Get a PDF copy
Home Plant guides Pruning your houseplants: Why you shouldn't be afraid to do it

Yellowing leaf on a Philodendron Birkin

Pruning your houseplants: Why you shouldn't be afraid to do it

Pruning your houseplants, cutting off stems and leaves, is a scary experience if you're new to taking care of plants. Will it harm the plant? Will it kill the plant? It seems very harmful to cut stems and leaves off your plants, but this guide will help you understand why pruning is actually good for your plants.

In this plant care guide, we're going to look at a few things that are relevant to pruning your houseplants:

  1. Pruning your plants doesn't harm them
  2. Reasons you should prune your plant
  3. Prune with care

This guide is meant for two things: inform you about pruning your plants as a beginning plant owner and to make you feel better about pruning your plants. Let's dive right in and learn more about cutting stems and leaves off your plant and see what pruning your houseplants is all about.

Pruning your houseplants is not harmful

Back to top

Prune alocasia leaves

Pruning your houseplants, and plants in general, is not harmful to them. It's , especially in the beginning, a scary thought to just cut part of your plant off. Luckily, plants aren't the same as humans and animals, cutting a part of doesn't harm them. When you prune your plant, you can propagate the cuttings to grow a new plant.

Plants are very good at repairing themselves and they will always want to grow new roots. If you've ever followed a propagation guide before, you've already pruned your plant before. You'll have noticed that the parent plant and the cutting are both doing just fine.

So why would or should you prune you plants? Let's find out in the next section!

Reasons you should prune your plant

Back to top

Pruned dieffenbachia leaves

There are a few reasons why you want to prune your plant. Sometimes pruning your plant is necessary to help it recover or survive a pest. Other times, pruning your plants has a different reason: you want to promote growth. Let's look at a few reasons to prune your plant.

Prune your plant when you notice root rot

Sometimes it's necessary to prune your plant, when you've discovered root rot and want to give your plant a fighting chance to recover. When you've noticed that your plant has root rot, you'll need to cut away the rotting roots. By pruning these root, you prevent the root rot from spreading to healthy roots.

At the same time, it's good to prune a few stems and leaves off your plant when it's suffering from root rot. It's good to prune these stems and leaves, because they all need energy and nutrients. When half of the roots are suffering from root rot, your plant can't absorb enough nutrients and moisture from the soil to feed your plant. By pruning your plant back, you're making sure that the part of the plant that is still there gets enough nutrients to recover.

Prune your plant to promote growth

As we've discovered in the last paragraph, one of the reasons to prune a houseplant is to make it use less energy and nutrients. This is great when you want to help your plant recover from a pest, but it's also great for promoting growth.

When you cut away a stem, your plant still has the same nutrients but needs to feed a smaller plant than before. When a plant has too many nutrients, it can focus on growing instead of just surviving. A few good stems and leaves to prune from your plant are stems and leaves that are either dying or "just don't look good". Pruning your plant isn't harmful, so it's no problem to prune leaves that make your plant look bad. Your plant instantly looks better after pruning less-than-optimal leaves and you're helping your plant grow new stems and leaves.

Prevent pests from getting to your plant

Pests love death and decay. They're attracted to it and will live and breed in it, because there is a lot of food for them there. When you know this, you can be outsmart the pests that want to live in or around your plants.

When you start to notice that leaves are dropping, turning another color or just don't look great, you can choose to prune those leaves. By pruning these stems or leaves before they decay, you're not giving pests a chance to settle in or around your plants. When you've pruned these stems and leaves, you've also given your plant some extra nutrients to grow new leaves and/or heal itself.

Prune your plant with care

Back to top

Pruned Pothos vines

So far, we've discovered that pruning your plant, cutting off stems and leaves, is often a good thing for your plant. In case you're still not sure about pruning your plants, let's list all of the benefits that we've gone over in this guide:

  1. Pruning dead stems/leaves keeps pests away
  2. Pruning gives energy back to the plant to recover or focus on growth
  3. Pruning rotting roots helps to keep healthy roots healthy
  4. Pruning instantly makes your plant look better and healthier
  5. Most importantly: pruning doesn't harm your plant

There are almost only good things that come from pruning your plants. But, before you go and prune all of your plants, let's go over one downside first.

Give your plant time to recover after pruning

Pruning your plant isn't harmful, as long as you give it enough time to recover. The "time to recover" differs quite a bit for each plant and some plants don't need to recover as much. Most plants don't need to recover from pruning very much and are fine after a few hours. But some plants, will need a few days to recover before you can prune again. Let's go over the most important type of plant that needs more time to recover: vine plants.

Vine plants, like a Pothos, a Philodendron, or a Maranta Prayer plant, need a few days to recover when they're being pruned. These types of plants have very long vines that hold quite a bit of moisture. When you cut these vines, you're creating a "leak" in their vines, through which moisture will escape. It's important that you prune these types of plants very slowly to avoid letting the plant dry out completely.

A good rule of thumb to use when pruning these types of plants is this: Prune a maximum of 2 vines at a time. Your plant can recover from 2 missing vines quite quickly and it won't harm the plant. When you prune more vines, you risk drying out the vines and this could kill the plant. Your plant is ready to be prune again when the cut vines no longer leak moisture.

If you're pruning leaves for these types of plants, you won't have to stick to the maximum of 2 leaves at a time. When you're pruning leaves, not a lot of moisture can escape, so it's fine to prune more.


Pruning your plant for the first time can be scary, because it feels wrong to cut off parts of your plant. But you don't have to worry about hurting your plant when you're pruning. In this plant care guide, we've seen that pruning your plant is not harmful and can actually help it grow and survive. Pruning can give your plant some extra energy to grow new leaves, fight off pests, or recover from root rot.

If you want to prune your plant, but you're not sure which leaves or stems are good to prune, start with the ugly looking leaves. This way, your plant will instantly look better and has extra energy to grow new leaves.

Thank you for reading this post! I hope it helps you to keep your plants healthy and beautiful! If you're looking for more guides on specific plants, you can always request a plant guide to get a guide for the plant you have trouble with.

Tags: prune, growth

Posted on: Aug 21, 2021

Are you ready to put your new knowledge into practice?

Get your own products from the links below and support us in our mission to help people take care of plants like this.

This page contains affiliate links. Support me and my mission by ordering through my links. Thank you!

Frequently asked questions

Is pruning harmful for a houseplant?
No, pruning your houseplant is not harmful for your plant. It might even help it grow better and recover from any problems.
Does pruning a plant help it to grow?
Yes, when you prune a plant, you're giving it energy back. It can use this extra energy to grow new stems and leaves.

Pin this plant guide