Apr 01 , 2020
Pruning! You can expect to regularly prune most plants every month to few months - the frequency will vary depending on the plant itself, its size, its conditions etc.. It is easy to become attached to a leaf or leaves on a plant, & many of us find it hard chopping off part of a plant. So it’s worth reminding yourself that a plant is a living thing and not a decorative item, so it’s something we can try to persuade to grow in a certain way but being alive, it will inevitably do its own thing.
Pruning is very easy, & with a collection of my size (150 or so plants - I'm scared to do a count....) it’s something that I do most days. When you prune, you want to ensure it’s a clean cut to promote swift healing. Unless the leaf is diseased, leaving a yellowing leaf on is good for a plant, as it will recycle & reuse nutrients from a dying leaf as it sheds. But they can look unsightly and you won’t harm a plant by trimming it off early, so it’s a case of personal choice of when to cut.
Here’s a few common reasons why your plant needs a chop!
You’ve recently brought the plant home
Plants often shed a leaf or two when stressed and/or acclimating to a significant change in conditions (i.e. moving from a bright, humid greenhouse to a dark, dry house). Typically they’ll drop their oldest leaves, i.e. those at the base or top of a vine. Alocasias and Homalomenas are two plants that are very prone to leaf loss in these circumstances.
With Alocasias (I own about 20 of them), I always lose at least one leaf, and have even lost all leaves on some very fragile baby plants that really didn't like being battered around in the mail. But they've always bounced back, each and every time. If you've been an Alocasia owner for a while, you've probably found these guys to be prone to leaf loss in general, and a recent article I wrote called "All About Alocasias" may be of interest for you. Click here to read.
Looking at another plant prone to leaf loss, the Homalomena Maggie. I am such a big fan of these plants and post about them often on my Instagram, and as such, I get a lot of messages from people looking for help with theirs. And every single person I've spoken to reports the same - that they lose some of their older leaves within a few weeks of coming home. But once they settle, the leaf loss stops or significantly slows down to a more normal rate.
Your plant has matured
Many plants grow bigger leaves with time, & will shed their smaller, older leaves once they’re more established. Monstera deliciosas do this quite commonly, dropping their tiny leaves at the base of the plant once they've grown a few much larger ones. Rather than put energy into all the leaves it's growing, the plant may decide to drop a leaf or two, and use their nutrients for growth and overall plant health
Parts of the plant are in a lot of shade
Whether its leaves in the centre of a bushy plant, or the leaves at the back of a plant, leaves need light to live. Prayer plants such as Ctenanthes will require regular pruning for this reason, as the shorter leaves they grow at the base or middle will get blocked from light by taller new leaves as the plant grows.