How to Trim Tropical Plants

Overview

Tropical plants are prone to frost and winter damage, because they need warm temperatures to thrive. Pruning is necessary to remove damaged or weak stems, encourage growth, invigorate old plants and limit size. However, pruning them too close to winter will cause excessive damage. Therefore, you should wait until the threat of frost is over in the spring. It only takes temperatures of 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit to damage tropical plants. Pruning will encourage new blooms to grow, resulting in a bushier plant.

Step 1

Pick off dead leaves by hand as soon as you notice them. This will improve the appearance of the tropical plant and free up nutrients and energy for the rest of the plant.

Step 2

Scratch stems with your fingernail to figure out if they are alive or dead. Living tissue is green inside, whereas brown or tan tissue means the stem is dead.

Step 3

Remove damaged, dead or diseased branches. They will eventually fall off anyway and are stealing nutrients in the meantime. Cut them off at the connection they share with healthy wood.

Step 4

Trim the longest branches by snipping them next to a bud at the desired length. Prune one-third of the branches to avoid over-pruning. Prune another one-third of the branches in four to six weeks.

Step 5

Shorten branches that are lacking in live foliage. Cut them just above a bud, angling the shears down and away from the junction of a stem and leaf. This will encourage new growth.

Step 6

Divide tropical plants so that you're pruning one side at a time. Pruning branches on one side of the plant will promote leaves and flowers to continue growing on the other sides. Rotate sides every four to six weeks.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't angle cuts toward the joints of leaves and buds. This causes growth in the wrong direction.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Gloves

References

  • Texas A&M: Follow Proper Pruning Techniques
  • The Tropical Hibiscus "Queen of the Tropics": Bugs, Pruning, Fertilizer
  • New Orleans Net, LLC: To prune or not to prune, that is the question
Keywords: prune tropical plants, trim tropical plants, tropical plants

About this Author

Kelly Shetsky has been a broadcast journalist for more than ten years, researching, writing, producing and reporting daily on many topics. In addition, she writes for several websites, specializing in medical, health and fitness, arts and entertainment, travel and business-related topics. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Marist College.