Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pinching Plants

What? You don't pinch?
What do you mean "pinch"? I retort with a touch of haughtiness in my voice.
You know, pinch plants? If my grandmother were here she would already have her pockets full.
You mean take pieces off other people's plants? Isn't that like stealing?
No! That's called propagating. You can't call yourself a gardener if you don't pinch.
Won't people get mad? I'm shocked by my friend's directive and am a little perturbed that she is challenging my gardener street cred.
Well they shouldn't. Though there is nothing a botanical garden's groundskeeper fears more than a bus full of old ladies with sharp thumbnails. We'll get Nona to give you a little lesson in propagation.
My dear friend Kd, with whom I had the above conversation, was recently in town visiting from her homestead in New Zealand. I've mentioned her before on this blog. She's the granddaughter of the grandparents I adopted, Nona and Poppa. We had a swell time visiting and I got the added bonus of a garden lesson with Nona.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know about pinching. Of course, not all plants can be pinched and regrown, but succulents are excellent for this technique. And boy, does Nona have one incredible succulent garden. That lady has obviously been pinching for years. This is the boon I've been looking for as the DF is a huge fan of succulents and I had been planning to plant him a little garden.

Nona brought me out to her large raised bed crammed full of every kind of succulent and cactus you can imagine. She apologized for it's shabby appearance, but I thought it looked wonderful for a garden that she couldn't tend as often as she would like. Nona showed me how to get a bit of stem, if possible, under the leaf structure with a clean snap or cut.

She then instructed me to let them dry out for a few days so that the cut could scar over and not rot in the ground. I was told to pop the stem into damp soil, NOT WET. On this point Nona was adamant. If the dirt is too moist, the plants' roots will decay.

I walked away with over 20 different plump and juicy cuttings. Now I have to figure out where to put them. There is always that to consider.


  1. I've always used the term "pinching" as a way to make leggier shrubs fuller. Propagating as you described I refer to as "taking cuttings."

  2. I think Kd and Nona refer to both as "pinching", which makes it difficult to differentiate the two :)

  3. I just recently discovered your blog and am so glad I did. What a sweet post! Iflorist.co.uk