Pruning is one of those tricky gardening tasks that vary in method from plant to plant—a complete guide on how to prune plants of all sorts will serve you well here in Fort Lauderdale. With temperatures as warm as ours, there isn’t much of an off-season for gardening. While some plants go dormant in the winter, others are springing into action. The most crucial factor to consider when pruning is your timing. If you want to make sure you’re pruning your garden greenery at the correct time, follow this easy guide on how to cut back and maintain the shape of these popular plants we can’t get enough of in Fort Lauderdale. Before you begin any pruning task, however, clean and disinfect your shears to avoid spreading diseases to other plants, and clean the pruners again before moving to the next plant on your pruning list. Make sure to sharpen your pruners for clean, easy cuts that cause minimal harm to the plant.
Pruning Tips for the Trendiest Plants in 2019
Some plants have exploded so much in popularity, we thought it would be helpful to include a quick guide to pruning the year’s hottest houseplants: fiddle leaf figs, rubber plants, and succulents.
Before pruning any of these plants, make sure your shears are nice and sharp—if they’re too dull and crush the stems or branches, it can damage and stress out the plant. Be sure to wear protective gloves and cover any surfaces that may come into contact with the plants, as some of them contain compounds that are sticky or irritating to your skin.
How to Prune Fiddle Leaf Fig
The fiddle leaf fig has been wildly popular this year and with good reason! Its large, ruffly leaves make a bold statement, either as an outdoor ornamental tree or indoors in a pot.
Fiddle leaf figs should be cut back in the spring because all the bright sunlight of the upcoming warmer months will help it heal and continue to grow strong. You’ll know it’s time to prune if the foliage seems to be growing crowded or lopsided. Decide the shape you want to achieve—tree or bush form—and make each cut ½-inch from leaves or trunk. Following up with an application of fertilizer will also help it bounce back post-trim. Fiddle leaf figs prefer a fertilizer with NPK of 3:1:2. Follow the directions on the fertilizer’s label to feed your plant.
How to Prune Rubber Plant
Rubber plants have been flying off the shelves thanks to their beautiful, dark green leaves and their reputation for being low-maintenance.
Rubber plants don’t typically need a lot of pruning, but a little shaping can help to train the plant to grow either taller and more graceful, or shorter and bushier. At any time, you should prune off leaves or stems that appear damaged or discolored. Plan to prune healthy tissue during the late spring or early summer. Decide on the plant shape you want, trimming back unruly branches and shaping as you go. When pruning, cut just above the nodes—the joint where a smaller stem branches off. If you want to stop the plant from growing tall, cut off the top nodes to encourage growth on the sides. Limit pruning to 5-6 living branches for each time you prune, as too much can stress out the plant. If you like, you can propagate your rubber plant by placing live cuttings from healthy branches into a glass of water.
How to Prune Succulents
There are hundreds of species of succulents, and they’re all exceptionally popular right now. Many of our customers have asked how to trim them since their plant tissue is so different from other houseplants.
Prune succulents in early spring. Using a sharp knife and cutting at a 45-degree angle, remove any undesired growth. To shape succulents, the rule of thumb is to encourage growth in your desired direction by cutting above the leaf nodes that are growing in the right direction. Remove no more than a third of any stem’s length. Vary the lengths of trailing succulents, like burro’s tail, to maintain its visual aesthetic.
How to Prune Bushes and Trees That Bloom on Old Wood
Some bushes and trees blossom on old wood that has been present on the plant since the previous season. Many plants typically produce flower buds the year prior, overwintering on the previous year’s growth to bloom in the spring. The best time to cut back spring-blooming shrubs is directly after the blossoms begin to wither. If you wait and cut back the shrubs or trees in late summer, fall, or winter, you may inadvertently prune off the developing flower buds, leaving you with a flowerless shrub the following year. Remove dead or damaged branches to keep plants tidy and prevent the spread of disease. Typically, prune the plant at a point a couple of inches above the main form of the plant. Snip 1-inch above the leaf on the branch. Some examples of bushes and trees that blossom on old wood include:
- Magnolia “Little Gem”
- Clerodendrum Starburst
How to Prune Bushes That Bloom on New Wood
If your flowering bushes are bursting into color later in the summer, chances are they bloom on new wood. This means that its growth spurt in the spring will produce new, healthy branches for the flowers to grow on. Pruning in the spring will end up removing all the new growth before the flowers have a chance to arrive, so your best bet is to prune back in the late fall or winter. Don’t be afraid to cut back plants drastically—the result will be lots of new growth for a great flower show! Some examples of bushes that bloom on new wood include:
- Butterfly bush
How to Prune a Hedge to Promote Growth
Thinning cuts and heading cuts are also necessary for encouraging healthy, new growth in hedges. If you’re pruning a flowering hedge, first determine if it blooms on old or new wood to choose the best time for pruning, otherwise prune non-flowering hedges in winter. Start by cutting out any particularly tall branches that stick out awkwardly or block portions of the rest of the hedge from the sun. Make heading cuts at a 45-degree angle underneath the terminal buds located at the tips of the branches. In a few weeks, some new growth will appear where you made those cuts. Once those fresh new branches reach around 6-12 inches, cut out half of them, because this will encourage more lateral branching to fill out the plant without getting too overcrowded.
How to Prune Tomato Plants
The most important part of maintaining tomato plants is getting rid of the suckers as soon as possible, because they waste a lot of the plant’s energy that can be directed into fruit production. Regularly check your plant for these tiny little shoots that appear below the first flower cluster. Sometimes, they’re small enough that you can pinch them off without the use of shears. If you notice any yellowing leaves, nip those off too. Prune any diseased foliage, cleaning pruners between plants with an alcohol wipe to disinfect the snips and prevent the spread of disease.
How to Prune Plants Affected by Disease or Fungus
Sometimes, no matter how much disease prevention we try to do, disease and fungus can sprout up. Knowing the signs of common plant diseases can help you to identify and remove affected parts before they take over the whole plant, so if you notice a portion of your plant is suffering, it’s not the end of the world.
You can safely remove these affected pieces with your garden shears, but the key to ensuring the disease doesn’t spread is practicing proper sterilization techniques. Keep a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and a clean rag with you as you remove diseased leaves and stems. After every single cut you make, wipe the blades well with the rag soaked in alcohol.
Put the damaged parts directly into a yard waste bag—don’t put them in the compost bin! Adding diseased tissue to your composter will spread disease throughout the heap, which could seriously harm your plants if you mix that organic matter into your garden soil. Always remember to wear protective gloves and avoid skin contact with diseased plants.
If you have any questions about pruning a particular plant or tree in your garden, don’t hesitate to visit our garden center in Fort Lauderdale. Our experts are well-versed in the art of proper pruning, and we’re more than happy to point you in the right direction.