Pinching sweet pea seedlings is an easy way to get more blooms per plant! I'll show you how to pinch sweet peas to encourage branching.
Growing sweet peas from seed is super easy, but they can get too tall and flop over before you're ready to plant them outside. The simple task of pinching sweet peas will buy you a few more weeks of indoor growth, with the added bonus of lots more flowers!
Sweet peas grow as a vine with one long stem. But if you cut that main stem, it signals to the plant to push out side shoots below instead. While this slows down the plant's growth for a few weeks, each of those shoots will produce more blooms for a fuller display in spring!
In fact, every time you pick sweet pea flowers off the vine, two new shoots will appear below the cut. The more you harvest, the better your plant will be, so don't feel bad about making a beautiful sweet pea bouquet for your table!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you.
When to pinch sweet peas
The best time to pinch sweet peas is when they are 6-8 inches tall and have at least two sets of leaves. I had a few stragglers in this batch of seedlings, so I waited until they all had enough growth so I could pinch them all off at the same time.
If you wait too long, the vines will try to use each other as support and flop over. This creates a tangled mess, and the stems may get damaged when you try to separate them.
How to pinch back sweet peas
Pinching sweet peas is easy! Just count up two or three leaf nodes from the ground, and cut off the stem above a set of leaves.
Here you can see how much shorter the first row of sweet peas are after pinching compared to the seedlings behind them. Also note the nodes along the stems at the bottom of each plant. That's where the new growth will come out!
It feels pretty harsh to cut off all that hard work, but it will make more sweet pea flowers in the end!
Sweet pea seedlings after pinching
So, was all that pinching worth it? Check out all the new side shoots that appeared at the base of each plant less than a week later!
Each seedling now has at least two new stems, and some have three or four!
Here you can see the pinched top where the cut has calloused over. New leaves are sprouting from either side.
Now that I can see the new growth, it's time to start hardening off these seedlings. This prepares your plants for the variable conditions of the great outdoors, so they don't get transplant shock when you put them in the cold ground.
Ready to get your seedlings in the ground? Here's how to transplant sweet peas in the garden!