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Pruning Houseplants: An Easy Tutorial

Pruning is a necessary part of houseplant care that needs to be performed regularly in order to keep houseplants in good health. Pruning is beneficial for several reasons, including but not limited to: encouraging new growth, removing dead leaves which can contribute to poor plant help, and improving a plant’s overall appearance. Pruning is easy to learn if you are willing to get the right tools and read up on the best pruning techniques.



Only use sharpened scissors or shears

One of the most important factors in the successful pruning of your houseplant is the tools you use. You must only use high-quality, sharpened gardening scissors or shears to prune your plant. If you use dull scissors, you are going to increase the chances that you will harm yourself – and cause too much friction on the plant, causing stress and possibly leading to an overall poor pruning job.


Using low quality or dull scissors will also make it more likely that your pruning job is difficult since you will have to cut and saw at leaves and branches instead of quickly snipping them away with a sharpened pair of scissors or garden shears.


To find the best gardening scissors or shears, try a gardening department that offers high-quality, durable gardening tools. You should avoid buying cheap gardening tools, as they are much more likely to be dull and, therefore, less effective and potentially dangerous when used.



Prune flowering plants at the start of their growing season

If your houseplants are flowering houseplants, then you need to prune them at the beginning of the growing season. This is because pruning flowering plants will encourage new buds to develop and blossom in the spring.


If you prune them during the winter, you are likely to disrupt the natural growing cycle for the plant, which can lead to growth issues once the spring season does arrive. For standard flowering houseplants, the growing season is in the springtime, so late winter or early spring would be the best time for pruning.



Prune non-flowering plants in the winter

If your houseplants are non-flowering, then you should prune them during the winter. This will help encourage the development of new growth by the time that spring arrives several months later.


If you wait too long to prune a non-flowering plant, your pruning will not be as effective, nor will it encourage as much growth. For standard non-flowering houseplants, the best time to prune in the winter is early winter, so around the beginning of December.



Aim your shears at a 45-degree angle when removing dead leaves

When you are using your shears, you need to be careful about the angle you use to trim. Your shears should hit about a 45-degree angle; this will give you the cleanest removal and help you avoid cutting the plant too excessively. This angle is useful whether you are removing dead leaves, dead flowers, or other areas of the houseplant that need to be trimmed back.



Trim dead flowers at the base

If your flowering plant has dead flowers at any point during the growing season, then you need to prune them out. Leaving dead flowers will cause growth to stagnate, whereas pruning them properly will encourage new buds to form and blossom.


When you trim dead flowers, make sure that you are shearing them right at the base. This will remove the bulk of the flower without leaving anything behind, while also ensuring that you aren’t getting too close to the plant’s delicate branches.



Only remove up to 20% (at most) of foliage at one time

It can be tempting to prune a plant back significantly, especially if you are working with a larger houseplant, or it’s a plant that hasn’t been pruned in some time. However, you should only prune a relatively small percentage of your houseplant’s foliage at one time.


Aim for, at most, around 10 to 20% of foliage removed during a pruning session. It is better to prune a little less than you need, as you can always go back and take a bit more out if necessary.



Completely remove long, loose stems

During your pruning session, look for any stems that appear long, loose, or particularly scraggly. These stems should be pruned out as they are a sign of a non-standard growing pattern that won’t contribute to an aesthetically pleasing appearance for your houseplant. To keep your houseplant looking uniform, remove these loose stems so that others can grow in their place.



Cut the longest branches about 1/3 back

As it is with the leaves, you don’t want to trim the branches of your houseplant too excessively. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to cut the longest branches about 1/3 of the way back. This will allow for the encouragement of growth without cutting out too much of the existing, actively growing plant.



Fertilize after pruning

Pruning can be disruptive for a plant, especially if you prune closer to the 20% range. To help combat the stress of pruning and encourage new growth, you should fertilize your houseplant after pruning.


Remember to only use a small amount of fertilizer, as the goal is to give your houseplant a little boost in growing; too much fertilizer can cause burns and other issues, especially in a plant that has been freshly pruned.



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