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Updated: Feb 14, 2022

“And here’s a pinch to grow an inch.”

Who doesn’t remember hearing that from some member of the family or friend of your parents when you were growing up? The saying usually was something people said on a birthday celebration, and any amount of pinching was worthwhile if accompanied by a gift.

While pinching may have had no influence on your height; the same is not true for flowers, especially mums, the delightful flower that brings a host of color – red, lavender, while, yellow, pink and more – to your garden in the fall. July is the time of year when you want to pinch mums to grow an inch and more to get that desired autumn bloom.

Pinching or pruning back encourages more side branching, which results in a plant that is more bushy or compact and full of flowers rather than tall and leggy with a few flowers at each of the stem tips. Unpruned mums tend to grow tall and leggy and start blooming way too early. When this happens, the stems can flop over under the weight of the flowers and leaves. If you choose not to prune, expect a shorter bloom period. You’ll also need to use plant supports to keep your leggy mums from falling over.  

Get a Perfect Pinch

If your plants are about 6 to 8 inches tall (They should be around this time of year.), they are ready for pruning or pinching. It’s best to remove the new shoots by pinching them off between the thumb and forefinger. Or if you’re squeamish, use garden shears. Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension advises that you leave two or three leaves on the shoot. The last pinch should be made no later than August 15. If pinching is continued after this date, flower buds will be eliminated from the plants.

Fertilize Through Summer

Fertilizing can be done at the same time as pinching — usually once or twice a month from May through July or until flower buds start to form. Use a high-quality organic fertilizer such as Lady Bug’s All Purpose (8-2-4) or Espoma Plant-tone.

Overwintering Mums

Mums don’t usually survive North Texas winters, but if you want to give it a shot, Texas A&M recommends that you wait until after your plants bloom in the fall and the leaves die back and become brown. Cut off the dead tops, and cover the plants with mulch to a depth of three to four inches.

Our team at Marshall Grain can answer any other questions you may have about getting your mums ready for fall bloom.

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