Richard's Plant Care Tips: Pruning 101

Do I need to prune ? How much should I trim off ? Where do I cut ? These are just some of the questions that came in this month, so without further ado, it’s time to go over our introduction to pruning houseplants.

There are numerous reasons why you should be pruning your plant collection on a regular basis. The most obvious reason to remove dead, damaged, or otherwise unsightly foliage is for aesthetic reasons. Nothing is more annoying than trying to take a photo of your prized plant and seeing a brown, crispy leaf section. Don’t worry, removing even relatively large amount of leaves from an otherwise healthy plant is ok as long as enough of the healthy, growing plant is left to resume growth. Occasionally, when it’s a new plant or a plant with only a few leaves you might consider leaving a slightly damaged leaf for a little longer, so it can help with photosynthesis and other plant functions. Generally speaking if you are considering pruning a leaf because it is ugly, you probably should go ahead.

Pruning helps improve plant health and promotes new, vigorous growth. Cutting off a stem signals a plant to increase it’s efforts to grow, especially in the area directly beneath the trimmed stem. In most plants, a plant will send out two or more new shoots from the last node(s) underneath a trimmed stem. Additionally, the plant will tend to ‘branch out’, with thicker growth of existing stems and increased production of new stems from lower nodes.

This brings up another benefit of pruning, shaping your plant in a more aesthetically pleasing form. We are all familiar with the massive amount of trimming in bonsai, but on a more basic level pruning your plants is the best way to control the shape, direction, and fullness of most houseplants. Trim your plants to keep them at the height you want. Repeatedly trimming the top of your plant will not only maintain their height, but it will usually result in a more bushy, lush, growth pattern.

And of course, cleanliness is always important. Dead plant material is basically an invitation for a host of unwanted pests, mold, and disease. Trimming off dead leaves and stems, and removing any fallen leaves around your plants will help reduce problems, and should be part of any integrated pest management program.

As you can see, we are of the ‘trim at will’ mindset, but everyone has their own views about how much to trim (or not to trim). What’s your pruning philosophy ?

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