How Do I Trim My Houseplants?

Trimming indoor plants is one of the important points of care. And the most individual. There are indoor plants that are not trimmed at all, while others require regular pruning. There are a variety of tasks before pruning. It can be limited to removing dry or damaged parts, or it can be the basis for a beautiful silhouette, encourage more lush flowering, or rejuvenation. Keeping indoor crops compact and healthy is impossible without pruning. And although there is nothing complicated about it, it is worth not forgetting about the individual approach, and adhere to general norms and rules.

How do I trim my houseplants?
Trimming of indoor plants

Trimming of houseplants

Trimming is considered an optional part of houseplant care. Not every plant needs pruning, but almost no plant can do without it. It is through pruning that the healthy and neat appearance of the plant is maintained, restoring or improving its decorativeness, keeping the balance between the root system so limited in its volume and the above-ground parts. Improving, stimulating, regulating, restraining plants, pruning of indoor plants allows to reveal all their beauty.

Depending on the task facing this procedure, there are several types of pruning of indoor plants:

  1. Cleaning, or sanitary pruning.
  2. Pinching and shortening of shoots, pinching of buds.
  3. Forming the crown.
  4. Rejuvenating pruning.

Some houseplants need only one type of pruning, others need all four. You do not have to do them all at the same time but it is much easier to do the necessary work this way.

Rules for pruning houseplants

Independent of the type of pruning you should start by checking the individual preferences of the houseplants and the recommendations for pruning individual plants. There are plants which will not tolerate even a simple pruning of the branch tops, and there are plants which are not afraid of even frequent pruning. In addition to studying general information, it is also worth examining the plant itself. A careful analysis of the condition, the selection of unproductive or damaged shoots, the study of how the plant develops, will help to select the necessary degree of pruning for each particular plant.

Regularity, systematic pruning is the main secret to making these actions easier. If you don't wait for pruning to become visibly necessary, avoid overgrowth, baldness, loss of ornamentality, but constantly keep your pets in perfect shape, there will be no need for laborious and traumatic pruning.

The sanitary cleaning is repeated annually, at the beginning of active growth, repeating it as needed throughout the year and keeping the plant clean. Shaping is done once a year or regularly for crops that need pruning. Rejuvenation is combined with sanitary cleaning and shaping, carried out regularly or urgently.

In all types of pruning, it is important to follow general rules, which are largely similar to the norms of pruning of garden crops. Their main goal is to take all necessary measures to prevent plant health problems.

Main rules of pruning of indoor plants:

1. Work with sharp and well chosen tools for the task. Pruning already causes sufficient damage to plants, and there is no need to increase it.

Hygiene. In working with indoor plants, you must follow general sanitary rules. Clean hands, tools and surfaces, and the obligatory caution and disinfection of the working surfaces of the tools are as important for pruning as the quality of the pruning itself. Particular caution should be exercised with capricious crops and those plants that belong to the poisonous. Protect not only the plants themselves, but also the work surfaces and skin during pruning.

3. Transplanting and pruning are best not done at the same time.The recommendations for most indoor plants state that pruning should preferably be done at the same time as transplanting. But it is not advisable to do them at the same time. Pruning is done before or after a change of substrate, leaving enough time in between to allow for adaptation. Each of these procedures causes damage to the plant. And there is no need to increase it (as well as the risk of contamination of cuts with soil).

4. Cuts must be correct. Making cuts only at an angle and above the buds will help never to make mistakes in pruning room crops. Cardinally cut the shoot all the way to the base, to the level of the soil or where it joins the trunk. Partial pruning is carried out, leaving 3-7 mm of the shoot above the bud. It is necessary to take into account the orientation of the bud: its location will allow "directing" the development of the crown horizontally or vertically. The requirements remain, according to which on indoor plants the cut is made at such an angle that new shoots grow outwards, not inside the crown and so that the cut was directed from the bud.

5. General terms of pruning on indoor plants are very relative, because in each case the time for this procedure is better to choose individually. Pruning is always best performed at the beginning of active vegetation and in spring. The long warm season ahead will allow the plants to renew themselves even after a drastic pruning. But this rule can be deviated from depending on the development cycle and condition of the plants.

6. When pruning, you should periodically evaluate the result. It is easy to get carried away in pruning house plants, especially when forming a silhouette. By periodically stopping and inspecting the plants up close and from a distance you can prevent the consequences of overzealousness and restrain your impulses in time.

The most important rule of pruning is the timely treatment of wounds. When pruning tops or working with thin shoots you can rely on your own immunity of plants. But it is better to disinfect and treat all cuts, especially those on large shoots, immediately.

Special preparations (balsams or powders for cutting garden and greenhouse plants) and simple agents such as crushed charcoal or sulphur powder are suitable for this. Treat the cuttings gently, covering the entire area. Repeat if necessary. For plants that secrete a large amount of sap (e.g. milkweed), allow the cuttings to dry out before treatment.

After pruning, the plant should be given time to adapt.It should be placed in "mild", intermediate conditions, protected from excessive heat, dry air and direct sunlight. Water the plants after pruning very carefully, avoiding extremes and adhering to general recommendations for a particular species. Feeding can help the plant faster, but you should only do this again when it is growing again and only if it was not transplanted shortly before or after pruning.

How do I trim my houseplants?
Trimming a houseplant

Trimming tools for houseplants

Any pruning is done with handy, clean and sharp tools. For small branches and juicy shoots a sharp knife can be used (garden knives are preferable, but other kinds can be used - for example, a stationery knife with its thin blade), if pruning is very delicate - a scalpel or a blade. But more often pruning on indoor plants is carried out with hand scissors for pruning flowers and plants. Clerical or household scissors cause much more damage to plants.

For pruning (pinching) most often do not use tools. But sometimes it is more practical to use small scissors or special tools for shaping bonsai to trim the tops. If you have a large collection of plants with strong shoots it is better to use sharp garden pruning shears or special pruning shears for working with flowers and houseplants, which differ in size compared to garden tools.

Scissors and pruning shears are a minimum set that allows you to cut both thin and more powerful branches on any plants.

Whatever the tool for pruning you do not use, the main thing is their cleanliness and regular sharpening. Do not trim potted plants with non-sharp tools. Crushed tissue, "torn" edges not only lead to problems with the healing of cuts, but also have a high risk of infection. When working on each individual plant the tools should not just be cleaned, but disinfected, ensuring that your actions do not lead to the spread of dangerous diseases. The simplest option is alcohol and treatment with boiling water.

Sanitary pruning

This type of pruning is carried out for all indoor plants without exception - even those with no or reduced shoots. It's easy to call this kind of pruning cleaning: by removing all dry, damaged or unproductive leaves and shoots, you keep plants healthy and immune. This prevents not only the loss of decorativeness, but also the spread of pests and diseases.

Sanitary pruning aims:

  • to remove shoots growing inside the crown, thinning, weak, old, damaged or dry;
  • removing dry or damaged leaves;
  • removing dry pedicels and wilted flowers.

Sanitary pruning has no strict rules. All dry or damaged shoots are removed to the base, and if the damage has not affected most of the twig, to healthy tissues. Thin, unproductive branches are cut out completely. Severely damaged leaves are removed completely, dried leaves are cut off along the edge, leaving a thin strip of dry tissue in front of the healthy area. Cut flowers and inflorescences down to the first complete leaf or to the base of a peduncle.

Clean plants after dormancy, at the beginning of active vegetation, partially repeating this procedure during the season as needed, during and after flowering, during leaf drop in deciduous species, etc.

Sanitary pruning is necessarily supplemented by the removal of contaminated parts from the top of the substrate, including the removal of dry fallen leaves and plant debris. If the topsoil is heavily contaminated, it is better to complete the sanitary pruning by partially replacing the loose substrate on top of the substrate with fresh substrate.

Pincing (pinching)

Containing types of pruning are the simplest. Both pruning (a popular synonym for pinching) and shortening are measures that are carried out throughout the active growth stage to prevent branches from becoming too long, to stimulate side branch growth, or to improve the quality of flowering. In fact, all of these terms are synonymous and we are talking about a very simple procedure - the removal of the tip of a shoot or excess buds. These are mini-pruning, the easiest measures to shape and contain plants.

Pinching, or pinching, involves removing the top growth point, the top pair of leaves or the top stem segment of cacti and succulents. For example, the separation after flowering of 1-2 segments of each stalk of a slumberberry allows you to achieve more abundant flowering in the future season, and pinching the tops of young plants - to get more dense bushes. The buds are mostly plucked on large flowering indoor plants. Excessive buds formed in large numbers degrade the quality of individual flowers, so the timely removal of ovaries allows to achieve the most spectacular spectacle.

Pincching has several tasks:

  1. Removing the apex growth point, stimulates the growth of new lateral and productive shoots.
  2. The crown is thickened by a simple procedure that does not require injury of shoots and special knowledge.
  3. The plant is not allowed to stretch, stimulates the growth in all directions.

The shortening of shoots is somewhat different from pruning. In this case, not only the apical bud is removed, but also the entire superfluous or excessively elongated upper part of the shoot. By removing a third or half of the branch length, the plant is not allowed to stretch, in time to stop the growth and maintain a compact size. Shortening is most commonly used on room vines.

How do I trim my houseplants?
Trimming a room plant

Formative pruning of room plants

Trimming is a measure used for room trees, bushes and bushy perennials, which can be given more compactness or severity with proper pruning. Whether you want to encourage thickening and maintain ideal size, keep a plant in shape or give it a style, it is up to you to determine those goals.

Formative pruning is designed to do several things at once:

  • stimulation of growth of lateral and young shoots;
  • stimulation of flowering;
  • preventing elongation, formation of long, low-foliage, unattractive twigs;
  • aligning the crown, maintaining its symmetry and attractiveness;
  • creating a strict silhouette - spherical, pyramidal, parasol-like, bunch, etc.
  • reducing the size of large plants;
  • maintaining constant contours or shape;
  • densifying the foliage.

All these measures help to maintain the beauty of indoor plants and make them more attractive, corresponding to the interior style and tastes of the owners.

Formative pruning is traditionally done most often in early spring, when the first signs of beginning of active plant growth appear, or at the very end of the dormant stage. For flowering plants, pruning can also be done after flowering, removing all the parts that have bloomed and creating the desired silhouette and size, stimulating the formation of shoots that will bloom abundantly next year. But always oriented by peculiarities of flowering:

  • For plants that flower on one-year shoots, pruning is done at the beginning of active growth;
  • Plants that flowered on the last year shoots are not formed, removing the fading parts to the first true leaf;
  • growers pruning is done after flowering, conducting regular rejuvenation.

An obligatory procedure in any formation is the removal of superfluous, thickening and unproductive shoots, or general sanitary cleaning. It is worth starting pruning with it. Only after getting rid of all unnecessary shoots can the shaping itself be started.

The most reliable reference point for shaping pruning is the assessment of symmetry. Uniform plant growth and various deviations from symmetry indicate areas that need to be trimmed. When creating a strict shape, you can use a special template or framework that is applied to the plant, cutting off anything unnecessary. But orienting to even growth and determining symmetry will help you trim evenly even without a template.

Formative trimming can be light or strong. It is usually done with the desired size or contours in mind. Indoor plants can be cut to 2/3 of their length, but always look at the number of buds and leaves, growth rate, pruning tolerance of the plant. Leaving less than 2 buds on the branches is undesirable.

How do I trim my houseplants?
New shoots on a cut room plant

Rejuvenation of room plants

Rejuvenating pruning, unlike plant formation, is aimed at renewing the crown, accelerating growth and restoring decorativeness. They are carried out on old or rapidly aging plants, those room cultures, which by nature are prone to stretching shoots, shedding of the lower leaves, loss of "shape" and compact size. Plants that suffer from wrong keeping or care also need to be rejuvenated.

Without rejuvenation shrubs and trees such as roses and hydrangeas will not enjoy their beauty for many years. But even common indoor classics like pelargoniums and fuchsias can always be trimmed to help them stay in shape.

Time to perform rejuvenation trimming depends on the age and condition of the plant. The best time is in the spring or after flowering. But in any case it's better to carry out rejuvenation during the stage of active growth, because after cardinal pruning in the dormant period indoor plants may not recover.

Rejuvenating pruning can be:

1. Regular. With constant removal of the oldest shoots the constant updating of the crown is stimulated, the problem of decorative loss in time is prevented. Regular rejuvenation gives houseplants a permanent appearance and eliminates the need for drastic pruning.

2. Cardinal pruning These are performed on indoor plants that have lost their decorative value, are of a mature age, or on plants that have been severely damaged by diseases and improper care (particularly excessively hot winters or dry air). Severely shortening all shoots or cutting out parts of the plant will stimulate the growth of new growth and a complete renewal of the crown. A room plant usually takes a long time to recover from a radical pruning, it completely loses its attractiveness and can only enjoy its appearance after a long period of time. It is always better to split up rejuvenation into several procedures than to do something really drastic.

Regular pruning: Shorten old shoots to 3-5 buds and cut out the 1-3 oldest branches to be replaced by new growth, down to the base or short stubs. Cardinal pruning is much more aggressive, the shoots of the plant are cut to the level of the soil, the main stem or short stumps. When performing rejuvenation pruning it is important to assess the condition of the plant itself and the peculiarities of its development.

For some crops capable of producing new shoots from dormant buds and producing root shoots, even stump pruning can not be feared. For plants that form a central trunk or have stunted growth, too much full pruning is likely to kill them. Fast-growing and branching plants can be rejuvenated even if you leave only 1 or 2 buds on the shoots.

A separate type of rejuvenating pruning is the Regulating pruning of indoor plants that have been incorrectly overwintered. Outgrowth, loss of leaves, elongation, which the owners of plants that prefer cool wintering have to deal with, are very common. City apartment conditions are so different from the optimum range of necessary temperatures.

Such rejuvenation is carried out more sparingly. Its main purpose is to rejuvenate a fallen plant and stimulate crown renewal. Usually after an unsuccessful wintering a sanitary pruning is carried out, and the remaining branches are pruned, leaving 5-6 buds on the shoots, shortening only a few upper nodes.

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