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How To Pinch Basil: Video Instructions and Timing

Basil is a herbaceous spicy plant with a pleasant aroma. You can find in many recipes of Italian and Slavic cuisine.

The smell of this plant is called the “royal aroma.” It gives the dishes a special taste.

In addition to its spicy properties, it belongs to natural antibiotics and antioxidants. The plant is grown on garden plots and on balconies.

To make the basil bush grow better, you need to pinch it correctly.

What Is Pinching And Why It Is Done

Pinching is the removal of the tip of the shoot from a plant. In another way, the process of trimming young tiptoe shoots is called pinching.

If you are familiar with pruning then this you will understand it easily. It’s pruning for herbs.

It is quite simple and you do not need any experience. You have to do this in order to limit the vertical growth of the plant. So that it increases the branching out of the lateral parts.

Pinching promotes abundant branching and thickening of the bush. The stronger the branching, the more aromatic the leaves.

This is why you should repeat pinching from time to time to maintain the lush shape of the shrub. The good thing is you can use the torn ends of the shoots for cooking and cold drinks.

So, you may understand that this procedure of pinching is very useful. If you don’t carry out this, the basil will grow up with one or two thin twigs.

The purpose of growing basil is to get as many leaves as possible. You can stimulate the process of new sprouts’ appearance with this technique. This leads to an increase in the number of leaves and an increase in basil yield.

In addition to pinching the tiptoe, it is necessary to get rid of peduncles. The appearance of the plant ceases to form young shoots. Removing the peduncles will allow the basil to grow abundantly.

Importance of Pinching Basil

Indoor potted basil pinching. A potted basil plant and secateurs

Some gardeners believe that removing the tops weakens an immature plant. But I want you to know that it’s a mistaken belief.

The pinch helps awaken inactive buds. This is an important part of basil care. In place of one single offshoot, 2 or 3 new offshoots grow. 

When new offshoots stretch out you can pinch them too. In this way, one thin twig gradually turns into an aromatic bush with lots of spicy leaves. However, most people who grow basil, practice pinching it.

Pinching also delays the flowering of the shrub, as it loses its flavor during this period. Therefore, you need to closely monitor the growth of the basil.

So that you don’t miss the formation of unwanted inflorescences and remove them in time.

When to Pinch Basil

Because of my job nature, I have to work with experienced farmers and gardeners. Experienced gardeners share that they start pinching the basil after the first three pairs of leaves appear.

The natural desire of any gardener is to get a good harvest.  So you need to carry out pruning from the very beginning of the vegetative development.

Usually, this period begins in 30-45 days. It is when the first leaves appear on the seedling after germination.

There is no exact timing for pinching basil This procedure depends on the stage of development of the plant. Pinching is necessary when there are the following conditions:

  • When 6 leaves are formed, you have to perform the first pinching by removing the 2 upper young leaves. 
  • Then, when the bush is overgrown with 3 more pairs of leaves, pinch its upper part immediately. Cut off the stem with garden scissors a little higher than the leaves, which were just beginning to appear from the axils of the stem. 
  • Repeat the Pinching every 2-3 weeks. Only in this way you can have a nice looking bush and higher yield of basil.

How to Pinch Basil 

Trimming the top of the stem in the right place stimulates the formation of new twigs. You need to precisely determine where in the stem young leaves are formed. 

Cut off the apex with a secateurs or pinch by hand a little higher than the new young leaves. So as not to damage their growth point.

After this, feed the plant with nitrogen fertilizers for better growth and density of green mass.

The basil plant needs nitrogen fertilizer for growth after pinching.

After 7-10 days, you will see 2 new tips appear at the trim point. Let them grow. As soon as each of them grows 2 pairs of leaves, limit the growth of the next one by trimming. 

Thus, the number of leaves doubles with each trim. This process leads to the constant rejuvenation of the aromatic bush and the active growth of green mass.


If there is a need to pick a few leaves, it is better to choose more mature lateral leaves and those that are closely adjacent to the main stem.

Make sure you remove the basil flowers in time. Because the plant spends its energy on excessive flowering and seed formation and becomes less bushy. 

If you need to collect seeds for sowing next season, leave the flowers till the end of summer and wait for the seed formation.

Here is a quick video about how to pinch your basil.

When Pinching Remember the Following Things:

  • You can eat the cut leaves.
  • If you only need one or two leaves but you pinched it already then it is better to cut one of the side leaves carefully. Cut it off where the petiole branches off the main stem. This way you can ensure the plant will remain healthy and continue to develop successfully.
  • Ideally, after pinching the shoot, your basil will have two tips instead of one. If you repeat the process, the number of sprouts increases.  Also, the bush becomes compact and beautiful.

When removing inflorescences, cut off two leaves which are located under it, together with the buds.

Basil Pinching Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Basil is very easy to grow herbs indoors. If you are a beginner gardener you can also grow basil without hassle.

But still, gardeners make mistakes while pinching and harvesting basil. Let’s know about them so that you can avoid them in the future. 

  • Picking leaves from the stem. Sometimes gardeners pick aromatic leaves from the stem when necessary to prepare culinary dishes. As a result, the plant gradually becomes exposed and dries. Because you are not giving it the opportunity to build green mass.
  • Pinching too early. It is necessary to form at least 6 leaves to pinch. If you cut the top when only 4 real leaves have formed, the basil will slow down its development.  This is due to a lack of photosynthetic parts of the plant. 
  • Pinching too late. If the basil has blossomed, its leaves become rough and less aromatic. 
  • Excessive pinching.  You should cut the young shoots, leaving 1-2 cm of the stem over the bottom pair of leaves. Then there will be growth of new shoots in this part.
  • Long intervals between pinching. You must not allow basil to overgrow. It then starts to stretch upwards rather than expanding, and the quality and quantity of leaves decrease. 
  • Pruning old leaves at the bottom of the stem.  Harvest the young leaves and eat them. Large leaves at the base of the stem needed for photosynthesis.
  • Excessive pruning of side shoots. In this case, the basil will also begin to grow tall, and the leaves on it will be too small.

When first trimming,  you should not cut the basil very low. In this case, cut the lower shoots. This will encourage the plant to grow vertically at the early stage.

Here is a  helpful video about pinching your young basil. 

Can Peduncles Clipping Replace Pinching?

You can do pinching to increase and get a great shape of basil. It is not a mandatory thing to do. But it is necessary to pinch your basil to increase yield.

If you allow the basil to bloom, its value as a spice will be much lower. However, the removal of single flower buds does not solve all the problems and can not replace a full plucking.

If you do not pinch basil it will grow with one main tall stem. It will not branch out also forming too few leaves on the side shoots.

As a result, the total green mass for which you grow basil will be smaller.


The purpose of the pinching is to increase the growth of basil. At first 2 new tips are formed, at the second pinching 4, then 8 and so on until the growing season is over.


So now you know the procedure and importance of pinching.  Although it is not mandatory, it is extremely useful. It allows you to get many more leaves to harvest from one bush. 

As a result, the yield increases sharply and you will get a lot of leaves from a smaller area. But when you are growing basil for seeds you can’t use the pinching procedure. Otherwise, it is a great thing to do. 

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