If you’ve never pruned your houseplants before, it may feel daunting. Going near delicate plants with anything sharp can seem like a risk. There’s good reason to do it, though. It keeps growth in check, and it helps with plant health. We’ll tell you how to prune a plant properly and what you should keep in mind.

Why is it Important to Prune Your Houseplants?

How to prune plants

There are a few key reasons to prune plants. It keeps unruly growth in check, encourages plants to regrow, and removes any branches and other parts that are dying or sick.

To Keep Unruly Growth in Check

The best-known reason for pruning plants is to keep unruly growth in check. When left to their own devices, indoor plants can grow quite wild – and not always for the better! Overgrown plants can become rootbound, take up excessive room, and may not receive the optimum airflow. As a result, they can experience stunted growth, greater vulnerability to pests, or become sick.

Pruning is an effective way to give your green friends a bit of a breather. Rather than just focusing on growing further, your houseplants will be able to focus energy on better, healthier growth!

To Encourage Your Plants to Regrow

Although it may seem contradictory, pruning is one of the best ways to encourage regrowth. The plant focuses on healing when tissue is lost. Pruning can be an excellent way to get rid of old, battered leaves and to allow new, glossy leaves to appear!

So, how should you trim a plant if you want to encourage regrowth? Vertical cuts will help the plant regrow in that direction, though the difference may be minimal. Really, any degree of trimming will ultimately stimulate your indoor plants to regrow.

To Remove Parts of the Plants that are Dying or Sick

If any drooping, discolored, or otherwise unhealthy leaves or branches appear on your houseplant, you’ll want to trim them. Not only are they an eye-sore, they can put the health of the overall plant at risk. Cutting a droopy branch is hard, but tossing a completely compromised houseplant is harder.

To Remove Dead Flowers (and Give the Plant a Boost)

While dead flowers will eventually drop on their own, your houseplant will waste precious energy trying to maintain them. To help your plants preserve energy, trim dead flowers off. They’ll use that energy to grow, blossom again, and become healthier! 

How Often Should You Prune Your Houseplants?

Houseplants should be pruned as often as they need it, no more, no less. You can prune once every few months. In one trimming session, try to remove no more than 10-30% of the plant. You can always prune more in a month or two when the plant has had a chance to recover!

What Time of Year Should You Prune Your Houseplants

When you prune your indoor plants does, in fact, matter! The best time to prune is during their growing season, which for most is spring-summer. On the other hand, tropical plants have their growing season in the autumn-winter. Trimming plants during the dormant season is more stressful for them, and it will slow them while they try to recover and grow back.

What’s the Best Pruning Tool?

When it comes to pruning, a pair of scissors or pruning shears will do the cleanest, most precise job. Just make sure to keep them nice and sharp, so they work effectively.

It’s important to sanitize your pruning tool before using it. Any time your houseplant’s branch or stem receives a wound or cut, such as that from your tool, bacteria and fungal diseases become more of a risk. Vulnerabilities in the plant wall like this are pretty much what plant killers like this are waiting for. Fortunately, it is possible to largely reduce the possibility of infection by regularly cleaning your tools before you prune. A 30-minute soak in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water should do the trick! 

How to Propagate Pruned Stems and Leaves

It’s true, you can propagate certain parts that you prune. The ideal candidates for propagating are those with long, healthy stems. You’re unlikely to have success with stems or leaves that are weak or sick. 

You’ll want at least 1-5 inches of stem or leaf cutting to regrow. For indoor houseplants like the Pothos, you can also cut right below one of the nubs along the stem, and new roots will start their growth from the nub itself.

  • In soil

If you’ve just pruned some healthy plant trimmings, it’s possible that some of them could regrow. The most common method for this is by planting them in sandy soil. Apply some root growing powder before planting the stem cutting about 1 inch deep in the soil. Water the cutting when it dries out, and wait a few weeks for the first signs of new leaves and roots to show!

  • In water

While most species are most comfortable in soil, some, like the Coleus, African Violet, and Pothos, can or should be propagated in water. To propagate a cutting in water successfully, you’ll need plenty of indirect sunlight and a small vase (preferably clear for sunlight exposure). 

To prevent rotting, promptly freshen old, brackish water. It should take about a month for new roots to manifest, sometimes a bit longer!

What Houseplants Can You Propagate Cuttings From?

You can propagate leaf or stem cuttings from many common houseplants. These are some of the most popular:

  • Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)
  • Oregano
  • Fuschia
  • Lavender
  • Jade Plant
  • Kalanchoe
  • African Violet
  • Geranium
  • Spider Ivy
  • Aster

As you can see, there’s a lot more to pruning than some might think. Not only will it keep your green buddies from getting unruly, but it will also stimulate new growth to appear. It can be used to encourage your houseplants to blossom to trim any sickly branches and leaves, and keep your plants healthier and happier!