How to Prune Plants – Houseplant Pruning Guide

Last Updated on March 15, 2022 by Admin

Pruning is another important part of houseplant care. It is something you need to do to keep your plant healthy. So, in this article I will show you how to prune houseplants and when to do it.



In this section, you’ll learn about pruning your houseplants.

From experience, pruning is one of the most daunting things every gardener will learn, at least in the beginning.

I know how hesitant I was to prune my plants. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t the sharp tools.

Instead, it was the fear of making a mistake, doing it incorrectly and damaging or killing the plants.

But, it’s something you’ll have to get over because almost all plants will need pruning at some time.


What is Pruning?

Pruning is the process of cutting off a part of a plant. This can be for many reasons including getting rid of diseased or dead sections. It can also be to promote growth or for aesthetic reasons which include keeping them neat or shaping them.

The simplest way to think if grooming is to think of it like giving your plant a haircut.

In all likelihood, you’ve heard or seen people prune trees. That’s because it’s hard to miss a guy that’s all the way up on a ladder, pole or mechanical device running a loud chainsaw.

But, small houseplants also need pruning as well.


When to Prune Houseplants?

  • The first question is when should you prune your plants?
  • To maintain plant health. You remove parts that are diseased, dead or dying. This includes infested ones as well as yellow and brown leaves.
  • To train your plant. When you want to shape the plant to create a particular width, height or look.
  • Limit growth and keep it from getting unruly. Sometimes plants can get too big, look messy or become obstructions.
  • Boost stem and foliage quality/Encourage growth. Pruning helps promote growth. It also replaces the old with the new. For some plants doing so encourages blooming.
  • You want it to look a certain way. This is more for aesthetics much like how you can style your hair in different ways.

That said, there are good and bad times to prune your plants.

The best time in right before the start of the growing season. Of course, this will depend on the kind of plant you have.

For most plants, this is during the winter or early in the spring.

The worst time to do so would be when your flowers are blooming. Like repotting, you don’t want to disturb your plants during this time as it will interrupt the flowering process. Instead, wait till after it has done blooming to prune.




How to Prune Your Houseplants

Now, it’s time to get to work. Here’s how to prune your houseplants.


Step 1: Take a Look at your Plant & If/Why You Need to Prune

This is the first and most important step: Checking Out Your Plant.

Take the time to notice all the details and everything that’s happening.

Note down any browning or yellowing. And, if there are parts that look sick.

Also look for imbalances, overgrowth that where it doesn’t look good or gets in the way of other things.

The goal of this step is to decide which parts you want to prune. You can use the reasons in the section above on when to prune as a checklist to see which items you want to achieve.


Step 2: Pick the Right Tools

Once you know the areas you want to cut, it’s time to prepare your tools.

Here, all you need are:

Your fingers (for pinching, where you pinch off small stems with your fingers to cut them off)

  • Scissors (Any pair with do. But, sharper is better. And, don’t get something too small since you want it to be multipurpose)
  • Pruning shears (this is for bigger stems as well as woody ones that the scissors have trouble with)
  • Gardening gloves (Just in case you want to deal with plants that have sharp edges or spiky ends)


Always Keep Your Tools Clean

Make sure that you clean your tools before or after each use. I usually do both, but that’s because I’m a clean freak.

Anyways, it’s important to do so because your tools can spread infection if they’re dirty or have come into contact with something else.

Remember, when pruning, you’re wounding the plant. So, this exposes their sap to bacteria.

This is also why some people prefer keeping specific tools for certain things instead of using one tool for different tasks in the home. This way, you know your cutting tools are only used for your plants, nothing else.


Step 3: Cut Off Dying, Sick or Dead Leaves and Stems

Get rid of the bad parts first.

You can pinch or snip off areas that don’t look healthy. These include leaves that have holes, stripes, are pale or losing color.

Yellow, brown and black parts also need to be removed.

Essentially anything that is not healthy gets cut.


Step 4: Do Some Deadheading

Deadheading is specifically done to flowers.

Simply put, it’s the process of pinching or pruning dying or dead flowers.


For one, they don’t look nice.

But also, plants expend a lot of energy on blooming flowers. This happens even with dying flowers or those that are almost dead.

As such, you want it to redirect that energy to the healthy flowers.

Lastly, deadheading prolongs the blooming period. It also allows for bigger, healthier flowers.

So, the goal here is to look for the flowers that are on their way out or have died.

Like in the previous step, clip them off. Do so near the main stem.


Step 5: Cut for New Growth

This final step is to promote growth.

Part of the reason pruning is a regular gardening task is that it encourages plant growth. So, you’ll want to pick your spots to see where you want to cut.

  • If you’re cutting stems, go back down close to the main stem and clip there
  • If you’re cutting leaves, do it just under the leaf node


Step 6: Decide If You Want to Use Some Clippings for Propagation

If you read the section on propagation above, you know that you can use some of the healthy parts of the plants you’ve cut off to grow new plants.

The thing is, you want to plan this ahead of time. That’s because you need to trim a good segment off whether it’s the root, stem or leaf you want to cut.

This allows you to cut it up into portions to increase your chances of a few of them growing to a full plant.

Before you go ahead and prune to propagate, check the charts below.

The two charts show you which common plants can be propagated from leaf cuttings and stem cuttings. 

They also show how long it takes for the cuttings to root on average.

This is important since not all plants can be propagated from cuttings.

chart of plants for leaf and stem cuttings. which plants can be propagated from stem cuttings and leaf cuttings.
chart of plants for leaf and stem cuttings. which plants can be propagated from stem cuttings and leaf cuttings.


Step 7: Clean up

Once you’re done, make sure to clean the area. This is much easier if you move the plant onto your work table.

For bigger plants, you can work right on the spot. You can place some newspaper on the floor to make it easier to clean up after.


Time to Start Growing

Now that you’ve got everything you need to know to get started, it’s time to take action. Figure out what you want to grow and where you can put it to produce the best effect.

From there, use the knowledge you’ve learned here and see your plants flourish.