Pruning and trimming: the basics

Pruning and trimming: the basics

By Genevieve Mills

Pruning and trimming: the basics

Every now and then, your plant may develop a leaf that isn't green--maybe it's yellow, maybe it's brown, maybe it just doesn't look great, or maybe a branch was accidentally bumped and is now snapped and hanging there sadly. What to do?

Selective pruning can be very beneficial to your plant--clearing away old leaves, removing diseased leaves, and keeping air circulation moving around and through your plants can keep them happy and healthy.

We recommend that if you're going to have a houseplant or two in your life, you should invest in a good pair of pruning shears--they look like the ones in the picture! When you have to prune your plant, you want to use the cleanest, sharpest cutting implement you can get, and clean pruners are the best.

Before cutting anything, wipe the blades of your pruners with isopropyl alcohol, to remove any residue or potential infectious agents.  It is unfortunately very easy to pass fungus or pest issues from plant to plant by using dirty pruners.

To prune a dead or damaged leaf or branch, take your shears and cut at a slight 45 degree angle. The cut should be as close to a stem or junction of another branch or leaf as possible. If you see soft or rotting stems on your plant, definitely remove those.  And it's ok to remove a leaf with a brown spot or two, for appearance's long as you don't remove more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the plant, it will be fine.  Interestingly, when you remove leaves or branches from a plant, the message sent to the plant is that it is "under attack" and needs to start sending out new growth.  

If you have a snake plant with a "floppy" leaf, instead of cutting it off at the soil level, try this trick. Take the tip of the leaf and tear it vertically down the length of the leaf into two pieces--it will tear easily, and when it gets to the bottom/soil level, the two piece should peel away from the rhizome without leaving a stump or stub. 

If you want some professional help, we offer house call services to tackle your big pruning challenges or to diagnose an issue.  Feel free to reach out--we'd love to help you keep your plant friend looking and feeling great!

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If you have a specific question about your plant, email us at: for help.