Pruning Plants: How to Prune Indoor and Outdoor Plants

Key Takeaways

  • Most plants need a major pruning once a year, to cut parts of a plant, such as branches or buds, to shape it or promote healthy growth.
  • Always trim a branch by its quarter and advance slowly.
  • When pruning plants, make sure you use clean pruners because a cut exposes plants’ tissues to diseases. Also, try not to tear or crush a section. A clean cut is a must. To sterile the tools, you can use a mild bleach solution.
  • The best time to prune plants depends on the type of plant and its growth cycle. For example, spring-blooming trees and shrubs should be pruned in late spring after the old flowers have fallen, while fruit trees and berry plants should be pruned during winter dormancy.
  • Don’t go cheap and use ordinary scissors. When pruning, use the right tools, such as shears or hand pruners, and make clean cuts at the right angle to avoid damaging the plant.
We prefer two types of pruning shears, one for indoor plants and one that is designed for outdoor plants. Click here to skip down for more details. 

Pruning plants is important to maintain their attractive shape and give them a bushier look.

Indoor gardeners plant several varieties of plants in their gardens. They can be cacti, succulents, ferns, flowering, or ornamental plants.

Although growing these plants in an indoor garden is extremely easy, people often have trouble maintaining their shape and size.

In most cases, the plant grows very tall and drops off its lower leaves, which gives the specimen a bare look.

In this article, we will briefly discuss pruning indoor plants.

What Is Pruning?

Pruning is a gardening practice to remove any unwanted branches or leaves from a plant.

It encourages new growth and improves the plant’s structure and appearance.

The goal of pruning is to get rid of any broken or infected parts, branches that don’t produce fruit, or branches that don’t have a strong structure.

Pruning is good for plants in many ways, and professional gardeners do it to their indoor plants often when they are growing.

What Is PruningPin

They also trim the plants so that the plants don’t overgrow and develop unmanageable, tall branches.

Their well-kept plant species have fewer infected or damaged leaves, which usually don’t attract diseases and pests.

Reasons to Prune plants

Before we dive further into our discussion, let’s know the variety of reasons to prune indoor plants.

  • Trimming ensures healthy plant growth because this practice removes the injured and infected parts of a plant. Removing these sections not only minimizes the chance of pest attack but also allows the growth hormones to facilitate the growth in lower branches.
  • Pruning fruit or vegetable plants increases the size and number of fruits [1].
  • Removing the dead parts of a plant helps to manage its density and size of it. For instance, some plant species like Pothos, Dracaena, or other foliage plants can grow very tall. Also, they drop off their lower leaves which gives them a bad look. You can give these plants a good prune to increase the foliage density and the number of branches.
  • It encourages the production of flowers and fruits because removing the top parts of the branches accelerates the growth of more branches which means that the plants will produce more flowers and fruits.
  • This practice is a great way to rejuvenate overgrown or old plants that have a leggy growth or don’t grow at all.
Reasons To Prune HouseplantsPin

How to Prune Plants

New or inexperienced gardeners often think that pruning their plants will kill them.

How To Prune HouseplantsPin

Trimming or deadheading indoor plants is part of plant care because you can keep your plant healthy and maintain an attractive shape.

Before you start removing the leaves or branches, there are a few things that you must keep in mind.

Step-by-step on Pruning Plants

Step 1

 First of all, you need the following pruning tools: –

  • Gardening gloves
  • A pair of scissors
  • Pruning shears

It’s best to get good-quality, sharp pruners that can do a clean cut of the target branches.

Blunt ones can easily tear or crush the stems, and it will increase the risk of infection.

Step 2

If you’re pruning your plant to reshape it, you should select the branches first and advance slowly. You can observe the plant from every angle before cutting.

Because if you accidentally cut a stem that provides balance, it will take a long time to look like a fuller plant again.

Quick Steps On Pruning PlantsPin

Step 3

Don’t forget that you don’t have to prune your plants every day or every month. You can do this once or twice a year to keep your plant looking healthy.

Before you can trim the plant, you need to know a few things. Even though it’s easy, you still need to be careful if you want your plant to stay healthy.

You can prune indoor plants at any time, but you should wait until early spring to shape them because they will grow faster in warmer weather and more sunlight.

Identify the type of Plants

Identify The Type Of HouseplantsPin

Trimming is indeed beneficial for a plant’s health, but that doesn’t mean you have to prune all the plants in your garden.

There are many species that don’t require any pruning at all. For example, palms and pines don’t have any lateral buds, so removing their tips isn’t going to promote their lateral growth.

Also, there are some plants that produce sap, which can create a messy condition after pruning. Maple and birch trees are two such species.

Except for these plant varieties, you can prune almost any indoor tree in your garden.

Determine what needs to be pruned

Determine What Needs To Be PrunedPin

After identifying the plant, it is important to determine which parts of the plant should be removed. Professionals always suggest that newbies think at this stage.

Gardeners should think about how their plants will look after the trimming because it is impossible to undo.

Therefore, before starting to cut the branches, it is important to determine which sections or branches need to be removed.

Also, don’t remove too many leaves during the practice because it will give some plants like Ficus a great shock. Always prune right above a node.

Check for pests and diseases

While pruning plants, you must check for pests and diseases. If you can identify any infected branches, target them and remove them as soon as possible.

Those diseased branches may spread the infection to the healthier sections. Don’t worry about the plant, as it will grow back its green stems and leaves.

Remove damaged or dead leaves, branches, or stems

Remove Damaged Or Dead LeavesPin

When it comes to removing the branches and leaves, professionals become more careful. It is always suggested to remove the discolored, spotted, or dried leaves first.

If some stem and branches contain these kinds of leaves, it is better to remove them, but don’t prune the healthy and fresh leaves.

By removing a damaged stem or branch, you will encourage the plant to spend its energy on healthy growth.

Without this, you can also choose a crowded branch for pruning. Removing some dry leaves and cutting some small branches in a crowded section will improve air circulation and decrease the risk of fungal infection.

Before snipping off the branches, try to wear gloves and use sterile and clean pruners, which will simply cut a section into two parts.

Also, make the cut right above a node. While cutting, make sure that you don’t remove more than 25 to 30 percent of the plant.

Dispose of plant debris

Once pruning a plant is done, it is time to dispose of the dead leaves and stems. Many gardeners throw them into the waste bin.

But instead of throwing them into the trash, you can use them in your compost bin since they may contain some minerals.

What to do with the cuttings?

Many indoor varieties are easy to spread because they have nodes on their stems or branches.

Tips For Houseplant PruningPin

If your cuttings contain some nodes, then you can at least try to propagate them.

You may keep them in water until their roots appear or directly plant them in a potting mix. New roots will appear within a few weeks to a month.

Pruning Shears We Like to Use

For small plants like houseplants or succulents, we like these pruning shears the best. They are super easy on the hands and are easy to control when pruning even the smallest of plants.

VIVOSUN 6.5 Inch Gardening Scissors Hand Pruner Pruning Shear with Straight Stainless...
  • Reduce Hand Strain: These micro tip snips are made to reduces hand fatigue...
  • Ultra Sharp Blades: These quality snips come with stainless steel...
  • Secure, Easy to Lock: These micro tip snips feature a safe and secure...

For heavy-duty vegetation like outdoor trees, shrubs, or even in your vegetable garden, we prefer using these garden shears. Though they look big they are super easy to handle and they cut through almost anything that grows in the yard.

gonicc 8" Professional Sharp Bypass Pruning Shears (GPPS-1002), Tree Trimmers...
  • Drop forged body and handles, quality blade made of high carbon steel with...
  • Ideal for deadheading, trimming, shaping on tree, roses, annuals,...
  • Ergonomically designed non-slip handles are strong,lightweight,and...


When is the best time to prune plants, and does it vary by type of plant?

Yes, the best time to prune varies depending on the type of plant. Generally, pruning plants can be done during their dormant period, typically in late winter or early spring. However, spring-flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned after they bloom. When in doubt, consult a guide to pruning plants specific to the species you are working with. It’s essential to avoid pruning at the wrong time, as it may negatively impact the plant’s growth and health.

How Often Should You Prune Your Plants?

How often you should prune your plants depends on the type of plant and how fast it grows. As a general rule, you should prune your plants once every few months, removing no more than 10–30% of the plant in one pruning session. With that said, it’s important to avoid over-pruning, as this can lead to stunted growth and weaken the plant’s overall health. 

Are pruning and deadheading the same?

Pruning and deadheading are not the same; both are ways to help plants grow and stay healthy, but they are different methods used for different reasons. Both involve taking parts of a plant off, but they are used for different things. During pruning, any part of the plant can be cut off to thin, shape, resize, give the plant new life, or get rid of dead or sick parts. Deadheading, on the other hand, means taking off the spent flowers to get the plant to make more flowers or to stop the plant from sending out its own seeds. Deadheading also keeps the plant looking good and keeps it from getting sick.

What tools do I need for pruning plants?

There are various pruning tools that a gardener can use for different pruning tasks. Some common tools for pruning include pruning shears, which are great for cutting smaller branches and stems; pruners or loppers for thicker branches; and pruning saw for larger limbs. It’s important to keep your tools clean and sharp to ensure clean cuts and minimal damage to the plant.

How should I prune plants to encourage new growth?

Pruning plants to encourage new growth involves cutting back old or damaged stems to stimulate the growth of new and healthy stems, branches, and flowers. Remember to make your pruning cuts near a growing bud at an angle so water runs off the cut rather than pooling on the cut surface. Regularly pinch or trim the tips of young growth to promote bushier foliage and a stronger overall plant structure.

How Does Pruning Harm Plants?

If you don’t prune your plants right, you could hurt them.
When pruning, it’s important not to cut off too many of the plant’s leaves at once, as this can make the plant weaker and more likely to get sick. Your plants can also get hurt if you prune them at the wrong time of year. For example, pruning plants when they are dormant, like in the winter, can cause extra stress and damage. The spread of disease is another thing that could happen if you prune. If you don’t clean your pruning tools before you use them, you could accidentally spread diseases from one plant to another. To make sure you don’t hurt your plants when pruning, it’s important to use sharp, clean scissors or pruners and do things the right way.


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