How to Guides

Published on December 10th, 2018 | by ozlem

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Succulent Pruning Guide: Why, When, and How to Prune Succulents?

I love how succulents are so easy to maintain, in addition to the fact that they look super pretty. I think we all agree with that. Once you learn how to care for succulents, they require a little attention for the rest of their lives.

Although time flows slowly for them, succulents will grow. They change the size and shape maybe even without your notice. So, succulents need a pruning from time to time. Besides that pruning keep them in shape, it actually makes a significant change in preventing diseases and encouraging new growth.

Even that pruning succulents is not crucial for the care on a regular basis, it is quite important for long-living, thriving plants.

Chopping of your plants seem intimitating at first, but it is nothing to be worried of. Over short time, you will see the new growth in the place of pruned stem.

If you haven’t tried to prune any of your succulents before or if you think you are doing something wrong, here you have a very detailed guide with a lot of answers. 

How Big do the Succulents Grow?

Although there are some types of succulents that can get very large, they are generally slow growing, small or mid-sized plants, that do not take a lot of space.

Agaves and Aloes are first to come into the minds when speaking of large succulents. Also, some species such as Crassula Ovata that have tree-like foliage development sometimes grow bigger than the other succulents, just like a small tree.

Aloe Aristata

Another thing is that a lot of types like Echeverias, Sempervivums, Haworthias form in a rosette shape which shows a horizontal enlargement. They can add more circles and spread over the soil quickly.

Succulents will take long years to reach their full size. And growing will be faster when they are given the optimum care, ideal conditions of water and light.

How to Maintain Succulents Regularly?

A good care of succulents is the key for them to grow a compact and dense foliage. They might be easy to maintain, but they also give back when you provide an ideal environment for them to thrive.

Basic Care Guide

Succulents are generally desert plants which are used to survive extremely dry and hot climates. But they are able to live in our living spaces with a few tricks imitating their natural habitat. Basically, they need what every plant need; sun, water, and soil.

Succulents need an occasional watering. They should be given a good watering first, then they will live a long time without an irrigation. Because they use up the water they store inside their thick leaves and stem.

Succulents should have partial to full sun everyday. You can place them on a window sill where they can get 3 or 4 hours of direct sunlight during the morning.

And lastly, you should plant the succulents using a grainy type of special succulent soil and a pot that has drainage holes. That way you can prevent the roots staying in soaking soil for too long and rotting.

Prevent Stretching

Succulent plants cannot grow with an insufficient lighting. They will look wilted when they can not get an adequate sunshine daily and die eventually.

Luckily, a poorly illuminated succulent gives the signals beforehand. The plant loses color and fades first. But more apparently, it leans towards to light source and grows a long stem very fast. This way of quick growing should not be confused with a healthy growth.

Stretched stem. Photo from Flickr.

Stretched succulents lose the density of their leaves and appear a weird shape. Unfortunately, elongated body can not be turned back by exposing more light or pruning. However it can be propagated to a new plant in order  to be rescued.

Remove Dry Leaves and Debris

Before you prune your succulents, you can maintain their appearance with little touch-ups. As a part of the natural cycle of succulents growth, the lower leaves from the stem will die. That is totally fine and nothing to be worried, since they give space for the new growth. Remember plants get rid of toxins by falling their leaves.

These dried up leaves fall of easily by themselves. Otherwise, you can clean them simply by picking up with hands. Try not to disturb other leaves and use a tweezer if needed.

Also, you will notice the debris between the leaves. You might want to remove them to be sure that they will not cause any bugs or infections on the plant.

Cleaning the dried up leaves is necessary in a regular basis; because that encourages the plant to grow healthier and keep it looking nice and green. It should be done in spring and fall in the worst case.

Do I Need to Prune Succulents?

Trimming the leaves or stem of succulents is not something you have to do often, yet it is highly recommended for many aspects considering the healthy growth of the body. Pruning will change a lot with your succulent plant both in beauty and health.

Preserve Compact Shape

Succulents look the best when they are preserved in a compact shape. However, they may change shape while growing bigger and some parts might enlarge irregularly. So, first of all, you can maintain the size and the shape of your succulent with a light trim.

Encourage New Growth

Pruned succulents start to grow healthier and faster, as a matter of fact. When they lose a part of the body, they also maintain themselves better and spend less effort to feed and carry all those unnecessary leaves and stem.

When you cut off any of the leaves, or even when you pick up the dry bottom leaves, you can see the newly growing greens.The new growth will be healthier than before and it is said that it prevents the plant from rotting.

When to Prune Succulents?

Many propose the spring time for a little cleaning up and pruning of the succulent plants. because it is the beginning of the growing season. Yet, you can prune them simply any time of the year as you want. Spring is always a good time to freshen up, also for the plants.

Additionally, indoor succulents can easily grow a long stem in winters due to lack of light. So pruning and propagating are best to do together right after the winter.

Do not forget that some species are not winter dormant plants and they grow actively in this season. Better check if your succulent grows in which season.

If you prefer to prune your succulents at the other times than the growing season, the only difference is that you will not be able to see the new growth as soon as possible. It will take a longer time for the stem and cuttings grow.

After the pruning, there is no need to repeat it for a long time, maybe a year or two. Anyways, you can easily decide by yourself whether the succulent needs a trim or not.

How to Prune Succulents?

Preparing Tools

The one fundamental equipment for pruning your succulent plants is a scissor. So make sure it is a sharp and quality one, and remember to clean it before every use, even if you use it only for this purpose.

You can also acquire some other things like towels, maybe a tweezer, and tray; just to avoid the mess.

Cutting of the Top

 If your Echeverias or Crassulas are stretched out too much, you could prefer cutting the top of the plant in order to plant it again. Let the cuttings dry a couple of days before the replantation.

Trimming Stem

Find the overgrown stem, leftover flower stem and sick leaves to choose where you need to trim the plant. It is a good idea to protect the natural shape of the succulent. Branches usually cut from just above where the leaves connected. You can approximately take one-third of the branch.

For any type of foliage, try to trim from the point where the leaves and the stem are connected.

New Growth

The proposed angle of cutting the stem is 45 degrees. If you cut with an angle towards the direction you wish the branches to grow, new growth will be in that way. Tiny shoots will emerge where you trimmed in short. 

After Pruning

I’m sure that your succulent will look fabulous a while after the pruning. Do not give water to the trimmed plant for a few days, since they tend to rot when watered. After that continue to provide a proper watering and a good lightning. So there is no reason that it keeps living happy and healthy.

Quick Reminder

  • Avoid watering the succulents one or two days before the pruning.
  • Wear gloves when you handle with Euphorbia, which has an irritating sap
  • Clean your cutter with soap or alcohol to prevent any infections.
  • Do not throw away the healthy leaves and cuttings as you prune. They are perfect for propagation.
  • Try to prune your succulents before the active growing season if you want to see a fast growth.
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