Finger Pruning

Although finger pruning it is not a MUST it has so many benefits for Hybrid Tea bushes!

It should be carried out on HT’s in mid to end September in accordance to climate and sprouting advancement. Ideally just before flower bud formation which can be felt in the tip of the new shoots.

  • When the tip or the upper two to three leaves of about three to five stems on a bush are pinched, the result is an incredible lengthening of the un-pinched stems within days.
  • The purplish leaves of the pinched stems turn green within a week and the stems become mature long before the un-pinched stems. The roots respond to this with increased vigor.
  • When the un-pinched stems come into bloom they may be picked with fairly long stems because the pinched stems have sprouted new shoots and are capable of absorbing the sudden extra sap pressure when the other leaves are removed.
  • The in-between non-flowering period of 45 days is shortened to three weeks or even less. Of course, if a light pruning has been carried out, leaving many side stems, the bush will do its own version of finger pruning by simply not producing a flower bud in the tip of every shoot. Such stems, known as blind shoots, will stop growing at about 10cm to 20cm length and mature without a flower. But the mature leaves carry on feeding the roots.

For Floribundas pinching is not necessary. Unlike a typical hybrid tea bloom that only needs a week from the first show of colour to the picking, the flowering period of a typical cluster is three weeks or more. This longer period is the critical period for the leaves to nurture the roots until new sprouting has taken place.

The actual finger pruning or pinching entails:

  • count the number of new flower-bud bearing shoots.
  • select about a third or quarter (maximum 5 out of 15 to 20 or 3 out of 12)
  • pinch out the tip, by using thumb and pointing finger and snapping it sideways.

We differentiate between a soft pinch and a hard pinch.

The soft pinch – remove the very tip of still undeveloped folded-up leaves.

A hard pinch – break off the upper 3 or 4 leaves.

Expect 1 new stem from a soft pinch which is virtually an extension and two or three new stems from a hard pinch.
All types of pinching may be carried out on one bush. Since the main purpose of finger pruning is to create green leaves quicker one will obviously pinch stems that are thinner, too close together or are bent, crooked or have damaged leaves.

Unhappy plant
If you find a bush that is just not growing well at all and has started making flower buds on unnaturally short stems, pinch off every shoot or remove every bud. This builds up more leaves with a stronger downward sap flow. This strengthens the roots allowing them to penetrate further resulting in the formation of basal shoots and stronger re-sprouting at the top. You should see the difference within three weeks. Flower formation uses up a lot of strength.