How to Trim Indoor Plant Leaves


Keeping houseplants healthy requires appropriate soil, adequate light, moisture and fertilizer. Most oblige with vigorous new growth and dense foliage, adding a touch of nature to the interior of the home. Because many houseplants originate in tropical regions, indirect light from a sunny windowsill typically provides enough light for healthy plant growth. Some, however, tend to stretch toward the light causing tall, leggy stems. These plants require some physical maintenance to keep them in shape.

Step 1

Pinch out the center leaves on branches when new growth appears. Remove young leaves by pinching the leaves between your thumb and forefinger. Trim large center leaves with a pair of scissors or sharp knife, if preferred.

Step 2

Repeat pinching when new growth reaches a height of 5 inches. Trim the center leaves of all new growth, even leaves that grow on new stems. This creates dense, compact foliage. Blooming plants produce more blooms when pinched.

Step 3

Trim any overgrown branches back to the overall shape of the plant. Cut the stem 1/4 inch above a leaf node--the area where a leaf joins the stem.

Step 4

Deadhead blooms on blooming houseplants to prolong blooming. Trim just behind the bloom with scissors or a sharp knife. This tricks the plant into thinking it has not produced enough flowers to reproduce and forces new blooms.

Step 5

Trim yellowed or discolored leaves with sharp scissors. Laura Pottorff, plant pathologist from the University of Colorado recommends removing the whole leaf if more than half of the leaf is discolored. Leaves with small blemishes should be trimmed following the natural contours of the leaf.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Scissors


  • Colorado State University Extension: Winter is a Good Time to Groom your Houseplants
  • University of Illinois Extension: Spring Houseplant Care

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Houseplant Care
Keywords: trim houseplants, pinch back houseplants, prune houseplants

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.