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How to Pinch Sweet Pea Seedlings for More Blooms

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.

how to pinch sweet peas

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!

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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.

sweet pea seedlings before pinching

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.

pinching back sweet pea seedling

I like to use these gardening scissors because they have thin blades and a sharp point to get into that mess of stems easily. But you could also use your fingers or other pruning tools for this job.

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!

size comparison of pinched vs not pinched sweet pea seedlings

It feels pretty harsh to cut off all that hard work, but it will make more sweet pea flowers in the end!

pile of sweet pea seedling trimmings after pinching

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!

sweet pea seedling side shoots after pinching

Each seedling now has at least two new stems, and some have three or four!

sweet pea seedlings with branching stems after pinching the tops

Here you can see the pinched top where the cut has calloused over. New leaves are sprouting from either side.

pinched sweet pea seedling with cut calloused over

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!

Check out these other sweet pea tutorials!