Date: April 1989 (Revised April 1995)
Source: NDSU Extension Service Horticulturists
Most of us who grow indoor plants are familiar with their basic requirements. We know they need light, water, air, soil, and fertilizer in the right proportions, and at the right time. It is easy to assume that this is all plants need.
In spite of your best efforts, your indoor plants may thrive and still not look beautiful. They may grow and stretch, reaching into surrounding spaces. They may begin to look leggy, unkempt, and too large for the space you have allotted. This is when you need to prune your plants.
Most of us neglect pruning because we dislike to cut off any of the plant, or because we don't know how to prune.
Let's review three types of pruning: pinching, softwood pruning and hard pruning.
Pinching is the simplest, most routine form of pruning. Pinch off the small new growth at the end of a branch. When you remove this growth, the plant no longer simply extends a branch in a straight line. Rather, you force previously dormant side buds, to grow. Likewise, once the sideshoots have grown long enough, you can pinch their tips off. If you persist in pinching your plants you can direct their growth, and keep them compact and full.
Softwood pruning is more severe than pinching and consists of removing part of the soft, leaf-carrying stems. Follow the same procedure as for pinching except that you remove a portion of the stem itself, rather than just the new growth at the tip.
Use softwood pruning on plants that have become too large or excessively heavy on one side. It is usually a procedure to follow if plants have not been pinched properly.
Hard pruning is the most severe. It is often a last attempt to save a plant. Hard pruning consists of cutting back all the small, softwood branches so only the leafless, main hard stems remain. This method of pruning is beneficial in drastic cases of plant neglect because it allows your houseplant to start over. Of course, you should not let a plant reach this point.
If you have further questions, please contact your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.
Back to Indoor Pests Menu
Go to Ask Extension Index Page
For More Information Contact your North Dakota County Extension Office of the NDSU Extension Service for additional information or see our main NDSU Web Page for publications and articles on Agriculture, Horticulture, Youth and Family, Business and Community and Food and Nutrition at http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/