How To Prune Houseplants

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This article will teach you how to prune or divide houseplants.
by Jennifer Crane · All Zones · Pruning · 0 Comments · August 29, 2010 · 14,439 views

Houseplant ArboricolaIf your houseplant is overgrown and out of shape, or is all thinned out and leggy, pruning or dividing may be necessary.

Few houseplants need trimming. Those that do are easy to trim.

Below are some tips for pruning houseplants:

Vining houseplants, such as vining philodendron, pothos, swedish ivy, grape ivy, polka-dot plant, coleus, arrowhead plants, and wandering jew can become lanky and leggy, with long gaps between leaves along the stems. If so, you need to determine how far you back you want to pinch or cut stems. Vines can be pinched off with your fingers near the end of the vine. Or, you can be brave and cut the vine much further back. Almost every vine will then grow a few new branches where you made the cut. If you don’t cut back far enough, the plant will be scraggly near the pot, then full at the edges. So be brave. Doing so, you can pinch a stem back as far as you like, just make sure your pinch leaves a leaf or leaf bud on the stem. Pinching close to the bud is important because any extra bare stem will die back and could become diseased. If you cut too far back, and don't leave a leaf or bud on the stem, the stem will die all the way back. If stems are too thick or tough to pinch with your thumb and forefinger, use sharp pruners or scissors. Avoid leaving jagged edges as this can also lead to disease. Plants grown as topiary, bonsai or espalier will need more frequent pinching.

Shrub-like Plants
Follow the tips below when pruning ficus, pilea, Jades, rubber trees, fittonias, arboricolas etc:

  • Always remove broken, diseased or weak branches so the plant will not expend energy to repair these branches.
  • Prune with clean, sterilized pruners or clippers to avoid spreading disease. Rubbing alcohol or a 10% solution of bleech work well for sterilization. Do not use Pine Sol as this will corrode metal.
  • Prune stray or tall branches that have grown beyond the desired shape of the plant. When cutting stray or tall stems, cut them above a bud on the stem at a point even with the the rest of the foliage.
  • Cut branches out that cross through the center of the plant to facilitate good air circulation, allow in more light to the center of the plant. This helps prevent diseases. When removing an entire branch, cut close to the trunk or branch it is attached to.
  • If you desire a bushier plant, use clippers to tip the ends of branches. Wherever you make a tip cut this will force several new branches to emerge lower on the stem. Frequent tip pruning will keep you from having to do major pruning later on and keeps your plant bushy and healthy.

Lipstick plant, which should be pruned back to about a third after flowering, is one of many flowering plants that require seasonal pinching or pruning. And to encourage reflowering in columnea, cut back older branches by a third to a half in spring.

Plants That Need Divided
Orchids, Mother-in-Law’s tongues, spathes and plants of that nature must be divided as follows:

  • When you are ready to repot the plant remove the rootball from the container.
  • Remove the dirt from the roots by washing in the kitchen sink or outdoors using the water hose.
  • Use a sharp knife to divide the root ball, giving each section leaves and roots.
  • Pot up each section in a different pot. If you don;t want that many plants, give them to your friends and neighbors!
Jennifer Crane

Meet The Author

Jennifer Crane - Jennifer has been involved in the green industry and gardening since 2003.

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