dominance!)