Woman pruning a plant.

What You Need to About Pruning Plants

The main purpose of pruning a plant is to remove dead, damaged, or diseased stems and to prevent rot and fungal attack, as well as any crossing or rubbing stems. Not only does this control vigor, but it can also be used to promote flowering or fruit production. Pruning can be carried out at any time of the year, as the need arises, although the benefit is greatest in spring, when the plant is at its most active and new growth will respond quickly.

Many indoor plants are too small, soft, or sappy to need much in the way of pruning, apart from deadheading as the flowers fade to encourage the formation’ o’ more buds and prevent the old ones from rotting. Woody plants need attention to keep the growth healthy and going in the right direction.

Plants with a bushy habit need to have their growing points removed from the main shoots regularly to encourage the development of side branches, which should also be tipped to produce a rounded s tape. If the plant has variegated foliage, any shoots that revert to plain green must be removed immediately, since the increased chlorophyll in these shoots makes them stronger, and they will take over if left in place.

Pruning cuts

The position of the cut is critical — too close to the bud and it will die, too far away and the dying stub of stem is a target for disease.

Alternate buds

The cut should slant upward to just above an outward-facing bud, without being too close or touching it.

Opposite buds

The cut should be made straight across the stem above the buds.