A ric rac cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger) alongside Niwaki Garden Snips, both for sale online at Tula Plants & Design. A ric rac cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger) alongside Niwaki Garden Snips, both for sale online at Tula Plants & Design.

Pruning – A Complete Tula Guide

Get out the snippers. It’s time to do some pruning. Sculpting, cleaning, or propagating, pruning is an indoor gardening practice that is often very helpful and sometimes very necessary. At Tula, we place pruning into two categories: voluntary and essential.

Why should I prune?

Voluntary pruning:

Sculpture. If you have an architectural vision for a plant or simply live in a small place and want to keep a plant contained.

Propagation. Snipping long limbs or removing pups can help spread the joy of your plant to a different room or a different home entirely. 

Redirecting energy. By removing leaves that are drying, ugly, or old, you can help the plant redirect its energy to healthier limbs and healthy growth instead of keeping the unneeded leaves alive.

Reduce legginess. Plants often grow longer stems when reaching for ideal light. Leggy limbs of plants can be cut back to keep the plant contained and looking bushy. 

 

Essential pruning:

Cleaning. In the natural environment, wind, heavy rain, fire, and animals passing through, all help to control the size of the plant and remove dead particles. We don’t have that indoors. 

Removing dead leaves and other debris will help plants stay healthy – leaves on the soil won’t decompose as well as they would outdoors, and when they do decompose, they will attract fungus, bacteria, and bugs, all essential aspects of healthy decomposition in the wild, but not necessarily things we want indoors. Cleaning includes removing yellowing or dying leaves, as well as spent flowers that have bloomed and dried (this is called dead-heading).

Now, let’s look at the types of pruning and how to do it. Every plant has a different growth structure. Identifying how a plant grows and how it is structured will help you define what type of pruning will benefit the plant. For a visual guide, watch the video above from Tula co-founder Christan Summers.

 

Types of pruning:

Cleaning with fingers. Frequency: Every now and then, on a daily basis, or as needed.

Run your fingers through a bushy plant to allow dead and fallen leaves to break from the stem. Then remove any fallen leaves from the pot. For succulents, use your fingers to pluck dead or crispy leaves from the plant.

 

Cleaning with snippers. Frequency: Every few waterings.

Search the plant for dead, crisping, yellowing, or curling leaves. These are often lower on the plant. Pull the healthy leaves aside and snip the damaged as needed. Dried, crispy leaves will not recover, so it’s best to remove them. Do not leave leafless stalks. If you would leave a stalk without a leaf, snip at the base of the stalk instead. When possible, snip stems at a 45 degree angle.

 

Cutting lower leaves from larger plants. Frequency: As needed.

A lot of plants have leaves that naturally die off lower on the stalk as new growth comes in at the top. If you see this happening on a Ficus lyrata, Philodendron, Monstera, or even a succulent like an agave, fear not. It is a sign the plant is growing happily and growing taller. Use a clean, sharp knife to remove the leaves from the stalk of the plant. The wound will heal and contribute to the growth progression of the central stalk of the plant.

 

Heavy sculpting. Frequency: Once a year, typically in late winter right before the growing season.

During a plant’s winter dormancy, you can take time to prune and sculpt a plant into a shape of your liking. Maybe a plant’s recent growth has been leggy and you want to keep it contained. Pruning off leggy growth will keep a plant looking bushy and full. This also prepares the plant for a burst of springtime growth. In the instagram post below, watch Tula founder Christan Summers prune a large succulent arrangement and repurpose the cuttings of leggy growth as new limbs for the arrangement.

 

 

Happy pruning!