PLNTSdoctor banner

How to prune your houseplants

Your houseplants need more than just regular care - they also need pruning occasionally. At first, cutting them might feel scary because we love our plants and don't want to hurt them. But the truth is, the right kind of pruning helps them grow better and keeps them from getting too big. At first, you may hesitate to prune, but soon, you won't be able to keep your scissors away from your plant! However, it's important to know which houseplants like pruning, when to prune them, and how to do it. This way, you'll make sure your green friend doesn't experience stress after the pruning!

Which houseplants need to be pruned?

Different houseplants need pruning for various reasons. Foliage plants like Pothos, Philodendrons, and Rubber plants need pruning to maintain shape and remove leggy stems. Flowering plants, such as African violets and Peace lilies, benefit from deadheading to promote more blooms faster. Climbers and vines, like the Monstera and Pothos, can be pruned to control their spread or rejuvenate growth.

Removing yellowed, brown or dead leaves and stems is necessary for most houseplants. Plants use their energy on all their leaves, even the dying ones. If you prune these away, the healthy leaves get all the energy they need and deserve instead of the energy being wasted on leaves that are beyond saving anyway.

Expert tip! Remember, not all houseplants need pruning. Make sure you prune for a reason, and research your specific houseplant's growth pattern and pruning needs before pruning.

Pruning plant

When to prune houseplants?

Usually, the best time to prune your houseplant is at the beginning of its growing season - in spring or early summer. This way, it has a growing season ahead and is full of power to recover from pruning and grow back even bushier and more beautiful. However, this can vary based on the type of plant and the reason for pruning.

  • Spring and early summer are ideal for managing size or giving the plant a rejuvenating boost. During this time, plants recover quickly and adapt well to new shapes and sizes. If you have a flowering houseplant, prune it after it has flowered. This way, you avoid accidentally cutting off future flower buds, especially since the plant has dedicated its energy towards producing those blooms.
  • Leggy and stretched-out plants benefit from pruning in spring or early summer. As their prime growth period starts, they'll use their energy to grow thick and full. Actually, you can prune leggy parts at any time of year, but they may take longer to recover and grow bushier.
  • For leaves and stems that are yellow or dead, feel free to snip them off whenever you spot them. Just remember, they could hint at plant stress or illness, so try to understand the causes. Clearing them away lets the plant channel energy to the green, healthy parts.
  • For dead flowers, simply snip them off when you see them. This process, known as 'deadheading', encourages some plants to produce more blooms and prevents others from wasting energy on seed production.

In short, for big prunings, it's best to do it in spring or early summer. But if you just want to fix a few damaged leaves, you can do that anytime you notice them.

Pruning equipment you'll need

Successful pruning starts with proper tools. Make sure you use a sharp knife or pruning shears. The Edward pruning shears are the ideal scissors for cutting off twigs, dry leaves or flowers. Often, normal secateurs are too large for the smaller houseplants, so the chance exists that you accidentally cut off too much or the wrong thing, which is, of course, a shame! Edward is razor sharp, super small, about 11 cm and therefore easy to use! If you’ve got larger stems or wooden stems, you’ll need bigger pruning shears to make good cuts.

Here are 3 expert tips for choosing and using pruning shears:

  1. Choose the right pruning shears for your pruning. For small, dead flowers and leaves, use small, scissor-like pruners. They're easier to handle. Big pruners can be hard to use on small parts and might cause damage. For thick, woody stems, use larger pruners to get a clean cut.
  2. Use only sharp pruning shears. If your scissors are not sharp enough, they can damage stems too much. The best way to prune your houseplants is to make sure you make a tight cut and don't crush the stems.
  3. Always clean your tools before you start pruning. Remember, its also important to clean your tools when you move from one plant to another. This is crucial to prevent the spread of potential diseases between plants.

How should houseplants be pruned?

You've got the tools and are ready to give your houseplant a trim, but how exactly should you prune your houseplants? The first step is simple: observation. Take a moment and look at your plant. If it's grown too big or stretching out too much, ask yourself: "What's the perfect size for it?". As you look, you might notice areas where the plant has grown long and thin. Also, keep an eye out for any leaves or stems that look off-colour, damaged, or just plain dead. Identifying these areas is the key to knowing where to make your cuts.

Size Management & Rejuvenation pruning

If your houseplants grow too large or lose their natural shape over time, this pruning method can help. Typically, this can boost most houseplant’s growth, including Ficus trees, Dracaenas, Scheffleras, etc.

  • Start pruning stems that are old, too weak, have damaged leaves or are just too leggy. Then, move to stems that are crossed with each other.
  • Once you've taken care of these issues, focus on shaping the overall size of the plant. If necessary, cut back healthy branches until you reach your desired length. Remember that less than 1/3 should not be cut off at once!
  • Make the cut just below the nodes on the plant stem, as it will encourage the plant to branch out and become fuller.
  • Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle, which helps the plant heal faster.
  • Water the plant lightly and keep it in a well-lit spot, but avoid direct sunlight immediately after pruning.

Leggy growth pruning

The plant needs to be pruned when it is too long and thin or the spaces between the leaves are too wide. Pruning it back helps the plant to grow new healthy stems with beautiful leaves.

  • Look for stems that are too long, have fewer leaves or have spaces between leaves that are too wide. Aim to cut them back to healthy growth.
  • Use the pruning shears to cut them off below the brown or dead part at a 45-degree angle above a healthier-looking node. New stems are going to grow out from these nodes.

A leggy plant is a result of bad lightning conditions, so rotate it more frequently or provide more light for it to prevent leggy growth in the future.

​​Dead or yellowing leaves and stems pruning

Yellow or damaged leaves and stems are a pretty common sight on houseplants. They will never turn green or beautiful back, so it's good practice to cut them off as soon as possible.

  • Cut off the damaged sections using scissors at a 45-degree angle just above the healthy node, always cutting back to green, healthy tissue.
  • If a large portion of the leaves look dead, you can cut off the entire branch. When doing this, make sure that the main stem remains intact.

As this is often caused by plant stress, look up potential causes. A common cause of yellow or dead leaves is inconsistent watering, so ensure you're watering your plant appropriately.

Deadheading (pruning dead flowers)

Deadheading is only for flowering houseplants. After the flower has flowered, cutting helps focus your houseplant energy on new growth and flowers, not seed production.

  • Use sharp and clean scissors to gently snip off the faded flowers, making sure not to damage any nearby buds or leaves. Trim them back with the whole stem of the flower.
  • Some plants might bloom again after deadheading, so continue to monitor and remove dead flowers as needed.

You may notice some shock or stress after pruning your houseplant. Don't worry! Pruning the plant and removing dead branches, leaves, and flowers will stimulate the growth of the plant! Your sweet houseplant will thank you later and grow even more beautiful.

Expert tip! After pruning, you'll often end up with several cuttings. These can be perfect for creating new plants. If you notice any healthy stems in the mix, think about using them. It's a good opportunity to learn how to grow plants from these cuttings.

nephrolepis pruning

6 expert tips for pruning houseplants

Pruning a houseplant is not difficult, but there are a few tips we would like to give you to make sure you prune the plant the right way.

  1. Always look up your specific houseplant growth pattern and how it is best to prune it. Different plants have unique pruning requirements based on their growth habits and cycles.
  2. Invest in a good pair of sharp pruning shears or scissors designed for plants. Sharp blades ensure clean cuts, which are less likely to lead to disease or damage.
  3. When pruning, it is important that you work neatly and cleanly. Make sure your pruning shears are sterile by cleaning them with alcohol between 70% and 100%. You can do this by rubbing it clean with a cloth, spraying it or immersing it. Make sure your scissors are clean when you change plants, too!
  4. When you're new to pruning, it's better to start small. You can always cut more later, but you can't undo a cut already made. Start by removing dead or yellowing leaves, and as you gain confidence, you can move on to more significant cuts for shaping or size management.
  5. After pruning, you'll often end up with several cuttings. These can be perfect for creating new plants. If you notice any healthy stems in the mix, think about using them. It's an excellent opportunity to learn how to grow plants from these cuttings.
  6. After you've pruned your houseplant, keep an eye on it. The plant may need more or less water than usual, depending on the extent of the pruning. Also, observe how the plant responds to your cuts – this will give you valuable feedback for future pruning sessions.

Cleaning shears

Common pruning mistakes to avoid

Pruning is an art that, when done correctly, can revitalise your plants and promote healthy growth. However, mistakes can happen whether you're a beginner or have been tending to plants for years. Let's delve into some common errors and their solutions.

  1. One of the most frequent mistakes is removing too much of the plant at once. Pruning too much can stress a plant and hinder its growth. Plants should not be trimmed more than a ⅓ at a time to avoid too much stress.
  2. You are afraid to prune it, so you don't prune enough. Under-pruning can cause leggy, unattractive plants that struggle to support their growth. Pruning your houseplant is nothing to be afraid of. It will grow back soon, healthier and more beautiful than ever before.
  3. You use dull scissors or pruning shears. Dull blades can cause uneven cuts, damaging the plant tissue and leaving it vulnerable to diseases.
  4. Pruning at the wrong time, especially during a plant's dormant period, can hinder its growth or bloom potential. Just look up below when it's the right time to prune your houseplants to be sure it recovers the best.
  5. Forgetting to remove spent flowers can prevent a plant from producing new blooms. It can also lead the plant to focus energy on seed production instead of growth.

Pruning your houseplants properly is essential for their health and beauty, so pay attention to their needs and avoid common mistakes!

Huisstijl author banner-05 (2).jpg

Hi, I'm Emma, your guide!

Hi, I’m Emma, your guide!