How to Prune Succulents Properly

pruning succulent

Succulents are among the most attractive and easy-to-grow plants that can be grown indoors and outdoors. They require less maintenance, too. Pruning succulents, though, is a must, when necessary.

You will never go wrong when pruning your succulent plant. Regardless of where you trim, your succulent plant will grow healthier and better. Pruning succulents properly will make your succulents grow even better. 

How to Prune Succulents 

Pruning succulents can be an intimidating task. It is, however, less scary and easier than you think.

Gather All The Tools You Need. 

You will need pruning tools or cutting tools that are shaped like scissors. Some gardeners opt to use bonsai scissors or Exacto knives.

Bonsai scissors are lightweight and very sharp, making them easy to handle when pruning succulents.

Exacto knives are also sharp and lightweight, plus they can access hard-to-reach portions of your succulent plant.

Make sure your pruning tools are clean before you start pruning succulents to prevent them from developing diseases.

You will also need a towel to wipe your hands and to clean your succulents and gloves if your succulent has sap. You may also need to have a container nearby if you plan to replant some of the cuttings.

If you need to remove dead leaves, tweezers are perfect. Chopsticks are also great to help make holes and loosen the soil.

Remove Debris Around The Succulent

The bottom leaves of your succulent plant will generally dry up and die. Before you start pruning your succulent plant, remove all the dead leaves and debris surrounding your plant. The clean surrounding will help speed up new growth in your plant.

Decide Where and What Part of the Succulent to Prune

Prune your succulent plant according to how you want it to look. So, it is up to you where and what part of the succulent plant you want to prune.

If you find the stems too long, think of how you want your succulent to look like and decide what to remove.

Each time you remove or cut a part of your succulent plant, like a stem, the general rule is to always cut above the leaf node of the plant.

Cutting above the leaf node allows the plant to have new growth from the leaf nodes of your succulent’s stem. It will take longer for your succulent plant to regrow if you cut below its leaf node.

How to Prune Stems

Plan When To Prune Your Succulent.

Plan your pruning schedule. The best time to prune depends on the type of succulent plant you have.

Prune succulents with flowers, for example, are best pruned after their blooms fade and while they are dormant.

Non-flowering succulent plants, on the other hand, should be pruned before the beginning of their growing season to allow all their energy to focus on the regrowth of the plant.

Typically spring and fall and the best times to schedule routine pruning of your succulent plant.

Determine The Part Of The Stem You Are Going To Prune. 

Check the leaves and look for a leaf node that can allow the growth of a new stem in the direction you wish to cut.

This is usually the spot where the foliage is most abundant or the spot closest to the base. Therefore, this is usually the best spot to prune to stimulate new growth.

Once You Have Located The Exact Point, Gently Cut The Stem.

Use a sharp pruning tool to make a 450 clean cut. Make sure to cut the stem within one-half inch of the leaf node you chose.

The new growth will appear at the pruning spot – in the direction of the leaf node.

Cut off one-third of the stem. If you are pruning succulents of trailing varieties, prune each of the stems in varying lengths. This will give your succulent plant more visual appeal.

After You Have Pruned All The Stems Of Your Succulent Plant

That needed to be pruned, your succulent plant is now ready for its new growth.

You just need to allow your succulent plant to grow after pruning. Refrain from watering your succulent plant for a day after pruning.

You first need to enable the roots to heal and form.

Succeeding, water your plant when its soil is dry using the soak and dry method. This watering method will make your succulent plant as healthy as it can be.

Expose your succulent plant to bright indirect sunlight. Gradually move the plant to direct light. Your succulent will then grow and thrive until it will need to be pruned again.

How to Prune Dying or Dead Leaves

It is normal for the lower leaves of your succulent plant to die as they mature. You can wait for the leaves to fall off on their own. You can also remove the dying leaves.

Dying leaves caused by rotting or diseases must be immediately removed or they can affect the entire plant.

You need to know how to determine dying leaves so you know what to prune.

Discoloration is the most common sign of dying leaves. Over-watering or under-watering is often the cause of dead leaves.

Dying leaves look transparent, yellow, soggy, and a bit brown due to sunburn.

Overwatered or succulents with diseases have brown, black, or opaque leaves. Under-watered leaves look dried out and wilted and just need watering and not pruning.

Remove the entire damaged leaf and not just a part of it. Carefully plucked off dying or dead leaves using your hand.

Use tweezers to remove dying or dead leaves that are stuck between the branches of the plant.

After pruning, your succulent plant will grow new leaves.

The new succulent plant looks compact and neat. Over time, its leaves will die and you will not be able to control its growth. You will then need some maintenance work such as pruning.

Good pruning will keep your succulent plant as tidy and compact as when you bought them.

Most succulents are low-growing that is why they make good indoor plants. Pruning is typically not necessary, but if your succulent has lost its compact nature (reason for its popularity) or has become elongated, pruning is necessary.

Knowing how to prune succulents properly can bring them back to their desired size. Proper pruning may also give you the best material to start growing a new succulent (propagation).

What You Can Do With Pruned Stems

You can replant nice and healthy stem cuttings you got from pruning your succulent plant and allow them to root and grow into new succulent plants.

Plant your stem cuttings in a pot or container with moist potting soil. Make sure to keep the soil of your stem cuttings root and develop new growth.

Reasons you Need to Prune Succulents

Just like most plants, succulents need pruning for various reasons. Most reasons depend on the type of succulents you have and how they grow.

The main purpose of pruning succulents is to reduce its size when it has grown to be too large. Pruning can also benefit your succulent in many other ways.

When do you then need to prune your succulent? 

Prune Your Succulent When It Has Outgrown Its Pot Or Your Garden Space.

While succulents are slow-growing, they will need to be pruned over time to reduce their size. They will tend to be top-heavy when they mature and fall over their pot or container.

How often you need to prune your succulent depends on the type of succulents and the environment.

You want your succulents to grow in a certain way to control their size and maintain their aesthetics. When they become too large, pruning can ensure their better growth.

Pruning can also help them grown in better shape and size.

Prune Your Succulents When They Tend To Be Leggy.

The typical height of your succulent depends on its variety. Indoor succulents or those grown in low light areas will go through stem etiolation or the stems stretching upwards to get more sunlight.

Stem etiolation will make your succulent leggy. Pruning will prevent them from growing leggy and overgrown.

You can prune leggy succulent plants by cutting odd the portion that is too tall. This will allow new shoots to form and will make your succulent grow more compact.

Of course, you want your succulent to always look their best. Pruning will keep your succulent compact, cute, and in the best shape.

Prune Your Succulent To Remove Dead Or Dying Parts.

This includes dying or dead leaves, stems, and flower stems, as well as dried and broken stems.

Prune Your Succulent For Propagation.

If you want to propagate more pups, trim some leave or stems from the mother plant and replant them.

Prune Your Succulent To Rejuvenate It And To Stimulate New Growth.

When you prune dying or dead parts of your succulents (leaves and or stems), as well as those parts that pests and diseases have attacked, the remaining succulent will continue to grow into a healthy plant.

Some Growers Prune To Deadhead Flowers.

Succulents need a lot of energy to bloom and maintain their blooms. Some succulent blooms are not very attractive and are better cut off.

Cutting off the bloom stalks of your succulent redirects its energy back to the plant so it can be utilised further to help to grow the plant.

Succulent blooms last for a few weeks before they dry up and close.

They will then start to look unattractive so it is best to cut off the blooms stalks after the blooming period.

When Is The Best Time For Pruning Succulents? 

Prune your succulent at the beginning of its growing period. You will notice some new growth in your succulent during spring.

Thus, this is typically the best time to prune it. You can, however, prune your succulent any time when necessary.

Pruning Succulents

Towards the end of their growing period, there may not be any new growth soon. New growth occurs quicker at the beginning of the growing season.

Succulents tend to be long and leggy during winter because they are not getting enough sun. They tend to stretch and reach out to get closer to the nearest source of light.

They will then tend to lose their compact and nice shape. With that said, spring is the best time for pruning succulents.

Succulents that spillover or break in winter should be pruned by all means.

In-ground succulents grown outdoors are also best pruned in early spring. Tropical succulents grown in the warm season can be pruned year-round.

Fall is also a good time to prune succulents especially when they are grown in areas with warmer winters. Pruning in spring and fall will give your succulents a fresh new look.

Pruning succulents in spring, as a general rule, give the best results.

Tips In Succulent Pruning

You do not need to learn any special techniques to prune succulents. Pruning succulents that are grown indoors and outdoors follow the same methods.

Outdoor succulents, though, grow faster after pruning and need to be pruned more often.

It is essential to use sharp tools when pruning succulents to avoid any infections. You can use string trimmers for succulent groundcovers, but you will need a firm hand to handle this tool.

Clean clippers, a sharp knife, or a pruning saw are the best to get cleaner cuts if you are pruning succulents because it has developed a disease. Swab or dip your trimmer blades in alcohol before pruning.

Wear gloves for protection if you are pruning succulents with spines or milky sap.

If you are pruning long-stemmed or multi-branched succulents, prune the stems on the spot where you want the new growth to come out.

Final Thoughts

Pruning is an important aspect of keeping your succulent plants healthy. Getting rid of unruly, overgrown growth and dying parts of your succulent plant encourages dynamic growth.

Succulents are slow-growing. Thus they do not need frequent pruning. Once a year pruning is what they need at the most, except when you need to do emergency pruning.

Pruning succulents is a simple process that makes a lot of difference in your succulent plants’ overall growth and welfare.

Jenny Marie

Tribal Writer


Edited By

Patricia Godwin

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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