Well-pruned plants appear much fuller and healthier. | How to Prune Houseplants
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When pruning houseplants, have you ever wondered how much snipping and cutting back is really necessary? Are your houseplants looking less than stellar, but you’re afraid to trim them back for fear of overdoing it and killing them? Well fear not, we’ll teach you how to prune houseplants so that your little green friends look lush and healthy all year long.
How to Prune Houseplants
What is pruning?
Pruning is the selective removal of parts of a plant and is done for a variety of reasons, which range from removing dead or diseased areas to aesthetically shaping full-grown plants. Pruning is also done to encourage new growth, to encourage balanced growth, and to tame overgrowth.
How to Prune Houseplants
You really only need one tool for pruning: either a sturdy, sharp pair of scissors or a garden pruning tool. Make sure the tool is clean. Any cut made into a plant can expose it to disease, pests, and infection. To clean tools, simply soak them in a diluted bleach and water solution between prunings, rinse thoroughly, and wipe dry.
Inspect plants thoroughly and look for dying, discolored, diseased, or leggy leaves and stems. Leggy plant stems are unusually long appendages that take away from the overall health and aesthetic appeal of the plant. When leggy areas are pruned back, the plant is able to refocus energy and grow in a fuller pattern, instead of dispersing the energy outward to loose, straggling vines.
Remove unwanted sections of the plant by cutting them off at a (roughly) 45-degree angle. Make the cut just below the brown or dead area, leaving as much of the healthy foliage as possible intact. If a large section of the leafy area is unhealthy, it may be necessary to cut the entire branch off. If this is the case, be sure to leave the main stem (the area usually in the middle and typically the largest stalk that other branches originate from) of the plant intact, removing off-shoot branches only.
If you are looking to prune exclusively to encourage more growth, begin by making selective cuts to areas that are leggy (noticeably longer than other areas or appendages). Start small. Do not remove more than 10-20% of the plant’s foliage at one time and wait at least a few weeks to a month before pruning again. Whenever possible, avoid cutting off nodules, as nodules are the buds of new plant appendages that haven’t yet fully developed.
To prolong a plant’s blooming period and encourage healthier, larger blooms, remove dead and dying blooms as they appear by snipping them at the base of the flower’s head.
Whenever possible, re-root your plant cuttings. To do this, simply place the healthy cuttings of trimmed plants (trimmed plant cuttings should have at least two inches of stem growth below the leaves) in a glass or vase with water that is close to room temperature. Water in the vase should cover at least an inch of the bottom portion of the plant. Roots will begin to appear in about a week and the cutting will be ready to replant in approximately one month. The newly rooted mini plant may be added to the pot of the mother plant it was clipped from or it can be re-potted as a brand new plant.
To prune cacti and succulents, simply cut off the dead portions of the plant from the bottom up. Be careful to remove only the non-living areas of the plant and never cut the top off of a cactus or succulent, as this is a sure way to kill these plants. Succulent care is rather easy otherwise!
When to Prune Houseplants
For the best results, plants should be pruned at the beginning of the plant’s growing season, which for most house plants is in the late winter. For plants that flower, wait until after they have bloomed and gone by before pruning. It’s also best to avoid pruning when unopened buds are present.
Have any other tips on how to prune houseplants? Let us know in the comments below!
This post was first published in 2012 and has been updated.