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How to Prune Tropical Plants

Plants benefit from regular pruning. Prune tropical plants to encourage growth, remove damaged or dead stems, invigorate old plants and limit size. Once the plants are pruned, new blooms start growing, resulting in a bushier plant. The ideal time to prune tropical plants is once the tender new growth is safe from frost damage, in early spring. Temperatures of 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit can damage tropical plants.

Shape the tropical plant by trimming the longest one-third of the branches. Snip them off with shears, just outside a bud. Return in 4 to 6 weeks to prune another one-third of the branches.

Pick off dead leaves by hand to make the tropical plant look neater. You can do this at anytime of year. These leaves are sapping energy and nutrients from the rest of the plant.

Prune dead, damaged or diseased branches. Scratch them with your fingernail to determine if there is any living tissue (green in color) underneath. If the tissue is brown or tan, it's dead. Cut it off at the joint where it meets healthy wood.

Shorten wayward branches by cutting them just above a bud. Angle the cut down and away from the junction of a stem and leaf. A bud will activate after pruning to stimulate new growth.

Trim tropical plants, one side at a time. Think of it as having three sides. Pruning branches on one side will allow flowers and leaves to continue growing on the other two sides. Move onto the next side in 4 to 6 weeks.


Use only sharp, clean shears to make precise cuts and avoid damage or the spreading of disease.

Wear gloves for protection.


Don't angle cuts pointing toward the joints or leaves and buds, or you'll promote growth in the wrong direction.

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