Pruning has to be one of the weirdest things we do for plants. It makes sense that a plant needs food, water, sunlight, and an appropriate temperature to be happy and healthy, but cutting a plant's extremities off in order to make it healthier?! That seems like madness!
|The tomato plants were being smashed up under|
the porch railing containers, so they got pruned!
|Before trimming mint: Leggy and bare.|
|A week or so after trimming mint: New growth!|
|Shears for trimming tiny stems. For larger stems I use kitchen shears.|
When making a cut, try your best to always trim from the top of the plant, getting rid of the newest leaves first. The exception in this case is if the leaves lower down are infected or dead already, in which case you can cut off those individual leaves further down. Cut the stem between two leaf layers, just above the leaf level where you want new leaves to grow. This will encourage the leaf layer below to bush out and make more foliage. Sometimes you'll get new leaves all the way down the stem once you cut the top leaves off. There's more sunlight getting to the stem area below, and the plant also sends out signals: "Grow more leaves! We're being eaten!" Leaving a bit of stem above the leaf layer you want will allow you some room to cut it back further if the stem gets infected. If you have an infected stem it'll start getting mushy and brown, spreading down the stem. Cut it below where it's mushy and dab some isopropyl on the cut. It'll help it dry out faster and kill the nasty germs!
|Pruning the catnip between leaf layers|
For a diseased or leggy plant it depends on the type of plant how much you can trim off. If you know from prior trimmings that the plant rapidly bounces back from trimming (like my Columbine and mint plants), go ahead and trim off as much as you need to. For plants that you're unsure about the general rule is to only cut off a max of 1/3 of the leaves at a time. Let the plant start new growth before cutting off more leaves.
|Diseased leaves all over the Columbine plant, pre-trim|
(I trimmed these back to the ground)
|Columbine plant post-trim, about a month later.|
New leaves don't have any mildew, leaf miners, or mites!
|Deadheading the begonia flowers after the bloom has wilted.|