Pruning Indoors: A Treat for Your Houseplants
By Kay DiVerde
Houseplants need to be tidied up on a regular basis. Pruning your houseplants is essential to keep them shapely and confined in their pots. The process of pinching and trimming your plants outdoors is similarly used for your houseplants.
Start by removing any dead leaves or stems as soon as you notice them. Also, remove any plant matter that may have fallen into the pots, saucers, trays, table or floor. This material not only looks messy, it can also be a breeding ground for insects and diseases. Deadhead flowering plants to conserve the plant's energy.
If you have a houseplant that you would like to grow into a bushier plant, a little pruning may be just what you need. Using a sharp pair of garden scissors or small hand pruner simply cut off the ends of stems that have several sets of leaves on them just above a node. A node is the joint of a stem from which a leaf starts to grow. These cuts will make the plant sprout several new branches, thus increasing fullness. End cutting does not work on single-stem plants such as palms and dracaenas, however it will work well on plants such as schefflera, citrus fruits and ficus.
Cutting Back the Monster
Maybe your houseplant has already turned into a monster and is outgrowing its pot. It may be time for some drastic pruning. Cut the stems back to a node, but don't leave a stub. You may also want to consider root pruning your overgrown plant. To do this, remove the plant from its pot and trim off some of the root tips. Be sure to leave at least two-thirds of the root system intact. Now you can repot the houseplant in the same pot, adding more dirt where the roots were taken away. When root pruning, also remove about one-third of the plant on top at the same time.
Avoiding a lop-sided houseplant does not always require pruning. Turning your pots a quarter turn each week, will help the leaves get the full benefit of the light, and it will grow better. Turning the pots can also prevent the plant from growing more on one side than the other.
Use the Right Tools
As with all pruning, you'll want to make your cuts with a clean, sharp tool. If you prefer scissors, select a pair that is comfortable, light weight and make sure the blade won't rust. Small hand pruners or snips are popular because the spring action of the handle makes it comfortable to use for longer periods of time. With either style of tool be sure the blade (nose) can easily fit between delicate branches.
Wipe the tool blade clean after cutting between each houseplant. This will prevent the spread of disease and germs. It's important to stow your in-house pruning tool in a place where it won't be used for miscellaneous household chores or kitchen cooking. This will keep it sharp and clean and the tool will last longer.
You'll enjoy pruning your houseplants knowing it's just as important as pruning plants out in your yard. By pruning your houseplants, you keep them tidy, and encourage new growth and better shape.
Kay DiVerde is a freelance writer, horticultural researcher and consultant for Orchard's Edge. DiVerde also writes for a variety of newsletters and publications in the Midwest.