How to Prune and Shape Your Houseplants
How to prune houseplants:
- Examine your plant
- Select your tools
- Remove dead matter
- Deadhead your plant
- Cut back overgrown branches and stems
- Remove leggy stems
- Prune excess foliage
While you might not need to prune your houseplants as frequently as you do your garden plants, at some point you’ll have to break out your shears to do some cleaning up. Knowing how to prune your houseplants will help you cut away unsightly dead leaves, and overgrown foliage, and keep your pots of nature looking pretty and presentable.
Notice that some of your plants look in need of a trim, but don’t know how to start? Don’t worry. We have a step-by-step guide to pruning your plants here!
Why (and when) should I prune my houseplants?
Most indoor plants will benefit from the occasional prune and shaping — it helps make sure their growth is sustainable and even and keeps them looking at their best. Some plants, like our Golden Pothos, are quick growers, so pruning also keeps their trailing vines in check.
But when do you have to prune your plants? Generally, you can do it any time you notice your plants wilting or growing spindly. But, we recommend doing it at the start of their growing season, as they will recover faster from the pruning process.
For flowering plants, however, a good rule of thumb is to prune them right after they have finished flowering. If you prune them before they have the chance to bloom, then you might accidentally cut off unopened buds and miss out on the chance to see them flower.
Examine your plant
The first thing to do when you need to prune your plants is to examine them thoroughly. Look at its structure and shape. Does it look uneven, or does it seem to be growing too erratically? Are there any dead branches and stems, or do some parts seem diseased or infected? These are things you have to look out for before pruning.
You should also check if there are areas for potential new growth — these are called latent buds and are typically found where the leaf joins the plant stem. If you find any, avoid cutting them off while you’re pruning!
Select your tools
After examining your plant, the next thing to do is prepare your tools. If your plant has thicker branches, then we recommend pruning shears. However, if your plant’s stems are thin or tender, then kitchen scissors will work just fine.
Either tool you decide on will need to be very sharp to avoid damaging the stems and foliage of your plant. Your tool will also need to be thoroughly cleaned before use. Try soaking them in water to remove any dirt, and using alcohol to disinfect them. Make sure they are wiped dry before using them. Doing this will prevent exposure to any bacteria, pests, or germs when you use them on your plant.
Remove dead matter
Once your tool is clean and ready to cut, tackle the dead parts of your plant first. Remove any dead leaves, stems, or branches by cutting at a 45-degree angle. You can also remove any parts that seem dying (or close to death) — these are things that look brown and discolored or are extremely dry to the touch.
As much as possible, leave the main stem of your plant intact. Doing this will ensure your plant can recover any foliage it lost and will leave as much of the healthy parts on it as possible.
Also, check the roots of your plant. If they seem to be rotted at the root, pull out or cut the affected roots. Make sure to replant your plant properly, and let its soil dry out before its next watering to avoid future root rot.
Deadhead your plant
This step is for any flowering plant you may have. Deadheading simply means trimming off any dead flowers it has. Flowers that seem brown, discolored, limp, and dry should be removed. To remove them, cut at the base of the flower’s head.
Deadheading is important to avoid your plant spending nutrients and energy on dead flowers. It will also encourage the growth of new blooms!
Cut back overgrown branches and stems
After cutting off everything dead, dying, or diseased from your plant, it’s time to tackle problems it may have with its growth. Any overgrown branches and stems should be pruned back (unless you’re a fan of the overgrown look). To do this, use your tool to cut them about a third of their length, and make a cut at a 45-degree angle.
If there are any side shoots on the branches that you want to get rid of, you can use the same technique to prune these shoots by the base or stem of the plant. However, avoid cutting off any nodules on your plant — these are new buds that have yet to sprout.
Remove leggy stems
Remove leggy stems — these are parts of the plant that look unusually long and seem loose or straggling. Pruning these parts off will help your plant grow more thickly, and more evenly in the future.
Use your cutting tool to cut any leggy stems or branches to about a third of their length. Make sure these cuts are made at a 45-degree angle.
Depending on how soft-stemmed your plants are, you can also do this step by pinching these leggy growths off. Pinching just means using your thumb and forefinger to remove the part.
Prune excess foliage
Finally, you can use this time to remove any excess foliage the plant might have. While lush growth is attractive on most plants, having too much can give the appearance of a wild, unkempt plant.
If you’re going to prune its foliage, only remove about 10 to 20% at a time. Over pruning its foliage can make it difficult for the plant to grow back properly — and may even result in a permanent bald spot.
Like with leggy growth, you can also use pinching to deal with foliage. Just pinch right above the node, where the leaves are attached to the branch or the stem.
If your plants are looking a bit overgrown, don’t fret. Use our guide on how to prune your houseplants to keep them in shape. Following this guide regularly will help them grow healthily and evenly. For more plant care tips and tricks, check out Unbeleafable’s blog here!
Already have most of the plants in our catalogue? Check out our fresh drops that will surely make you want to add more to your growing plant collection!
8 Plants That Can Survive Low Light Spaces
How to Prune and Shape Your Houseplants
Care Guide: How to Grow Your Pothos Plants
Breathe Easy With These 6 Air Purifying Indoor Plants
What are Variegated Plants?
6 Philodendron Varieties: The Best Ones For Your Collection
10 Best Plant Housewarming Gifts to Give
Earth Day 2022: 5 Ways to Make Your Home More Green
7 Signs You’re Overwatering Your Plants, and How to Fix It